Sewage becomes problem in flooded beach communities

- Heavy rains from Tropical Storm Colin have overwhelmed the sanitary sewer system in St. Pete Beach, forcing the mayor to make an unusual request: Stop bathing.

Mayor Maria Lowe posted the plea on her Facebook page late this morning, asking, in part, for everyone to "stop using the sanitary sewer system until further notice."

"This includes showers, baths, laundry, dish washing and any other use of water that enters the sanitary sewer system," she explained.  "While we understand that the flushing of toilets is necessary, we urge everyone to be cautious and limit use as much as possible."

"Our sewer systems became overwhelmed with the ground water," St. Pete Beach Mayor Maria Lowe later told FOX 13 News.

Around 11 a.m. Tuesday, Mayor Lowe said she consulted with the EPA and DEP before ultimately making the decision to release some of the sewer system overflow into the Intracoastal.

"Since I have lived here, this has never happened," Lowe said.

The Mayor said if they hadn't done a release before high tide on Tuesday, there was a strong risk that raw sewage would have come up through manholes in neighborhoods.

She also asked beach residents to do their part in relieving pressure on the system by stopping use of showers, sinks, toilets, or anything that would add to the sewer system.

Businesses got the request, too. Monday, Tropical Storm Colin washed out Woody's Waterfront Cafe. Tuesday, the sewage issue eliminated the need for dish duty.

"Luckily, we have paper plates and plastic silverware, so that's not going to effect us too much," Woody's waitress Chris Seagreaves said Tuesday.

Still, some residents said the choice to release sewage into the Intracoastal is tarnishing their piece of paradise.

"I've noticed a lot more sludge in the basin, around the dock. Dead fish, a lot of things floating in the water that shouldn't be floating in the water," St. Pete Beach resident Rudy Perea said Tuesday.

St. Pete Beach residents were urged to continue refraining from adding to the sewer system until the city notifies them. 

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