St. Pete sewers withstand first heavy rain

- Heavy rainfall on Wednesday brought one of this year's first opportunities to test St. Petersburg's sewer system improvements.

Downpours in the summer of 2016 during Hurricane Hermine caused overflow concerns at water treatment plants.The city had to dump partially treated sewage into Tampa Bay, which sparked an outcry from residents and environmental groups.

Over the last year, city leaders agreed to dedicate $304 million to make sewer system improvements that could prevent another spill.

Boosting storage capacity by digging deep wells at treatment plants has cost $51 million. A portion of that project at the Southwest Treatment Facility is expected to be finished in 2018, according to public works officials.

"We're increasing capacity, both treatment and disposal capacity, so we can get more through the system and then also dispose of it once it's been processed," said Bill Logan, spokesperson for St Pete Water Works.

Earlier this month, the city announced the installation of 2,000 rain dishes in St Pete manholes. The tool is designed to catch water. Crews also sprayed a solution to seal cracks inside manholes to prevent water from getting into the sewer system.

Crews monitored the improvements throughout the city during Wednesday's rainfall.

"We've maintained our staffing levels, put people on standby, and we're ready in case there is a problem, but at this point, looks like the system is holding up well," said Logan. "We don't have any problems to report."

The Southwest Treatment Plant pumped its water storage sheds as low as possible to make room for rain.
Mayor Rick Kriseman and other city leaders have said in the past they cannot guarantee water treatment plants will never have to dump partially treated water into the Bay again because severe weather systems are unpredictable.

City officials say they are hoping their system will hold up against any severe weather this summer.

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