500,000 gallons of raw sewage spills from Clearwater wastewater treatment plant

Hundreds of thousands of raw sewage spilled from a wastewater treatment plant in Clearwater, causing public utilities to monitor a nearby creek for changes.  

The public utilities directory for the city of Clearwater said they believe about 500,000 gallons spilled from the Marshall Street plant on Tuesday. The spill was reported to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

"The night of the 9th, we had a malfunction of our instrumentation which controls the level of the pump station. It turns some pumps on and off, and it tells them how fast to go. And it malfunctioned," Rich Gardner, the director of public utilities in Clearwater.

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That caused the pumps to stop and water rose, spilling the wastewater onto Holt Avenue outside the plant, not once but two times.

"I wasn’t here, but it took a short time, and then they started troubleshooting it. And then at the same time we got a report that the water was coming out of the manhole in the street," said Gardner. "Our collections system crew was responding to that when they realized that the two incidents were related."

About 400,000 gallons of untreated wastewater spilled the first time, and it was contained to the street. 

"The second time, it flowed into the storm sewer, and the storm sewer discharged into Stevenson Creek which borders the plant right here. Some of it went into Stevenson Creek, and we don’t really know how much," said Gardner. 

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Utilities workers put lime down in the grassy area of the spill to disinfect and stop odors.

"We’ve stopped the cleanup, but we are monitoring the creek to see if there’s any impact in the creek," he said.

Wastewater workers replaced the backup power supply that led to the panel malfunction, so the problem does not happen again.

"We’re taking this very seriously, but [it is] a small amount compared to what we treat," said Gardner.

The Marshall Street plant treats about 6 million gallons of wastewater a day, and the city of Clearwater as a whole treats about 14 million gallons.