Flooding leads to sewage spills in the Bay Area
At least a dozen Tampa Bay area utilities have reported sewage spills to state officials since last weekend.
Some of them -- including the city of St. Petersburg's -- were deliberate.
"These uncommon weather conditions have caused extreme volumes of inflow... causing treatment plant capacities to be exceeded," according to a statement from the mayor's office.
The corrective action: Intercept some of the flow headed for a treatment plant and pump it into Clam Bayou's catch basin.
"They came in the middle of the night, there was trucks and lights and noise," nearby resident Delma Choffin told FOX 13 News Wednesday.
"The smell was just overwhelming... it was horrible... the police officers were saying don't let your animals out, and if they do go out make sure you wash them and don't let them drink the water because it's waste water," said resident Sabrina Perry.
The city of Clearwater estimated 30,600 gallons of untreated water splashed "over the top" of one of its treatment facilities and ended up in Stevenson Creek.
A partial list of spills reported to the state Department of Environmental Protection includes the cities of Mulberry, Palmetto, Bradenton, Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Largo, Pinellas Park and New Port Richey, plus Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.
"The flooding has been really unprecedented -- we expect this every year with hurricane season," Pinellas Public Health epidemiologist Gayle Guidash said. "This has been a real challenge."
She confirmed animals that come into contact with contaminated water or soil can transfer bacteria and viruses to humans. State regulations now require the utilities to test impacted waterways until the measurable threats to public health return to normal.