Storm tests St. Pete sewage system progress

Pinellas County was drying out from Tropical Storm Emily after heavy rains flooded roads and provided the first real test for St. Petersburg's upgraded wastewater treatment facilities Monday.

The storm developed quickly overnight and provided a surprise for neighbors in some of the areas that often flood, like the Shore Acres community.

"I see our recycling bin just floating away, so I ran out there to grab it and I'm looking at the water, I'm like, 'what is this?'" said Tony Rubalcava, who lives along Shore Acres Boulevard. "I go back and look at the news and sure enough they're saying 'Tropical Storm Emily.' I'm like, 'Where did this come from?'"

Neighbors reported flooded roads in several communities in areas of St. Pete, Gulfport and Palm Harbor.

St. Pete leaders were keeping a close eye on the wastewater treatment facilities; Emily marked the first significant storm since last summer, when a series of storms overloaded the plants, causing millions of gallons of sewage to be pumped into the bay.

Mayor Rick Kriseman said the facilities, which are undergoing upgrades to its capacity and treatment capabilities, made it through without any issues Monday.

"We were trying to prepare for this," Kriseman said, adding there is still months of work left to do to the wastewater plants. "This is normally an 18- to 24-month process and they're getting it done in less than a year."

Kriseman said there were several wastewater tanks that weren’t even used, which is a good sign for larger storm later on this year.