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News Release

Southwest Water Reclamation Facility Overflow

St. Petersburg, Fla. (July 13, 2017) – Approximately 50,000 gallons of “mostly treated” wastewater overflowed at the Southwest Water Reclamation Facility (SWWRF) at 3800 54th Avenue South on Wednesday, July 12, between 8:50 and 9:10 pm.

According to plant personnel, heavy rains caused an increase of water into the facility and – due to the ongoing construction – the decreased capacity of the chlorine contact basin (which is the final step in processing the reclaimed water) allowed some of the effluent to splash out.

There was no discharge of any water from the plant property.

Since the initial reporting of what amounts to less than two swimming pools worth of water seeping into the ground around the basin (which has been well churned up during the on-going construction at SWWRF) Public Works Administrator Claude Tankersley issued the following statements in order to clarify and detail the event:

“We had close to two inches of rain in one hour that doubled the flows from the Southwest Water Reclamation facility from approximately 20 MGD to 42 MGD within 45 minutes,” he said.

“This resulted in a short-term wave of water surge through the plant that would normally have been fully handled,” he added.  “However, because of the plant being under construction, half of the chlorine contact chamber was out of service for expansion during our fast-track construction.

The Administrator went on to say that “the fast-moving nature of the plug flow of water caused 50,000 gallons of treated chlorinated water to spill from the chlorine contact chamber.  The spill occurred on the SWWRF plant site where it was fully contained onsite.”

But here’s the bottom line: “We have no reports of discharges of raw or untreated wastewater anywhere in our system.” 

Moving forward, Tankersley says that this will serve as a valuable learning tool.  “In consulting with Construction Manager Haskell, we are closely evaluating the event to determine how we will manage future fast-moving, short term flows through our plant while it is under construction.  As is our practice, we are reviewing our operating procedures with staff to learn more.”

“We want to ensure that all protocols are followed and that new protocols are added as necessary.”

The chlorine contact chamber was in full operation on Tuesday when a media event was staged at the plant, Tankersley explained.

“The Contractor began modifications to the existing chlorine contact chamber on Wednesday.  In order to construct the planned improvements to the chlorine contact chamber,” he said.  “The Contractor took half the chamber offline, leaving the other half available to handle daily flows.

Modification of the offline chamber began Wednesday for a 10-day rehabilitation. 

The fast inflow of storm-related flow made it all the way through our treatment process to the chlorine contact chamber.  The water received chlorination/disinfection before spilling over the sides of the chlorine contact tank in use.   

Wet weather flow started entering the SWWRF at approximately 6:30 pm. The plant successfully treated and disposed of 1.0 M gallons of wet weather flow during a two hour period (total two-hour flow was 3.7 M gallons).

Updating the timeline, Tankersley explained that “50,000 gallons of treated water was spilled over the contact chamber walls. We then regained full control of the wet weather flows and successfully managed the remaining 2.75 M gallons. (5.5M gallons of total flow over six hours)." 

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City of St. Petersburg
P.O. Box 2842
St. Petersburg, FL 33731

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