Hurricane Hermine, the first hurricane to hit Florida in years, didn't bring record-breaking winds or a killer storm surge. But the storm did leave an unpleasant odor in Florida—literally. Heavy rains exceeded the capacity of local municipal wastewater treatment plants, triggering the release of millions of gallons of untreated sewage into the Tampa Bay.
The Tampa Bay Times covered the story (see: "Tampa Bay's sewage mess: 29 million gallons spilled into the bay and rising," by Charlie Frago). "Since the Category 1 storm brushed by Tampa Bay last week, tens of millions of gallons of sewage—much of it partially-treated, plenty of it raw—have been unleashed into the waters of Tampa and Boca Ciega bay and into watersheds all over Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties," the paper reported.
"Tampa spilled 938,000 gallons into Tampa Bay after a power outage at the height of the storm briefly knocked out the city's wastewater treatment facility," the Times reported. "Clearwater lost a sewer plant after intake pumps were overwhelmed by heavy rains. The amount of that spill is still being calculated. Pinellas County discharged 7.3 million gallons of mostly-treated sewage into Joe's Creek. But those volumes pale in comparison to what St. Petersburg has dumped into Tampa Bay in a controlled discharge from its shuttered Albert Whitted wastewater treatment plant, which is now used for emergency storage. As of midmorning on Monday, the city reported to the state Department of Environmental Protection that 20 million gallons had been released."
The numbers were still growing, days after the storm, the paper reported in a followup (see: "Tampa Bay cities still assessing how much sewage overflowed after Hurricane Hermine," by Charlie Frago, Richard Danielson, and Tracey McManus). "In St. Petersburg, city officials released a report estimating that it discharged more than 20 million gallons during the storm. However, that figure was also given to the state as of Monday morning, but the sewage dump continued Tuesday and Wednesday. St. Petersburg officials said they would release more information about the sewage release when the dumping ends. However, no time frame for that end was given," the paper reported.
A different, smaller spill onto city streets was still being evaluated, the paper reported: "In Clearwater, officials said they would announce Friday how many gallons of sewage overflowed into the streets of the North Greenwood neighborhood during Hermine. Pumps at the Marshall Street wastewater treatment plant began failing last Thursday, and sewage gushed from about five manholes, said Public Utilities Director David Porter. The plant is capable of processing 10 million gallons of wastewater per day, but Hermine's heavy rains pushed at least triple that into the system."