Millions of gallons of sewage dumped in Tampa Bay: Should you worry?

What does 29 million gallons of sewage look like in Tampa Bay?

ST. PETERSBURG — It's become a familiar sight -- and smell.

Parts of the bay area overrun with sewage -- and it's still pouring out in St. Petersburg.

All of this is after our systems just couldn't keep up with Hermine's heavy rains.

You might think it's disgusting, but how harmful is it?

10News reporter Mark Rivera shows you-- what pouring more than 29 million gallons of sewage into Tampa Bay really looks like.

Pretend a 5 gallon bucket can hold ALL of the water in Tampa Bay. We did the math, and the discharge would equate to .02 ounces -- just a drop or two in the bucket. So, should you rest easy?

“If you were in your bathtub and somebody came with a thimble full of sewage, while you're sitting there, and dumped it in there, it's a small amount, but I guarantee you you'd jump out immediately,” said Tampa Bay boater Wright Rhodes.

Rhodes and others heading out into Tampa Bay are on edge.

“Contamination, death, wildlife...I don't swim in it,” said boater Billy Harrison. “That's probably a good reason not to swim in it.”

But don't worry quite yet says USF Marine Biology Professor John Paul. He helped start the Pinellas County healthy beaches program.

“In the long term, I don't think you'll find any permanent damage,” Paul said.

But, the whole drop in the bucket thing, it's not the perfect analogy.

“The thing is that it's not a drop that is equally spread out throughout the bay,” Paul said. “The areas where the release was are going to have higher concentrations of wastewater and higher concentrations of disease causing microbes.”

You might want to lay off of swimming in the bay for a couple of days, he said.

Paul told 10News, “the solution to pollution is dilution,” so parts of the bay with lots of water movement will only have issues for a few days.

You have areas where there's high movement of tides, particularly from the center of the bay down. But when you get up in the Oldsmar region in old Tampa Bay, there's very little flushing.

That's the problem. If sewage makes its way up there, Paul says the sewage could fester in those areas --- even down to the Gandy Bridge area --- for weeks or even more than a month.

Thursday there could be a sewage fix in the works.

St. Pete City Council will vote on increasing sewer and stormwater fees -- by as much as 9-percent each.
You could start paying more as soon as November.


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