PINELLAS COUNTY — We saw it time, after time, after time again during Hermine. Our stormwater systems were just unable to keep up with the rain. It’s led to sewage all over the place.
Nowhere did we see as much overflowing than in Pinellas County; specifically in Clearwater, Largo and St. Petersburg.
10News WTSP finds out just how serious the sewage problem is. The question now is -- are you willing to pay to fix it.
You think the weekend would be enough for Largo to recover after all of Hermine's rain, but that’s not the case. At least one manhole cover was still overflowing Monday afternoon. Standing close to it, you know something funky is going on. It smells because it smells awful. And when I talked to folks who live near the stench, they say they need a fix, and they're willing to pay for it.
“Disgust. It's disgusting. It's been going on for days like this,” said Mary Gerhardt. She lives near the overflowing manhole in Largo.
A community overwhelmed -- not just in Largo, but Clearwater and St Pete as well. All of Pinellas County is unable to keep up with the millions of gallons dropped on us by Hermine forcing sewage into the streets.
“It's still coming out, and we gotta live with this,” said Eddie Cardona pointing to the overflowing sewer.
I asked folks who live here if they'd be willing to pay extra for a long-term fix.
“I would, just so I wouldn't have to live near this,” Gerhardt said.
“Yeah, I wouldn't mind paying extra in taxes if this gets solved,” agreed Cardona.
Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch says we all have to be willing to pay.
“Being in a peninsula within a peninsula, Pinellas County is extremely vulnerable,” Welch said. “We need to go ahead and pay for the plan. What we saw with this tropical storm Hermine should be a wakeup call for everybody.”
If approved next year, Welch said he wants the bulk of the next billion and a half dollars the Penny for Pinellas tax brings in to go to storm resilience.
As a short term fix, Commissioner Welch has suggested using a million dollars from the county's BP oil settlement money to find out where the problems are and to fix infrastructure. But, he says a long term solution is probably going to cost a lot more. This isn't just a Pinellas County problem -- it's regional.
Tampa City Council members just approved a new yearly fee to pay for better drainage and improve on its decades-old infrastructure.