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Neighbors in Tierra Verde worry after sewage leak incident

At least 21,000 gallons of raw sewage was released in Tierra Verde, according to a report.

TIERRA VERDE, Fla. — When Barry Lay pulled out of his driveway to run an errand last Saturday, he noticed water going everywhere.

But it wasn't water. 

It was raw sewage coming out of a manhole near his Tierra Verde condominium.

"It was pretty bad. It was awful," Lay said of the smell from the sewage. 

Lay would find out he wasn't the only neighbor being impacted in the area.

At least 21,000 gallons of raw sewage leaked in Tierra Verde due to a broken line, according to an incident report from the Florida Division of Emergency Management provided by Pinellas County.

A storm drain was affected that leads to an unknown waterway and clean up actions have been completed, according to the report.

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The sewage spilled on Pinellas Bayway South and it went on for hours with no response from any maintenance crews, neighbors said. 

"That took about seven or eight hours and unfortunately, during that seven or eight hours, we had thousands of gallons that were bubbling up into the street," Larry McKinnon, Tierra Verde Community Association vice president said.

Neighbors said they're frustrated by what they said was a slow response and difficulty finding who is responsible. Receiving no notification only added to the confusion, they said. 

In addition, neighbors are also expressing concerns about the environmental impacts, including on the bay. 

"The procedure and the protocols need to be looked at," Sharon Calvert, a neighbor, said. 

On Friday, crews were spotted responding to another incident with the sewers, but neighbors said maintenance was already in place to respond immediately.

However, frustrations and concerns remain about how last week's sewage leak should've been handled.

The incident report shows Sunshine Water Services is the reporting party. In a statement obtained by 10 Tampa Bay, the company said it was notified at midnight on Friday, Nov. 11, through its after hours call center of what they believed to be an isolated issue. 

"SWS staff discussed the issue with the customer at that time and based on those conversations, an investigation would follow the next morning," SWS said in the statement. "During the investigation it was determined that a sewer collection component had collapsed, blocking the flow in the line. Flow from the line was diverted to bypass the affected area and cleanup of the area began immediately, concluding on Sunday morning."

SWS also said it immediately began contacting outside resources to assist in the repair "which is under way." The water service company said it will keep Tierra Verde homeowner's association updated as final repairs are made.

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