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Stuck air valve blamed in untreated sewage spill

Published April 11, 2007


A mechanical failure is to blame for a 9,000-gallon sewer spill Monday in a neighborhood near the west end of the Belleair Causeway.

"There were no health consequences or environmental damage," said Phil Bramlage, water quality program manager for Pinellas County Utilities.

The spill occurred when an air release valve in a sewer pipe stuck in an open position, he said.

The valve allows sewer gas buildup to vent out of the pipes. When it stuck, sewage flowed out onto Seventh Avenue near the causeway.

No sewage backed into homes, Bramlage said.

When the spill was reported by a resident late Monday afternoon, the utilities department dispatched a crew. The leak was stopped at about 8 that night, according to utility officials.

The untreated sewage went into the city's drainage system and eventually into the Intracoastal Waterway, Bramlage said.

As required by state law, the utility department reported the spill to the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Health.

"Nine thousand gallons is a substantial amount," said Bramlage, adding that such spills happen only "infrequently."

But he said it won't have any effect on the environment because bacteria can't live very long in salt- water.

Followup testing of water quality in the Intracoastal Waterway is planned.

[Last modified April 10, 2007, 20:27:58]

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