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Sewage spill gets blame in fish kill

Officials say rains may have led to a localized spill into Curlew Creek in Doral Village mobile home park.

By EDIE GROSS

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 16, 2000


PALM HARBOR -- Three p.m. is usually feeding time for the fish in the arm of Curlew Creek that snakes through Doral Village mobile home park.

That's when Doral Village resident Gaile Varnes grabs a bag of bread, walks a few yards to the creek bank and unloads.

But the regular buffet was canceled Tuesday when Varnes found dead fish and untreated sewage in the water.

Members of Pinellas County's hazardous materials team who inspected the creek said the sewage probably overflowed from a nearby manhole, said Scott Magness, Dunedin deputy fire chief.

It affected only a small portion of the creek in the northwest corner of Doral Village, which is on the west side of U.S. 19 just south of Curlew Road. The spill did not pose a danger to local residents, although the odor was unpleasant, Magness said.

Sheriff's Detective Tim Goodman, who handles environmental investigations, will decide if the spill is large enough to warrant a cleanup, Magness said. A water quality team from Pinellas County Utilities was on its way to the site Tuesday evening to test the creek water as well.

"It appears it's just confined in a really small area. They tested upstream and downstream and didn't find anything significant," Magness said. "It's not really a huge health concern at this point. It may be that over the next couple of days, as the stuff breaks down, that the smell may go away."

The sewer pipe running through the mobile home park and a nearby treatment plant belong to a private company, Mid-County Services. Officials with the company could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Environmental officials suspect that the heavy rain on Monday may have caused the sewer pipe to overflow, Magness said.

Varnes said she was crushed to see what happened to the fish she feeds daily. She also said she worried how the spill would affect the creek's plant life and the egrets that routinely eat there.

"It was a beautiful creek. We had fish in it, and I fed them every day. They're all dead," she said. "It's not a pretty sight."

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