The Wet Weather and headworks projects, which are expected to be ready by June 30, will allow the Wastewater Reclamation Facility at 5100 150th Ave. to handle several million more gallons of wastewater.
LARGO – After Tropical Storm Hermine struck last year, city officials said one of the biggest reasons for the more than 24 million gallons of sewage overflows was that two wastewater projects were still under construction.
Once June ends, that shouldn’t be a problem anymore.
After more than two years of construction throughout the city and several more years of planning, the Wet Weather and headworks projects are expected to be in operation by the end of the month, according to City Engineer Jerry Woloszynski.
That news is a relief to Mayor Woody Brown.
“We’ve been working toward this Wet Weather project for about as long as I’ve been around, some eight or nine years,” he said. “It’s a relief that it’s up and running and it couldn’t come at a better time because we are getting into the rainy season.”
The Wet Weather Project is a $44.2 million sanitary sewer expansion that aims to upgrade the capacity of the city’s wastewater system. It runs from the Intracoastal Waterway to Tampa Bay and consists of at least 14 miles of pipeline and seven new lift stations that lead to the wastewater reclamation facility.
Woloszynski said the system is ready to go, but the $25 million headworks project, which includes a new 5 million-gallon storage tank at the treatment plant still needs approval from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
In 2006, the city entered into a consent order with FDEP to reduce the amount of sewage it was discharging into local waterways and to cut down on the number of sanitary sewer overflows that were plaguing the city.
The order led to three projects totaling more than $90 million, the third of which aims to improve the city’s wastewater reclamation facility disinfection system. Woloszynski said it is ongoing but is not integral to the other projects.
The Wet Weather project was initially expected to be completed in December 2016, but Woloszynski said several additional costs and factors, including unexpected site conditions, unforeseen conflicts with existing utilities and requested changes and additions by the city mean construction won’t be officially complete until this December.
“The Wet Weather Project had roughly 15 miles of pipe going in the ground under the city of Largo,” he said. “Along that line, we ran into things that weren’t documented in the ground that required a change order.”
Though the cost is above the original award cost by several million dollars, Woloszynski said it wasn’t an amount that was unexpected for projects of this magnitude.
The extended time is needed because an odor control system is needed at the lift station on Highland Recreation Complex property adjacent to Lake Avenue. City officials said they have received numerous odor complaints from the surrounding residents since the new station was put into service.
Not stopping yet
While the projects are a major part of the plan to reduce overflows, Woloszynski and Brown said the city isn’t considering them a cure-all – especially after Tropical Storm Hermine.
“We’re not sitting on our laurels thinking that the Wet Weather pumping system is going to eliminate every sanitary sewer overflow in the city,” Woloszynski said.
The projects are designed to meet the state requirement of handling a 10-year storm, which is defined as 7.5 inches within 24 hours. Woloszynski said Hermine far exceeded that in the southwest portion of the city, dropping more than 10 inches in the first day.
So, in an effort to improve the system even more, Woloszynski said he is in the first year of a six-year plan to do inflow and infiltration studies, which includes filling sewer pipes with smoke to find any leaks.
“Over the next six years, we’re going to do one inflow and infiltration project a year to continue to further work toward getting more water out of our sanitary system,” he said. “And, in turn, have a lower likelihood of sanitary sewer overflows.”
Brown said the city’s efforts have also included stricter enforcement of private collection systems, public outreach about what not to put down drains and an ordinance that requires eateries to install a larger and more efficient grease interceptor.
He said another focus has been on improving lateral sewer lines, which run from homes to the city’s sanitary sewer system.
“If those laterals are really leaky, there’s a lot of groundwater intrusion, especially when the ground is really saturated,” he said. “So we’ve done some small area studies of replacing and fixing laterals.”
While there is plenty more work to do, Woloszynski said he is grateful the majority of construction – and inconvenience it created – is over.
“All of this work has been going on in people’s streets, in their right of ways, in their commute lanes, so I greatly appreciate all of the city of Largo’s residents for their patience with us as we put this system in,” he said.
Chris George is editor of the Largo Leader. He can be reached at 727-397-5563, ext. 316, or by email at cgeorge@TBNweekly.com.