A ruptured sewage line has spilled more than half a million gallons of wastewater into Joe's Creek in St. Petersburg since late Sunday night.
The sewer line at 7780 62nd Avenue N ruptured Saturday at 11:30 p.m., likely from excessive rain putting pressure on the system, according to Pinellas County officials. The roadway is partially closed.
The line, which carries wastewater to the South Cross Bayou Water Reclamation Facility, is releasing an estimated 250 to 500 gallons of wastewater per minute.
More than 500,000 gallons have been released so far, with crews routing the spill down a drainage ditch into Joe's Creek, out into Boca Ciega Bay and eventually out into the Gulf of Mexico.
Repairs are ongoing, but crews have had difficulty determining which line was ruptured, as there are two sewage lines that run side by side in the area.
"It smells like just rotten, disgusting, bathroom odor,” said Alexa Lakilak. "It's horrible."
The break is across the street from Northside Christian School. Although no sewage has reached the campus, school officials delayed start times and extended release times by 30 minutes for several hundred preschoolers and elementary students for the next few days.
School officials are hoping to avoid the regular rush of traffic in the morning.
Construction officials say it may be Tuesday before the line is repaired. The break is in a 20-inch pressurized sewage line, and officials said there is no way to stop the flow until the repair is made.
The biggest problem, said Tom Iovino with Pinellas County, is that they're forced to allow the flow of sewage to continue as they make repairs because the system is pressurized.
"If we turn the pressure off there would be flooding and leakage in other parts of the system," Iovino said. "And then we'd have multiple situations to handle instead of just one."
County officials said the sewage leak is not causing any health risks. Still, the county will be testing the ditch and possibly Joe's Creek to determine the environmental impact and to see how far the untreated wastewater has spilled.
Officials are issuing a precautionary notice for residents to avoid recreational use of the waters in Joe's Creek, Cross Bayou, Long Bayou and northern Boca Ciega Bay, including the Bay Pines area. Signs have been posted at boat launahces to alert residents.