100,000 gallons of sewage was spilled in Hillsborough County over the last week

So far this year, nearly 3 million gallons of sewage and waste water has spilled in Hillsborough County, records show.

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click to enlarge 100,000 gallons of sewage was spilled in Hillsborough County over the last week
Photo by Colin Wolf

We’re nearly halfway through 2020, and so far Hillsborough County is having an incredibly shitty year. 

On Wednesday, May 27, a significant sewage spill was reported in Hillsborough County after a lift station malfunctioned in Temple Terrace. 

The spill was reported at approximately 8:10 a.m. and occurred at the The Park at Valenza apartment complex—located at 6900 Aruba Ave. in Temple Terrace—when a privately-owned lift station failed and nearly 100,000 gallons of sewage overflowed into nearby collection ponds, according to a mandatory report posted to the Federal Department of Environmental Protection’s pollution notice website

While the report noted that most of the sewage seeped into the neighboring ponds, it also stated concerns that the polluted water could leak into the nearby wetlands and the Hillsborough River, which is just west of the apartment complex. 

"This was a fairly large spill," Paula Noblitt, Compliance Enforcement Manager for the Water Division Environment Protection Commission, told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. Nobliltt says that the spill actually happened on May 21, and has been reoccurring on and off for the past week. She also pointed out that the 100,000 gallons of sewage estimate isn't precise, and it could certainly be much bigger. 

"It’s ongoing from what we can tell, and for now it seems to be staying in the ponds," said Noblitt. "However, if we get a lot of rains, it could potentially reach the river and the nearby wetlands." 

Noblitt says the Environment Protection Commission has issued the apartment complex a notice for failing to notify the state office and the public, as well as for failure to maintain the sewage. 

This isn't the first time The Park at Valenza apartment complex has had an issue with sewage overflow. The complex, which is owned Riverchase Property Holding LLC and managed Blue Rock Premier Properties LLC, has had four violations involving since 2016 regarding sewage overflows of different sizes.

As of now, the complex has five days to respond to the notice, and if an investigation progresses, the company could face up to $10,000 a day per violation. 

"We’ve asked for the invoices of the last year, which will show us what issues they’ve had out there and if they’ve made repairs suggested by their maintenance company, or if they sat on it," Noblitt told CL. "That will be part of what we'll evaluate."

CL reached out to Blue Rock Premier Properties LLC for comment and we'll update this story if it gets back to us. 

The Temple Terrace spill is certainly notable, but this year has seen much worse. Hillsborough’s largest spill in 2020 occurred on Jan. 18, in a rural area just west of the Big Cat Rescue Center, when a contractor working for the county damaged a 36-inch force main, and 2.2 million gallons of wastewater was spilled. 

The second biggest spill this year happened about a month later on February 20, after a contractor, who was also working for the county, broke a PVC force main in Ruskin, spilling an estimated 475,000 gallons.

In total, nearly 3 million gallons of sewage and waste water has been spilled in Hillsborough County in 2020 records show. While most of the spills have been properly cleaned-up by federal standards, an estimated 764,300 gallons have not. 

UPDATED: 05/28/20 We've updated this story with comments from the Environment Protection Commission. 

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About The Author

Colin Wolf

Colin Wolf has been working with weekly newspapers since 2007 and has been the Digital Editor for Creative Loafing Tampa since 2019. He is also the Director of Digital Content Strategy for CL's parent company, Euclid Media Group.
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