Sewer Repairs and Funding Q&A


  If Gulfport city council approves a loan for several million dollars, the city could start getting new sanitary sewers as soon as this April. Because the repairing and replacing sewer pipes throughout the city will affect everyone in Gulfport, the Gabber asked the city’s public works director, Don Sopak, to explain about the loan and the imminent repairs. Below is what we learned.


What needs to be done to the sewers? 

Gulfport’s sewer system has about 224,500 linear feet (collection pipes) ranging in size from 8” to 24” in diameter as well as about 900 manholes (with an average depth of 12 feet). Some manholes have minor leakage while others teeter close to structural failure.

  “Most of this system is over 50 years old, effectively exceeding the normal life expectancy for this type of system,” Mr. Sopak says. “Metered flow records… indicate that about 1/3 of the total flow can be attributed to infiltration and inflow.”

  That means that Gulfport’s sewers and manholes are no longer a closed system, and things can leak in – and out. To prevent future overflows of sewage, environmental damage to the bay and Clam Bayou and health hazards,  “rehabilitation of the system is needed,” Mr. Sopak says. 

  Repairs will save the city money as well. The water that leaks into the city’s sewage system travels to a treatment facility that charges the city by the gallon for treatment.

  “In view of the fact that the City will be faced with increased treatment charges in 2017, the need for repairs and upgrades in the system is critical,” Mr. Sopak says.


How much will all the repairs cost? 

  An estimated $4.5 million. (Find an extended explanation of the costs at the end of this article.)


What is the average cost per household? 

Residents will not an assessment or charge for these improvements. 


When do repairs start? 

If the council approves the loan, work will begin in April 2014.


How long will the work take?

The work should be completed by April 2016.


How will the loan work? 

The city will finance the repairs over a 20-year term. The state will guarantee the rate at 2.5%. Gulfport will secure the loan with the money it collects from customers.


The loan is to be secured by the gross revenues derived yearly from the operation of the water and wastewater utilities system (the City’s Water and Sewer Fund) after payment of the operation and maintenance expense and the satisfaction of all yearly payment obligations on account of the senior revenue obligations and revenues of the Local Option Sales Tax (Penny For Pinellas), which can be utilized to pay the loan back..


How much will it smell during the repairs?

There should be no sewer smell.


How will the city control the health hazards when workers remove sewer pipes? Will we see used sewer pipes out on our streets overnight?

Most of the repairs will take place underground and no old pipes should be stored overnight.


Should we keep our animals and kids inside?

The work on the sewer system will not affect kids or animals. 


Will all our roads get torn up at once?

Since most of the work will take place underground, no. 


What about brick streets?

Are they involved and will the city replace the brick or pave over it?

If repairs can’t happen underground, wherever the city (or its contractor) must dig, Mr. Sopak assures residents “the roadway will be restored to its original condition.”


Do the repairs include any work on my property? Will you tear up my yard? 

No work will be performed on private property; only in the right of ways. This may include portions of someone’s landscape, as the city right of ways often extend past the street.


Will we be able to use our toilets, sinks and showers during the repairs and replacements? 

Yes, because the city will make sure the sewage in the area under repair gets bypassed to a functioning sewer pipe. If the city performs smoke testing, homes without appropriate plumbing fixtures may have some smoke in them. The city will notify all residents before performing work in their area.


Doesn’t the public works department make more money than it needs every year? Why do we need to borrow the money if the sewer department turn a profit?  

Although Gulfport’s utilities department often collects more money than it spends, it does not have enough money to fund large-scale capital improvements. In past years, the city has used excess money collected from customers to balance the budget. It has also budgeted to begin a sewer repair program, but such repairs cannot keep up with the sewer system at the rate it is failing. Again, Mr. Sopak reminds people, the pipes have exceeded their expectancy.


Will my sewer rates or taxes increase because of the loan? 

Property taxes don’t pay for sewer projects: utility rates do. The city bases those rates on its contract with St. Petersburg, as St. Petersburg treats Gulfport’s sewage.


Contact Cathy Salustri at

Extended explanation of costs

The first phase of the proposed project will consist of conducting flow measurements and a complete SSES (survey of the sewer system). Manholes will be repaired, seals and dishes for manholes installed, clean out caps replaced where needed, and point repairs will be made to correct inflow problems that are found during the cleaning and televising of the lines. This initial phase of the work is expected to cost approximately $1,500,000 and will include the SSES, related engineering/administration, and repairs to the system to correct inflow problems throughout the entire collection system.

Completion of the SSES will allow Gulfport to plan and budget for the cost effective solution to the infiltration problem and provide the locations of major infiltration sources that will need repair. Additional flow measurements may be necessary to determine the extent of additional problems that require rehabilitation.

A very preliminary estimate of the cost of second phase of the I/I program to bring the infiltration under cost effective control is $3,000,000. This estimate will be adjusted and will be made more accurate based on the results of the SSES. Expected project costs are: 

SSES, Engineering, and Inflow Correction Phase…………………..$1,500,000

Infiltration Correction/Construction…………………………………….. 3,000,000


Total Cost…………………………………………………………………$4,500,000

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