ST. PETERSBURG — As the sky darkened and a light rain fell, a man began to dig a hole in my front yard. Three hours later, Robert Letthand of the St. Petersburg Wastewater Division stood in the six-foot hole on the hunt for an elusive clogged pipe.
Foreman Carlos Price
The City of St. Petersburg Water Resources Department is mostly known for turning your water service off and on, but they do much more than that, explained Foreman Carlos Price of the Wastewater Collection Division.
The St. Petersburg Water Resources Department is the umbrella for six sub agencies: City Water Department, Water Distribution Maintenance Group, Waste Water Collective Systems Group, Reclamation, Technical Support comprised of engineers and the Environmental Compliance Division.
According to Manager Lane Longley of the Wastewater Collection Division, underneath the city streets are a maze of pipes. He reports that there are 900 miles of sewer gravity maintenance lines and about 400 miles of lateral pipes and 55 miles of pressure pipe.
He feels that the St. Petersburg Water Resources Department has one of the most innovative programs. “I firmly believe that the city of St. Petersburg has the finest sanitary sewer maintenance programs in the state,” Longley stated.
Foreman Carlos Price has been with the Water Resources Department for 29 years. He came up through the ranks initially through their Apprentice Program, which he describes as an introduction into wastewater and how the system operates.
“I was taught well,” Price said. He credits long time employees Anthony Lee and Carl Reynolds for taking him under their wings and showing him what it took to get the job done. “They led by example.” He was then promoted to Lead Technician, and for the last 10 years he has been a foreman.
Price explained that in his division, Waste Water Collections, there are four separate entities that work together and independently to get the job completed. “The trucks that house our cameras are called CCTV Trucks (Closed Circuit Television),” he explained. They are equipped with television monitors and cameras to inspect and digitally record the condition of the sewer pipe to determine if and what work needs to be performed.
The Emergency Response Crew, that responds to sewer-related emergencies, are on call 24/7. Then there is the construction crew mainly responsible for pipe repair and replacement.
Price’s department is the Jet Vactor trucks that house the high performance cleaning vacuuming systems. High-pressure water velocity is used to clean sewer lines. They have physical maps of properties that dates back 50 years and can show and date exactly what was done. They are now equipped with personal tablets that can quickly bring up schematic drawings and information in the field.
“It’s our job to find out what really is going on,” he said. “We see distraught people. We let homeowners know we’re going to get the job done and make sure they’re satisfied to the highest degree. To hear the public tell us that they appreciate it and the smiles on their faces make me and my crew know the job was well done.”
Longley said he is really proud of the job they do. “They make me look good everyday,” he chuckled.
Price referred to the team that came to my rescue that night as “the A-Team,” which consisted of Willie Keys, Robert Letthand and John Martin. Combined, the A-Team has over 43 years of service within the department.
“This team is totally dedicated,” he stated proudly. “They give me everything that it takes to get the job done. They look at it as a challenge. There is no drain we can’t unclog.”