Water-Related News

EPA releases 5-year review of Recreational Water Quality Criteria

The EPA has released its Five-year Review of the 2012 Recreational Water Quality Criteria (RWQC), as required by the BEACH Act amendments to the Clean Water Act (CWA). The review report describes the state of the science since the release of the 2012 RWQC, related to the protection of human health in water bodies designated for primary contact recreation (e.g., swimming) in these areas:

  • Health studies;
  • Indicators and performance of qPCR methods;
  • Microbial source tracking;
  • RWQC implementation tools; and
  • Criteria adoption by states, territories and authorized tribes.
  • Based on the EPA’s review of the existing criteria and developments in the available science, and consistent with CWA Section 304(a)(9)(B), the EPA has decided not to revise the 2012 Recreational Water Criteria during this review cycle. The Agency believes, however, that further research and analysis as identified in this report will contribute to EPA's future review of the 2012 RWQC. The EPA will work with the environmental public health community as it moves forward with its research efforts. The use of qPCR and ongoing research in methods and indicators continue to strengthen and augment the tools available to support the current criteria.

    Keep Pinellas Beautiful to Youth Summer Workshop Series

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    This summer Keep Pinellas Beautiful will be hosting three FREE workshops to teach young people about our natural resources and build environmental leadership skills.

    A FREE three-day Youth Watershed Stewardship Workshop for grades 6-8th will emphasize the importance of our natural watersheds and our impact through education on environmental issues and environmental stewardship. Students in this program will also gain field experience and enjoy the sun through activities such as canoeing, hiking, and cleanup outings. In addition to the experience gained, this program will be a great opportunity to receive community service hours:

    • WHAT: Youth Watershed Stewardship Workshop
    • WHEN: July 9th–11th, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily
    • WHERE: Weedon Island (1800 Weedon Dr NE, St. Petersburg, FL 33702)
    • WHO: Grades 6–8

    Two FREE week-long Youth Environmental Leadership Programs for grades 9-12th will engage students in hands-on skill building activities that will empower them to become environmental leaders in their community. Students in these programs will gain an understanding of environmental issues, develop skills to take action and inspire others through leadership, as well as participate in hands on activities including cleanups and canoeing. In addition to the experience gained, these programs will serve as a great opportunity to receive community service or Bright Futures Scholarship hours.

    • WHAT: Youth Environmental Leadership Workshop #1
    • WHEN: July 16th–20th, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
    • WHERE: Brooker Creek Preserve (3940 Keystone Rd. Tarpon Springs, FL 34688)
    • WHO: Grades 9–12
    • WHAT: Youth Environmental Leadership Workshop #2
    • WHEN: July 30th–August 3rd, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
    • WHERE: Boyd Hill Nature Preserve (1101 Country Club Way S, St. Petersburg, FL 33705)
    • WHO: Grades 9–12

    Sponsors: Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, Tampa Bay Water, Pinellas County, Keep America Beautiful, Florida Department of Transportation, Duke Energy, and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program

    New wetlands walkway open at Florida Botanical Gardens

    • Wetlands Walkway and Wildlife Overlook now open at The Florida Botanical Gardens
    • Walkway includes boardwalks and overlook into wildlife areas
    • Project primarily funded by donations collected at Holiday Lights event

    The Wetlands Walkway and Wildlife Overlook, a new section of The Florida Botanical Gardens, is now open. It completes a loop in the gardens’ trails that will provide visitors a closer look at the native plants and animals that live there. The walkway opened earlier this month with a dedication ceremony during the Florida Botanical Gardens Foundation’s annual membership meeting.

    The walkway includes a boardwalk, viewing areas and new native plantings to attract wildlife by providing additional habitat. The boardwalk and walkway paths lead guests through part of The Gardens’ wetland area and open into an overlook to give a broader view of the nature and wildlife that reside there including numerous bird species, mammals and reptiles.

    The project was primarily funded by donations the Florida Botanical Gardens Foundation collects during the annual Holiday Lights event. The Foundation partners with Pinellas County’s Parks and Conservation Resources department to continue making The Gardens a world class experience for both residents of Pinellas County and tourists.

    The Florida Botanical Gardens is located at 12520 Ulmerton Road in Largo, with an alternate entrance at 12211 Walsingham Road. The Gardens are open from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m. every day, with free admission. For more information, visit www.flbg.org or call (727) 582-2100. Or visit at www.flbgfoundation.org (727) 582-2117 for information on ways to support The Gardens.

    North County reclaimed water supply at low level

    Pinellas County Utilities’ reclaimed water storage ponds at William E. Dunn Water Reclamation Facility have fallen to low levels due to excessive user demand. As a result, customers may experience a drop in pressure if mandatory seasonal restrictions are not followed.

    Reclaimed water customers in unincorporated Pinellas County north of Curlew Road may water up to two-days per week based on their address as follows:

    • Addresses ending in even numbers (0, 2, 4, 6 or 8) may irrigate on Tuesday and/or Saturday.
    • Addresses ending in odd numbers (1, 3, 5, 7 or 9) may irrigate on Wednesday and/or Sunday.
    • Addresses with mixed or no addresses, such as common areas, may irrigate on Wednesday and/or Sunday.
    • Irrigating with reclaimed water is prohibited between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

    Enforcement of watering restrictions is currently being intensified to encourage responsible use of reclaimed water.

    Pinellas County Utilities customers are encouraged to follow restrictions throughout the year to promote a healthy, sustainable Florida lawn and landscape. The dry season also offers customers the opportunity to learn about, and put into practice, Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ practices, including watering only when grass and plants start to wilt and, when needed, watering deeply to encourage deep, drought-tolerant root systems.

    Pinellas County Extension offers a multitude of information about creating Florida-appropriate landscapes that are attractive, healthier with less water and are less costly than replacing plants every year. Visit www.pinellascounty.org/extension to view lawn and garden resources and a listing of upcoming classes.

    South Pinellas reclaimed water tanks low due to high demand

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    The Pinellas County Utilities reclaimed water storage tanks at South Cross Bayou Water Reclamation Facility have fallen to low levels due to excessive user demand, and customers may experience a drop in pressure if mandatory seasonal restrictions are not followed.

    Reclaimed water customers in unincorporated South Pinellas County (south of Gulf to Bay Boulevard) may water up to three days a week based on their address as follows:

    • Addresses ending in even numbers may irrigate on Tuesday, Thursday and/or Saturday.
    • Addresses ending in odd numbers may irrigate on Wednesday, Friday and/or Sunday.
    • Mixed address properties or those without an address, such as common areas, may irrigate on Wednesday, Friday and/or Sunday.
    • Irrigating with reclaimed water is prohibited between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
    • Irrigation is prohibited at all times on Monday.
    Enforcement of watering restrictions is currently being intensified to encourage responsible use of reclaimed water.

    Pinellas County Utilities customers are encouraged to follow restrictions throughout the year to promote a healthy, sustainable Florida lawn and landscape. The dry season also offers customers the opportunity to learn about, and put into practice, Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ practices, including watering only when grass and plants start to wilt and, when needed, watering deeply to encourage deep, drought-tolerant root systems.

    Pinellas County Extension offers information about creating Florida-appropriate landscapes that are attractive, healthier with less water and are less costly than replacing plants every year. Visit www.pinellascounty.org/extension to view lawn and garden resources and a listing of upcoming classes.

    For more information about reclaimed water restrictions, visit www.pinellascounty.org/utilities/reclaim-irrigation.htm. For more information about Pinellas County Utilities, visit www.pinellascounty.org/utilities.

    Routine water system maintenance to begin May 14

    The method of water treatment for Pinellas County and its wholesale customers will be temporarily modified between Monday, May 14, and Friday, June 8. The first of two short-term changes from chloramine to chlorine disinfection in 2018 is a routine maintenance measure designed to optimize water quality.

    Those that will benefit from this program include Pinellas County Utilities water customers, as well as customers in the cities of Clearwater, Pinellas Park and Safety Harbor.

    The disinfection program is designed to maintain distribution system water quality and minimize the potential for any future problems. There have been no indications of significant bacteriological contamination problems in the system. The water will continue to meet all federal and state standards for safe drinking water.

    Kidney dialysis patients should not be impacted, but should contact their dialysis care provider for more information about chlorine treatment. Fish owners should not be affected if they already have a system in place to remove chloramines, but should contact local pet suppliers with any questions.

    Customers may notice a slight difference in the taste and/or odor of the water during this temporary change in treatment.

    Chlorine was used as the primary disinfectant in the water for more than 50 years prior to 2002. Pinellas County switched to chloramine in 2002 to ensure compliance with Environmental Protection Agency standards. Many communities using chloramine convert back to chlorine for short periods of time to maintain system water quality.

    The second short-term change from chloramine to chlorine disinfection in 2018 will take place from Oct. 1 through Oct. 26.

    For more information, please visit www.pinellascounty.org/utilities or contact Pinellas County Utilities Customer Service at (727) 464-4000.

    The chlorine maintenance program underscores the county’s strategic goal of protecting and improving the quality of our water.

    Sea turtle nesting season begins

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    Sea turtle nesting season is underway, and in order to practice superior environmental stewardship, Pinellas County reminds beach residents and visitors to keep conditions safe for sea turtles to thrive.

    Females generally nest from early May through August, with turtle eggs typically taking about 60 days to hatch.

    Citizens are asked to not pick up hatchlings heading toward the water, shine lights or use flash photography. Hatchlings use starlight and moonlight reflecting off the water to find their way to the sea, and if they become misled by artificial light, they can become disoriented and die. Marine Turtle Permit holders monitor about 26 miles of coastline and report on sea turtle nesting activity. They engage in early morning patrols to locate and mark new nesting sites to prevent human disturbance.

    Most Pinellas County beach communities have ordinances prohibiting lighting that casts glare onto the beach during the May 1 to Oct. 31 turtle nesting season. During nesting season, residents and beach visitors should do the following:

  • Turn off outside lights, draw drapes and avoid using flashlights or fishing lamps on the beach.
  • Remove obstacles such as sand castles or sand pits that may impede hatchlings making their way to the shoreline.
  • Keep the beach clean. Eliminate trash items that may entangle hatchlings and adult turtles.
  • Do not approach or harass adult turtles as they make their way back to sea. As a threatened species, loggerhead turtles are protected under federal and state law; disturbing them, their nest or hatchlings, or causing disorientation from artificial lights, is illegal.

  • To report the disturbance of turtles, an unmarked nest, or turtles or hatchlings lost, stranded or wandering in the street, call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

    By obeying the law and following some simple guidelines, residents and visitors can greatly improve the chances of sea turtle survival.

    The rainy season's coming: Review/add flood insurance now

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    The Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners is asking residents to review their current flood insurance policy ahead of the normal rainy season to ensure proper coverage and, if not covered, to consider adding flood insurance.

    Property owners and renters are reminded that anywhere it rains, it can flood. Summer downpours can cause localized flooding, which can affect properties that have never flooded before.

    “As we head into our rainy season, we encourage all homeowners, business property owners and those who rent to keep their flood policies in force or to add flood insurance to their coverage no matter where they live in Pinellas County,” said Commission Chairman Kenneth T. Welch. “Along with creating an inventory of their belongings, photographing and videotaping their properties and possessions, it’s one of the best ways everyone can prepare for storm season.”

    Regular homeowners' insurance does not typically cover damage caused by floods and hurricanes. Flood insurance, on the other hand, provides coverage for water intrusion due to flooding caused by heavy rains, tropical storms and hurricanes.

    Property owners should be aware that flood insurance is mandatory for federally-backed mortgages on buildings located in the FEMA Special Flood Hazard Area. More than 20 percent of flood insurance claims come from areas that are not in a Special Flood Hazard Area. Property owners can take advantage of a highly discounted Preferred Risk Policy if they are outside of the FEMA high risk area.

    Because the County and its municipalities participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), flood insurance is available to homeowners, renters and business owners whether or not they are in a designated flood zone. Typically, there is a 30-day waiting period from the date of purchase before a flood policy goes into effect.

    Pinellas County and most of its municipalities also participate in the federal Community Rating System (CRS), which provides discounts on flood insurance. Properties in the unincorporated area of the county are eligible for up to a 25 percent premium discount, which is a savings of more than $5 million per year in flood insurance policy premiums.

    Residents and business owners can find out about their flood risk or get flood insurance technical assistance by visiting www.pinellascounty.org/flooding or calling (727) 464-7700.

    Senator Bill Nelson files bill to provide loans to coastal communities impacted by climate change

    Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson wants to help shore up Florida’s coastal areas expected to suffer the most from climate change.

    The legislation would make federal funds available for communities who need to brace themselves for climate change-related events. In an emailed statement, Nelson calls Florida “ground zero for sea-level rise.”

    Coastal communities could upgrade their infrastructure to prepare for tidal flooding, beach erosion or saltwater intrusion. The loans would come from a state-run revolving loan program funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.

    NOAA predicts a possible sea level rise of more than three feet by the year 2050 at two Northeast Florida locations: Mayport and Fernandina Beach.

    The city of Miami Beach is already trying to lessen the impact of climate change; spending 500 million dollars to install water pumps, build higher roads and sea walls.

    In red tide blooms, peril for stone crabs

    Mote research finds the algal blooms can make juveniles and young adults more vulnerable to predators, or even kill them

    SARASOTA — Red tide toxins can threaten and possibly kill stone crabs, according to preliminary research conducted by scientists from Mote Marine Laboratory in conjunction with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

    The tests were conducted on adult stone crabs with claws too small to harvest.

    The study was inspired by stone crab fishermen at a state advisory panel meeting who wanted to know why their traps were relatively empty during six months of red tide.

    Phil Gravinese, a postdoctoral research fellow at Mote Marine, noted that the fishermen also reported catching crabs that looked lethargic. Gravinese was first author on the research, which was published in the scientific journal “Marine Environmental Research.”

    At the least, stone crabs affected by the toxic red tide algae become more vulnerable to predators, while prolonged exposure to higher levels of the kill them outright.

    Gravinese noted that other research suggests that sublegal and juvenile stone crabs can’t travel far enough to escape a red tide bloom that may be several miles long, 40 feet deep and last several months.

    Adult crabs are more mobile and one mark-and-recapture study conducted by other scientists found that adult crabs may be able to travel quickly enough to escape the effects of a bloom.

    Gravinese characterized this study as a first step of a more lengthy research process. “The primary goal was to basically see if there is something there worth investigating,” he said.

    Sea turtle nesting season begins May 1st

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    Some of the first sea turtle nests of 2018 are already being discovered by Mote Marine Laboratory’s Sea Turtle Patrol. That’s right. The turtles are coming.

    But it isn’t unusual for sea turtle nesting season to begin early, which officially runs May 1 to Oct. 31.

    “The season doesn’t officially begin until May 1, but the turtles don’t read the calendar, so they sort of show up around then,” said Melissa Bernhard, senior biologist at Mote’s sea turtle conservation and research program.

    The first two nests found on Longboat Key— one in Sarasota County and one in Manatee County portion — were laid by loggerhead sea turtles, a threatened species. Loggerheads are the most common species in southwest Florida, followed by green sea turtles, which are also threatened.

    Florida one of the most important nesting grounds for loggerhead turtles, Bernhard said.

    Irma report: Devastation – and a huge warning sign

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    The forecasters got Hurricane Irma mostly right. At least compared to the predictions of past storms. That’s one of the conclusions from a National Hurricane Center report on the big storm that hit Florida last September.

    John Cangialosi is the lead author of the center’s report on Irma.

    “We’re not trying to brag here in any sense, but the Irma forecasts we had were really successful. That was very, very low errors that we made for track prediction,” Cangialosi said.

    In the future, they won’t always be so successful, he said — that’s why hurricane forecasters and emergency managers keep telling the public not to focus on the exact forecast track or even the wider cone.

    “Try to look at what might happen in your area and don’t be overly deterministic if I’m in the cone or out of the cone,” he said. “Every storm will be different, so let’s take these one at a time and please don’t compare systems over time like say, ‘Oh I survived Irma, I’ll be OK with the next one.’ They really are very different.”

    Pulitzer winner paints optimistic picture of Gulf of Mexico

    Author of “The Gulf: Making of an American Sea” delivers keynote at Sarasota environmental summit

    SARASOTA — Dr. Jack Davis painted a lush portrait of the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday evening with his keynote speech at the opening reception for the 2018 Environmental Summit.

    He started by describing a majestic vision of 19th-century era painter Winslow Homer’s experiences fishing among the marshlands of the Homosassa River, then discussed the Gulf’s formation and its impact on human existence.

    Davis, who won a 2018 Pulitzer Prize for his book “The Gulf: The Making of An American Sea,” had been doing researching for the book prior to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. He said he wanted to show the rest of America that the Gulf of Mexico is more than an oil spill and sunny beaches.

    Davis, a history professor at the University of Florida, said he wanted to reveal “the Gulf that I knew and that I wanted Americans to know.”

    Mote Marine Lab studying Florida mullet fishery

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    In southwest Florida, cured mullet roe called bottarga fetches higher prices than the fish producing it, and sometimes unused fish are left after bottarga is sold. Now, Mote Marine Laboratory scientists are investigating how to turn excess mullet into food for fish farms, to benefit mullet fishermen along with the fish farming, or aquaculture, industry.

    Mote is launching the second phase of this study now, with help from a generous supporter, Ed Chiles, CEO and owner of the Chiles Restaurant Group, which includes Sandbar, Beach House and Mar Vista Restaurants, whose menus and features showcase mullet, bottarga and other local underutilized species.

    The Chiles Restaurant Group worked with fishermen based in Cortez, Florida, to procure and donate 600 pounds of frozen mullet to Mote scientists on April 17.

    During the project’s first phase in 2015-2017, Mote scientists and the research arm of Zeigler Brothers, a commercial aquatic feeds company, formulated and tested their first mullet-based feed with freshwater sturgeon raised at Mote Aquaculture Research Park in Sarasota County.

    Photo: Robert Baugh, Chiles Group COO, helps deliver mullet to Mote Aquaculture Research Park. Credit: Conor Goulding/Mote Marine Laboratory

    Hillsborough County EPC offers scenic wetland tours in May

    May is American Wetlands Month, and the Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County (EPC) is celebrating by offering tours of four of Hillsborough County's most scenic wetlands with guides from the EPC. Learn more about the true value of wetlands to our community by joining these tours.

    On each tour, participants will explore a unique Hillsborough County wetland to discuss and learn the importance of wetlands in our community. Natural wetlands serve as habitat for many wildlife species, provide numerous recreational opportunities, filter our drinking water and protect us from flooding.

    Dates and locations:

    • Saturday, May 5 – Lettuce Lake Conservation Park
    • Friday, May 11 – Upper Tampa Bay Trail-Lutz Lake Fern
    • Saturday, May 19 – Alderman Ford Conservation Park
    • Friday, May 25 – Upper Tampa Bay Conservation Park

    Things to know

    • Cost: Free
    • There is a $2 park entry fee per vehicle for up to 8 people
    • Under 18 must be accompanied by adult
    • Walking/Hiking information: ~1 to 2 miles
    • Maximum amount of participants: 40

    Things to bring

    • Water in refillable container
    • Hat
    • Sunglasses
    • Sunscreen
    • Bug spray

    For more information please email or call either of the following people:

  • Jackie Jordan – (813) 627-2600 ext. 1358 – jordanj@epchc.org
  • Kim Tapley – (813) 627-2600 ext. 1359 – tapleyk@epchc.org
  • Awards season open for water-efficient landscapes

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    The deadline for applying for this year's Community Water-Wise Awards is June 30th.

    CLEARWATER — If your landscape is both eye-catching and water-efficient, now is the time to enter the 2018 Tampa Bay Community Water-Wise Awards. Up for grabs are a custom-made, mosaic landscape stepping stone, recognition by local elected officials and neighborhood bragging rights.

    Tampa Bay Water, in partnership with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) County Extension Offices and Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program, is looking to recognize residents, local businesses and community organizations who are committed to conserving water resources and protecting the environment by using best practice to create attractive, water-efficient landscaping. All entries will be reviewed by representatives of the University of Florida IFAS County Extension, who will then schedule on-site evaluations for all entries that meet the core criteria.

    Water-Wise landscapes benefit the region because they use less water, require minimal maintenance and help protect the environment. Native and Florida-friendly plants that are properly placed are able to thrive in local conditions and are typically drought tolerant, while reducing the amount of grass in the landscape saves both water and maintenance time. Water-Wise landscapes also protect the environment by minimizing fertilizer and pesticide use and by reducing stormwater runoff.

    “The Tampa Bay Community Water-Wise Awards program is a way to engage with the community and encourage more residents and organizations to make efficient use of our water resources and protect our drinking water sources from pollution,” said Dave Bracciano, demand management coordinator for Tampa Bay Water.

    Getting your hands on the coveted award stone requires balancing Florida-friendly plants and landscape elements with attractive design and minimal maintenance, as well as using efficient irrigation techniques that reduce water use. To see if your landscape has what it takes to be named a champion, visit tampabaywaterwise.org to apply by June 30, 2018.

    About the Community Water-Wise Awards
    The Tampa Bay Community Water-Wise Awards program is designed to recognize attractive, water-conserving landscapes in various water-use sectors (e.g., homes, businesses, industry and government). Moreover, the program seeks to identify actual examples of outstanding Florida-friendly, water-wise landscaping and to promote those principles within the community. To learn more, visit tampabaywaterwise.org

    Pinellas County starts major beach renourishment project

    21 miles of shoreline will get a facelift

    TREASURE ISLAND – Crews in Pinellas County are getting ready to pump enough sand across 21 miles of shoreline to fill a football field 960 feet high.

    County crews say the project is much needed after beaches took a hit from Tropical Storm Hermine and Hurricane Irma. The trade off? The renourishment project will take place 24/7 for the next 5-7 months and will be noisy.

    Crews plan to kick off the county’s largest beach renourishment project in more than a decade on Tuesday.

    The $52 million project, which is being split financially between the county, state and federal government, will add in some places between 40 and 100 feet of beach.

    Tim Pond, who is visiting Treasure Island from Minnesota says the noise and the partial beach closures are the price to pay for a much larger beach.

    “It's something that you've gotta deal with and put up with but in the end it's a much needed change. I've watched as this beach has become smaller and smaller,” he explained.

    Robin Taylor, who lives in nearby Seminole and moved down from New York, agrees.

    “If it is noisy, I’ll just find another spot until they’re done,” she said.

    Crews are starting to pump sand at Sunshine Beach on Treasure Island. They will work on Treasure Island for about a month before moving north to Clearwater, then work their way back south to Redington Beach.

    You can find more information on the project and timeline here.

    St. Pete says discharge never reached the bay; its own report says otherwise.

    ST. PETERSBURG — The city said not one of the 266,000 gallons of reclaimed water released on Jan. 18 reached Tampa Bay.

    There was no mention of the waste released from the Northeast Water Reclamation Facility ever reaching the bay in the city’s notice of the discharge to residents, or the notification sent to state environmental officers.

    And that assurance was repeatedly made by city officials, first weeks later to the City Council, and then to the Tampa Bay Times.

    That’s still the city’s official story. Yet officials also have in their possession a report that reached a different conclusion: there is a "high probability" spilled waste flowed into Tampa Bay.

    Why does the city’s public pronouncements differ from its internal records? That disconnect is reminiscent of the 2015-16 sewage crisis, in which the administration of Mayor Rick Kriseman was criticized for not being forthcoming as its ailing sewage system released up to a billion gallons of waste — 200 million gallons of which ended up in the bay.

    Public works officials, though, say there is no disconnect. The "high probability" finding was made in an after-action report that was the first of its kind, they said, drafted to establish a procedure for documenting spills.

    But the report itself? It did not accurately explain the discharge, they said.