Kriseman: Use BP funds to improve WWTP infrastructure, increase climate resilience
By St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, special to the Tampa Bay Times
St. Petersburg and cities across Tampa Bay experienced heavy and persistent rain beginning in late July and ending in mid August. We far exceeded our average rainfall during this time, with July ranking as the eighth-wettest July in our city's history. This extreme weather prompted the governor to declare a state of emergency for counties throughout our region, including Pinellas.
In early August at a plant adjacent to Eckerd College, the rain led to an overflow of wastewater that was one treatment step from becoming reclaimed water. Days later, 15 million gallons of sewage was pumped into a stormwater treatment pond at Clam Bayou. The alternative to this controlled discharge would have been what occurred in neighboring cities: raw sewage in our streets, lawns and homes. In St. Petersburg, this was an unacceptable option.
Finally, 1.1 million gallons of partially treated wastewater was discharged into Tampa Bay through an emergency outfall about a quarter-mile offshore. A citizen-initiated investigation by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission found no violations and is now closed. Their report states that though our communications could be improved, public notification of this incident was not warranted based on a sample of the contaminant.
Regardless, my administration is taking steps to better inform our residents about incidents like this by improving the communications coming out of our Public Works Administration and Water Resources Department. Specifically, we have transferred an information specialist from Marketing to Water Resources, and we're also creating a communications plan specifically for Public Works and Water Resources.