Water-Related News

DEP to St. Pete: Spend money on sewer lines, not other suggested fixes

ST. PETERSBURG — Forget that street sweeper. Take a rain check for the aerators to spruce up Lake Maggiore. And, while you’re at it, find some other source of cash to make those city recreation centers more energy efficient.

That was the message from state environmental officials this month on how St. Petersburg should satisfy a $810,000 civil penalty imposed by the agency as part of a $326 million consent decree in July.

Instead, Florida Department of Environmental Protection officials offered some guidance: Focus on the sewers, especially those leaky private sewer lines that tax the system by allowing storm and groundwater into municipal wastewater pipes.

When the city agreed to the consent decree, it signed on to a plan to either pay the fine or fund an equivalent amount in pollution prevention projects.

Not surprisingly, the city opted to spend the money on projects instead of forking it over to the state. In September, City Council members held a brainstorming session to come up with projects that could meet DEP requirements. Hence, the project list that included spending $200,000 on a new street sweeper.

Earlier this month, DEP officials delivered the verdict on that wish list, rejecting the street sweeper, pond aerators and energy-efficiency programs as insufficiently focused on repairing the city’s aging, leaky sewers.