Water-Related News

Pumping sewage underground is illegal. St. Pete wants it legal.

The city wants the state to change its environmental rules to make legal an illegal maneuver it has relied on a lot lately: flushing wastewater down into the aquifer.

The idea was proposed by a consulting firm the city is paying $4 million to create a master plan to guide revamping the sewage system and other water utilities.

Jacobs Engineering project manager Leisha Pica told the City Council on Jan. 4 that this could help improve St. Petersburg’s image after its mishandling of 1 billion gallons of sewage spilled during the 2015-16 sewage crisis.

Legalizing that tactic, she said, would give the city "operational flexibility."

"It seems to be a better perception of the city’s management when you’re doing something that’s not a violation," Pica said at the council meeting, using air quotes when she said "violation."

"So that’s what we’re going for ... It’s a perception of an approach."

The Tampa Bay Times asked the Florida Department of Environmental Protection whether it would consider such a request.

The answer was an emphatic no.