ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WTSP) – If you really want to understand how serious the wastewater and stormwater problem are in parts of Pinellas County, all you have to do is talk to St. Pete beach Mayor Deborah Schechner.
“We cannot add one more toilet to our system,” she said. “We have a park we planned to put two bathrooms in there. Those plans were canceled.”
On top of the record amount of sewage the city of St. Petersburg dumped into the Tampa Bay, stories like this are why dozens of city leaders, policymakers and utility experts convened Monday morning at St. Petersburg College for the first Pinellas County Wastewater/Stormwater Task Force meeting.
“We need to be able to work better together so we can share that capacity so we can share those resources so we don’t see the disastrous results that happened after the hurricane,” said Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice.
Justice helped organize the task force with the purpose of working with local leaders to form an action plan to improve infrastructure across the entire county, which could include plans to create a county-wide sewer system.
A consultant at Monday’s meeting said it would be a massive and expensive undertaking to connect the 15 public wastewater systems and three private ones, but it is physically possible.
The county faces a host of other infrastructure challenges including aging pipes that need to be relined or replaced, limited wastewater storage capacity, equipment breakdowns and illicit connections.
The task force will meet every other month, and hopes to have a preliminary action plan within 90 days. All meetings are open to the public.