248M gallons of sewage discharged in storms

The political football of handling overflows from storms like Hermine is making the rounds.

ST. PETERSBURG -- Pinellas County leaders are getting an update on that massive discharge of untreated sewage into Tampa Bay waters.

It was millions of gallons that shut down beaches. Possibly posing a health threat.

The question: With three years a row of flooding rain, and three years to go before a fix is in place, what can be done to keep that treated sewage out of Bay area waters?

At the two-hour hearing in St. Petersburg. City after city reported the latest numbers and progress.

Florida’s Southwest DEP Director Mary Yeargan then delivered the sobering total. “Over 248,000,673 gallons. That's a very big number,” she said.

“People want to have some idea why it happened,” said state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who called the Pinellas delegation meeting.

Latvala said what most people in the room were thinking: That a permanent fix by 2019 isn't good enough. 

“We can't do this for three more years until that southwest plant gets finished,” he said.

Latvala has floated the idea of floating a barge or containers that could temporarily hold the discharge during emergencies until the system can process it.

DEP says it will look into it. 

“We need to figure out a solution,” Latvala urged them.

Some people living near the spill say they won't stick around to see what happens.

Chris DiCroce lives aboard a boat where the effluent was dumped into the bay.

“I'm actually trying to figure out where I can go. Leave. Because, I mean, it's disgusting,” said DiCroce.

“The sentiment out there may not be fully understanding of everything that we've got planned. Both short-term and long-term to try to address this to the degree we can,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.

Kriseman and the city have been taking heat. Some residents say it took far too long for them to report the enormity of the overflow problem.

The mayor recognized the criticism.

“What could we do better? Is there a way to communicate better than we have? We're always trying to make this -- and do a better job, but there's always room for improvement,” said Kriseman.

“We are obviously going to do everything that we can short-term to mitigate it, but this problem didn't, wasn't created overnight and we're not gonna be able to fix it overnight despite the fact that I would love to,” said Kriseman.

Kriseman also believes things could be sped up if they could get more financial support from the smaller municipalities whose waste water the city also processes.

He would also like to see more of a commitment from the state to help the area with the infrastructure the region clearly needs.

Latvala says this meeting was about identifying the problems. The next step, he says will be identifying realistic solutions.

10News has been covering the sewage issue:

Pinellas legislators: We must address spill now

Hermine overwhelms sewage plants around Bay

Where's fix after minor Hermine?


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