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Hold that flush: Tampa leaders want to pause controversial ‘toilet-to-tap’ plan

The vote came after a presentation from the water department about how the plan could work.

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa’s controversial proposal to convert wastewater into drinking water is getting push-back from city council leaders, who want the project removed from the upcoming budget.

"I don't fully trust it,” said councilman Guido Maniscalco. "My concerns were health-related. Can you take out the pharmaceuticals? Can you take out the steroids and anything else that's in the water? Even though they have the science to filter it, how safe is it? Are we going to have people in 20-30 years that are getting sick?"

Maniscalco was one of five council members who voted last week to have the $300 million Tampa Augmentation Project removed from the city’s new budget. The vote came after a presentation from the water department about how the plan could work.

“I can’t sell it to anyone," he said. "I’ve spoken to several people, explaining to them—anybody from my mother to friends to anyone in general, and I have yet to have one person say, 'that’s a good idea.’”

The city says the project would help supply the area with a “safe, sustainable, cost-effective water supply, and would use reclaimed water to do so. According to the city’s TAP website, it would also “protect and enhance important environmental resources such as the Hillsborough River, Hillsborough Bay and Tampa Bay.”

The project essentially would work by pumping wastewater into the aquifer, which would filter H2O for residents to drink. However, environmentalists are not convinced this will be safe for people or for the environment.

“Using the aquifer to dilute polluted water so that the resulting mixture meets drinking water standards is not a proper solution,” said Kent Bailey, president of the Tampa Bay Sierra Club. "Tampa is the only one considering injecting water into the aquifer that doesn't meet drinking water standards, although the city water department says it is going to."

Bailey says he, too, worries about the effects of pumping reclaimed water filled with micro-constituents into the aquifer.

"It's very dangerous. The chemicals include several known carcinogens,” said Bailey. "Florida is blessed with abundant water resources and because of that, we've been very casual about the way we regard this most precious natural resource. We need to realize it is limited, it is finite, and it is not indestructible, and treat it with the respect it deserves."

Maniscalco says the council will know on Thursday if the mayor’s office removed the TAP project from the budget.

RELATED: 'It's not poop water,' but St. Petersburg official skeptical of wastewater to drinking water plan

RELATED: Toilet to tap: Bill would allow putting wastewater into aquifer

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