Sewage dumped into Tampa Bay believed to have killed birds

A black skimmer. Photo credit Lorraine Margeson

ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) — Environmentalists believe that partially untreated sewage dumped into Tampa Bay has caused dozens of birds to die.

Carcasses of seabirds have been turning up along the shores of St. Pete Beach.

Lorraine Margeson with Florida Shorebird Alliance says that, as of Wednesday, 47 birds have been found dead. “I actually found the first dead chick on Aug. 12th. And then since then, it’s been drip, drip, drip dying sometimes two a day, one a day, it’s just been ongoing,” Margeson said.

She said they began to see dead birds after Tropical Storm Colin. Millions of gallons of partially untreated sewage runoff was dumped into Boca Ciega Bay.

RELATED: St. Pete official says city sewer system needs upgrades

Margeson said the Florida Shorebird Alliance had put numbered bands on the legs of skimmer birds to track them. The skimmers that the group had banded, flocked to Tampa Bay to eat, but lived on St. Pete Beach. She said that’s where majority of the birds started dying.

Margeson said the additional drainage problems that came during Hurricane Hermine only made the issue worst.

“Somebody just posted a picture today of a dead pelican at John’s Pass. We need to like watch out and see what’s going to happen here. When are the fish going to start rolling up, when are we going to start finding dead dolphins or whatever else,” Margeson said.

Pinellas County leaders plan to discuss Hermine’s impact during a county commission meeting Wednesday. Commission Charlie Justice discussed forming a task force with county utility workers. He says they’ll meet and come up with solutions to fix infrastructure.

“We basically had all our systems exposed during the storms, so I thought an opportunity for us to come together, see where our weaknesses are, see where our strengths are. How can we work better in the future to make sure the impact are lessened?” Justice said.

State Representative Kathleen Peters and State Senator Jack Latvala will also hold an emergency meeting with county legislators next week to discuss the sewage issue. The meeting will be held at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 20 at the FWC Research Institute in St. Petersburg.

RELATED: Rain and aging sewer system contribute to St. Pete sewage overflow problem

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