St. Pete mayor blames climate change for release of wastewater into Tampa Bay

St. Pete Beach

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman is calling the recent massive discharge of sewer water into Tampa Bay the result of a “perfect storm”.

Kriseman is blaming the city’s aging infrastructure and heavy rains that he believes are the result of climate change on the release.

In a YouTube video released by the city Kriseman says, “climate change has arrived.”

Another contributing factor according to Kriseman is the closure of a wastewater treatment plant.

“More than a decade ago, city leaders began making plans to take one of our wastewater facilities offline and in 2011 our city council voted to do just that,” said Kriseman in the YouTube video.

In recent weeks, the city of St. Petersburg has released more than 125 million gallons of wastewater into Tampa Bay.

RELATED: St. Pete Beach declares sewer system emergency

“We’ve had to make some very difficult decisions since August of 2015. We have to make a choice, do we allow for significant sewage backups in our homes and streets, or do we partially treat the waste to as high a level as possible and discharge it into a large body of water?” said Kriseman.

The mayor claims, “99.993 percent of the discharge is free of fecal bacteria and our beaches are now considered healthy,” in the YouTube Video.

Former Mayor Bill Foster believes the issue isn’t climate change or leaking pipes.

“This mayor doesn’t have a pipe problem, he’s got a capacity problem. That’s the primary issue,” said Foster.

Foster says the city took the Albert Whitted waste water treatment plant offline before they should have. St. Petersburg’s city council voted to take the plant offline in 2011. The plant was finally removed from service in 2015 after improvements were made to other wastewater treatment facilities.

Foster contends a pumping lift station and other improvements should have been made to the system before taking the Albert Whitted treatment plant offline.

“None of the decommissioning of Albert Whitted should have occurred until all of the above was in place and none of the above was in place when he decommissioned Albert Whitted,” Foster said.

State Representative Kathleen Peters says she has very real concerns about the health and safety of Tampa Bay area waters because of the waste water release.

“USF has said there is a super bacteria that they had found on the shorelines of St. Petersburg,” Peters said.

She has called a meeting of local leaders to talk about the issues and find out what can be done to correct the problems.

“It’s the local government’s responsibility to manage this infrastructure and ensure that they have infrastructure that is appropriate for their population, but at state level, have we missed something?  I also want to know what can the state do to prevent this from happening in the future and how can we better protect our citizens,” Peters said.

RELATED: Sewage dumped into Tampa Bay believed to have killed birds

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