St. Pete mayor wants investigation of wastewater whistle-blower complaint

St. Petersburg
St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman is demanding to know why a consultant report on wastewater was never shared with his office of city council.

An email from the head of the city’s Northwest water treatment plant appears to warn city officials in July about potential problems with waste water during major rain events.

Craven Askew has now filed for protection under the federal whistle-blower act and Federal Water Pollution Control Act.

In emails, Askew warns that the city water treatment plants were beyond capacity due to the shutdown of the Albert Whitted Water treatment plant.

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

“Currently we already have spills related to the AWWRF shutdown,” Askew warns. “We need to look at public exposure to harmful pathogen bacteria,” he said.

A manager in the city water department responds by telling Askew, “Do me a favor and don’t copy everyone on these types of discussions.”

A consultant report also warns of potential problems.

Former St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster says the warnings were ignored. “Somebody wasn’t paying attention. I’m not going to blame the administration or city council, somebody wasn’t paying attention.” said Foster.

Foster maintains common sense should have also been used. “If you take capacity out of one place, you need it at another,” said Foster.

Foster credits Askew for sending warning. “He’s a good guy, he’s a diligent worker and he wouldn’t have expressed these concerns without there being real data to back it up and substantiate it. This isn’t just his opinion, this is backed up with real science,” said Foster.

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

Rick Kriseman is now calling for an investigation into the report, the emails and the apparent attempt to suppress the information.

“Included in Mr. Askew’s email is a consultant’s report that I believe has never been shared publicly or with my office or with city council. As such, I have asked our legal and human resources departments to work with an independent firm to learn why this report has only recently surfaced and to conduct a thorough management review of Water Resources. I demand accountability to me, to city council, and to the citizens we serve,” said Kriseman.

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

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