ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — St. Petersburg officials faced tough questions Tuesday about the release of wastewater into Tampa Bay after Hurricane Hermine.
The questions came at a meeting with state legislators about the release of wastewater. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection revealed more than 148 million gallons of wastewater have been dumped into the Bay.
A report from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission shows children from a St. Petersburg Yacht Club event were in the Bay after a release of wastewater, and, according to the report, they were simply advised to “take an extra hot showers” to get clean.
Commercial diver Sam Secord says he became sick shortly after swimming in the contaminated water. “I thought maybe it was just run off, because the water clarity was really bad, didn’t notice a smell or anything like that, dove for a day and within hours after being in the water I was in a bad way … I was, you know, basically having really bad stomach pains, fever, flu like symptoms, achiness, I mean it happened straight away,” Secord said.
State Representative Kathleen Peters says the release of wastewater should have never happened. Peters says the local governments releasing the wastewater need to do a much better job of informing the public when it happens.
“At least they have enough knowledge to arm themselves to make a decision. ‘Am I going to go in the water? Am I going to sail? Am I going to do my job diving and cleaning boats? Or am I just going to play and have recreation in the water?’ But at least if they are educated and they know they can make that informed decision,” Peters said.
At the meeting with state legislators, St. Petersburg officials acknowledged it may take two years or longer before projects can be completed to prevent the release of wastewater during major rain events.
A consultant report released to the city in 2014 shows an aging water treatment plant at Albert Whitted Airport should not have been closed before capacity to store wastewater was increased at another facility.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kireseman maintains he was never shown the report. The city council didn’t see the report before deciding to close the plant, he said.
Kriseman is calling for an independent legal investigation to find out why the report wasn’t shown to the people making the decisions. “What’s critical here is when the decision was made to close the plant and the plant was actually closed? Who knew about this report came out before this date?” Kriseman asked.
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