SEMINOLE, Fla. (WFLA) — More than a dozen county and city leaders participated in the first Stormwater Task Force meeting on Monday in Pinellas County.
Officials met Monday morning at the Seminole campus of St. Petersburg College.
Government leaders from various municipalities talked about the challenges that each of their respective cities faced during the heavy tropical storms.
Maria Santos said wastewater was a big issue on her street during hurricane Hermine.
“It looked like water was just coming up. Like I said, if my husband’s truck wasn’t there, probably the manhole would have blown completely out,” said Santos.
Several of the county’s sewer systems reached capacity, causing millions of gallons of wastewater to overflow into the streets.
Santos, who has lived here for twenty years, said she never saw anything like it.
“We live in Florida. There are storms that are coming here. Why are we having that happen? They should definitely have an action plan before that, before the storms arrive here,” she said.
County officials formed the task force and want utility and maintenance workers from the various cities to communicate with each other when one is experiencing problems.
Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice says the task force will identify and implement solutions, mitigate emergency situations and develop short and long-term strategies.
“You heard from the different cities and entities how we have different needs and different systems that have had problems over the years,” said Commissioner Justice.
St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman spoke about the initiatives his staff is already taking. The city has budgeted $230 million to address capacity issues.
St. Pete city leaders faced criticism for dumping partially treated wastewater into the Bay.
“While we need to know what happened, we also have to plan for going forward cause really it’s all about fixing the system and addressing the challenges so we can minimize the risk of this happening again,” said Kriseman.
An investigation into what happened, is still underway.
The task force will meet bi-monthly. Meetings are open to public.
County leaders say the end goal is to have an initial action plan in place within the next 90 days.
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