My City Council Comments (Sept. 20) -- DEP and Legislators Need to Take Action on Sewage Discharges
September 27, 2016
In my February 2016 Council Comments, I referred to the review of environmental protection laws by City Attorney Salzman that could possibly apply to the August 2015 discharge of 30 million gallons of raw and partially-treated sewage into Clam Bayou by the City of St. Petersburg. I attempted to initiate a discussion on a potential RESOLUTION that:
Would request a DEP investigation on the August 2015 incident;
Could consider a financial obligation to Gulfport businesses affected by the sewage contamination;
Ask that St Pete share with Gulfport sewer infrastructure fixes to prevent future discharges into Clam Bayou;
Require St Pete to provide Gulfport early warnings if the SW facility were to reach capacity; and
Call for DEP to develop a Clam Bayou action plan.
There was no interest in such a Gulfport Resolution.
Beginning in August 2015, I reached out to Congressman David Jolly, St. Pete Leadership and City Council, Representatives Kathleen Peters and Darryl Rouson, Senator Jeff Brandes, and DEP, to seek support for Gulfport, making sure all knew about our contaminated Clam Bayou, Beach and Marina.
My greatest disappointment? The lack of transparency and information from St Petersburg and DEP. Even though DEP accepted my September 2015 invitation for a meeting with the City Manager, and participated in the Clam Bayou Forum, it was disappointing when they concluded that the 30 million gallons of sewage dumped into Clam Bayou did not warrant an investigation, nor violated environmental protection laws. DEP accepted St. Pete’s study conclusion that the source of fecal contamination in our waters are dog and bird related. My disappointment is real. The negative effects to our City are real.
After recent sewage discharges attributed to Tropical Storms Colin and Hermine, St Pete residents are outraged. Fifty-eight million gallons of “possibly” treated sewage dumped in the Azalea area, another 136 million gallons of raw and partially treated sewage into Tampa Bay. Now, “Elected Officials and the DEP” have seen the light. I commend the courage of the Whistleblower who is shedding light on capacity issues at the SW treatment facility prior to 2015, and warnings if the Albert Whitted facility were to close.
I will look forward to the outcome of the St. Pete independent investigation of their sewage discharges, DEP’s “Consent Order,” and sewer improvement plans from both Gulfport and St. Pete. Go to mygulfport.us to see our sewer improvement plan.
Anyone interested in contact information for Legislators, Commissioners, the DEP, St Peterburg or Gulfport, to express concerns about this or other issues, please see my newsletter at yroman-gulfport-newsletter.com. There, I will also detail the proposals I recently introduced:
A residential lateral sewer line assistance program;
The use of a mobile vac trucks prior to discharging into Boca Ciega Bay; and
Potentially using water-filtering (cleaning) oyster beds in Clam Bayou.
I am also proposing a discussion for considering Pinellas County v. St Petersburg for sewage and/or water services
ADDENDUM: I attended the City of St Petersburg City Council meeting on Thursday, September 22nd. That was the meeting where City Council and Mayor Krisemen discussed their sewer treatment facility issues, the 2014 study that cautioned against closing the Albert Whitted plant, communicating during emergency sewage discharges, etc. I took the opportunity to address the St Petersburg City Council during public comments: "I want to thank Council Members Kornell and Nurse. Both came to Gulfport at the time of the original 30 million discharges into Clam Bayou. I look forward to the actions, investigations and ongoing transparency that will enable us all to increase the confidence and trust that both our citizens demand of us."
ADDENDUM: I also attended the recent "Pinellas County State Delegation" (delegates: http://www.pinellascounty.org/delegation/) meeting specifically called to discuss recent sewage discharges. The meeting was attended by many of the municipalities represented by the Representatives and Senators. The goal is for the delegates to develop an action to provide support, including funds, to cities to help mitigate future sewage discharges. I will provide more details as they come available. See "Press Release" below.