The City of St. Petersburg wants to inject treated sewer water into the ground to keep from pumping it into the bay. They say you should trust them to do it right. The City government, reeling from dumping tens of millions of gallons of sewage in to our Tampa Bay Estuary, is scrambling for a way to hide the problem, literally, under a rock. If all goes well, then there should be little problem. However, the history of government and promises by government is that government fails. Government has legal protection against lawsuits for making massive mistakes called “sovereign immunity”. That means that if a private company were dumping waste into the bay or underground against regulations, the citizens could sue them out of existence. However if a government entity does it, the citizens can’t receive more than $250,000 from the government for the damages. The city has little incentive to do the right thing when the state seeks to fine them only $820,000 for repeated sewage dumps in the bay, while it collects $20 billion from a company like BP for its Deepwater Horizon disasters. The proposed token fine from the state Department of Environmental Protection for the Kriseman Sewage Dump can still be avoided if the city takes steps that satisfy the State. Welcome to the corrupt world of government “accountability” to the people – also called getting away with murder.
The City is proposing taking the reclaimed water it produces in injecting it hundreds of feet underground into the brakish water that is in a different layer than the drinking water. However the EPA has put the city on notice since 1991 that the “class I” wells allowed the reclaimed water to migrate upward into the drinking water layer. The City attempted to “reclassify” the wells to “class V” – a change done only on paper – to get the EPA to ignore the migration on the technicality that the government classification had changed, even if the actual physical migration had not changed. The City claimed that there were “no credible” sources of drinking water near the injection wells. The city has run several injection wells for reclaimed water for years around its sewage plants. The plan to create new injection wells would be done so that more reclaimed water could be injected underground, rather than being irrigated onto lawns, into retention ponds and into the bay.
Sunbeam Times reporter Dr. David McKalip spoke to a city spokesperson from the water department. He advised that the city can’t simply pump the excess reclaimed water into the the bay since its nitrogen and phosphorous content exceeded state allowed levels. He indicated that it would be too expensive to install the equipment and systems to simply clean the water to a higher standard and then let it flow into the bay. However, one wonders why it was never felt to be too expensive to spend about $35 million to build a sewage pipeline from Albert Whitted to the Eckerd College sewage plant. The City of Clearwater, for better or worse, has spent the funds to build facilities to clean the reclaimed water to a level that will reportedly make it clean enough for pumping into the bay. However, they play to inject it into the aquifer and then pump it back up again in the future to convert to drinking water. That project cost about $28.6 million. Hopefully the City of Clearwater water recovery project won’t cause other problems (a subject the Sunbeam Times has been investigating for a year or so and will report on soon). Of course, this has always been about the politician’s desire to remove the Albert Whitted sewage plant to make the land available for further development and more property taxes.
So the city, after years of politically motivated poor planning, wasted dollars and repeated sewage disasters, the City of St. Petersburg and “Sewage Dump” Kriseman, want you to trust them to inject more reclaimed water into the ground. They hope this will make enough room in their limited sewage holding tank capacity since they shut down Whitted. However, a consultant for the city recently stated in public that raw sewage should be pumped into these new injection wells if there is a large rain event to keep it from being pumped into the bay. The fact is that the city government can’t be trusted to fix this problem using the solutions of sewage diversion, more injection wells or even a massive program to “re-line” the city’s underground sewage pipes. There is only one proper solution for Kriseman sewage dumps: re-open the Albert Whitted Sewage plants. At the meeting of the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee last week, City Councilman Ed Montinari indicated that this could be done for a few million dollars. A small price to pay.
So St. Petersburg citizens have a choice: trust “Sewage Dump” Kriseman to pump your “treated” sewage underground next to your drinking water or simply go back to the basics and have larger storage capacity. The answer is obvious. Kriseman and the City of St. Petersburg can’t be trusted on the sewage issues and must roll back their utopian visions that involve more wated tax dollars based on their political motivations.