The ongoing St. Petersburg sewage crisis will be the subject of a meeting Tuesday afternoon.
State Sen. Jack Latvala, R.-Clearwater will lead the meeting, which is being called to address how best to fix the sewage issue and avoid it happening again in the future.
Since August 2015, St. Petersburg has dumped more than 190 million gallons of sewage into Tampa Bay and other local waterways. City officials were warned this could happen when they shut down the Albert Whitted water treatment facility, according to one whistleblower. And a permanent fix to the problem is not likely until at least 2018, when major upgrades to the Southwest wastewater treatment plant may be completed.
Additional sewage was released into the Bay during the torrential rains that came with Hurricane Hermine last month. The problems have been caused by a combination of an aged sewer system with low capacity and heavy rains.
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Lawmakers, as well as area residents, are outraged and say something must be done and quickly, since another big rain event would lead to more of the same sewage leaks.
Officials said they hope to come up with constructive ideas at tonight's Pinellas County Legislative Delegation workshop.
Latvala said he wants to know exactly what can be done to avoid this happening in the future, including the possibility of using barges installed at the port to store overflow or using bladders on the water to block sewage.
"A barge will hold about five million gallons of liquid," Latvala said. "There’s bladders that float on top of the water that hold 10-13 million gallons, so it was a suggestion I made to look into for the interim period of time. We can not stand by and let this continue to happen virtually every day when we have a heavy rain."
Meanwhile, Craven Askew, the chief operator of the city’s northwest water treatment plant who expressed the initial concern, has sent a letter informing the mayor and City Council that he has filed for federal whistleblower protection, citing public safety.
The public is invited to attend today's workshop.
The event is scheduled from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Karen A. Steidinger Auditorium at the Fish & Wildlife Research Institute at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus. The address is 100 Eighth Ave. SE.