Anne Lindberg - 3/50 - SaintPetersBlog

Anne Lindberg

Nanoplankton, red tide found in St. Petersburg waterways

St. Petersburg is continuing to test waterways after nanoplankton and red tide was found in samples collected Thursday in areas where a fish kill and dead pelicans were found.

City officials said a water sample collected by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staff at Riviera Lake #1, the site of an initial cold weather inversion-related fish kill last week which led to discoveries of sick or dead brown pelicans, has turned up bloom concentrations of nanoplankton. Meanwhile, a water sample collected at Bayou Grande, where a dead white pelican was found, showed background concentrations of Karenia Brevis, or red tide.

Results of those tests, as well as necropsies on the dead pelicans, should be ready by next week, the city said. Research teams from the city, state and an independent study group will continue to monitor the waters for any unusual activity during the weekend. State-sponsored and independent scientists also continue to examine the water quality.

Initial test results, compared with a recent baseline series of samples provided by the city of St. Petersburg, showed water was within recreational use parameters. Despite increased water testing in the area, recent events have not caused a decrease in visitors to Coffee Pot Park. Activity by residents on social media indicates that there is more fish and wildlife activity in the waters over the past week.

The city’s waterways became the focus of concern this past couple of weeks after the fish kill and pelicans were found dead. Officials initially posted the areas as off-limits to recreational users but removed the signs Thursday after initial test results, when compared with a recent baseline series of samples provided by the city, showed water was within recreational use limits.


Deborah Clark sets tentative schedule for mail ballots in municipal elections

Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark has set a tentative schedule for mail ballots in the March 14 municipal elections.

Ballot mailings are tentatively planned for registered voters residing in: Gulfport, Indian Rocks Beach, Madeira Beach, North Redington Beach, Redington Shores, Safety Harbor, South Pasadena, St. Pete Beach, Tarpon Springs and Treasure Island.

Mail ballots are tentatively scheduled to be sent Jan. 27 to absent military and overseas voters who have requested ballots by that date. State law requires ballots for absent military and overseas voters to be mailed at least 45 days before an election.

Mail ballots are tentatively set to be sent Feb. 7 to domestic voters who have requested ballots by that date. State law requires domestic ballots to be mailed between 35 and 28 days before an election.

Absent military and overseas voters include all active-duty military, their spouses, and dependents currently absent from their places of residence, and civilians who are U.S. citizens residing outside the U.S. Domestic voters are civilian voters residing within the U.S. and active-duty military voters living in Pinellas County.

Additional mail ballot requests will be fulfilled as received. To apply for a vote-by-mail ballot, visit, call 727-464-VOTE (8683), or email The deadline to request that a ballot be mailed is 5 p.m. March 8.

Mail ballots must be received at one of the Supervisor of Elections Offices by 7 p.m. on Election Day. Voters are advised to allow at least one week for their ballot to be returned by mail to the Supervisor of Elections Office. Mail ballots may also be dropped off at any Supervisor of Elections Office. Check for hours and locations.


Pat Shontz, former Madeira Beach mayor, dies

Pat Shontz, a former Madeira Beach mayor and city commissioner, died Thursday at a local hospital, city officials said.

“It was a shock,” Madeira Beach Mayor Travis Palladeno said. “She was supposed to come home today. She went in the night.”

Palladeno said Shontz was being treated for injuries received in a recent fall.

 “She cared. Pat had nothing but love for the city of Madeira Beach,” Palladeno said. “She brought a lot to the table. She’ll be sorely missed. There’s just no words.”

Shontz and her husband, George, who died in 2015, were longtime owners of the Apple, a Madeira Beach restaurant. She had served both as Madeira Beach mayor and commissioner. She resigned her commission seat last summer during a contentious battle over development in the city.

Palladeno said he had ordered city flags at half-staff in her honor and planned to drape the dais in black in her honor.

“How do you replace someone like her?” Palladeno asked. “You don’t.”

Housh Ghovaee, who replaced Shontz on the commission, agreed that she was a hard act to follow. Sitting in the seat she vacated, Ghovaee said, was trying to fill “her larger than life shoes.”

“There will never be another Pat Shontz. She was the ‘go-to’ person,” Ghovaee said. “Pat dedicated over 50 years of her life to serving Madeira Beach residents and never stopped. She was caring, loving, giving and smart.”

Details about arrangements and memorials were not available.

St. Pete removes warning signs, continues to test water

After recent tests on water in and around Coffee Pot Bayou came back normal, crews from St. Petersburg’s public works department have removed the warning signs from around the shoreline.

The warning signs had been placed around Coffee Pot Bayou as tests were being conducted following the discovery of numerous sick and dying brown pelicans.

“The water quality is not in question in Coffee Pot Bayou,” said John Palenchar, interim water resources director. “And we are working with all concerned to try and find out what made the birds sick.”

A total of 17 pelicans were sent to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Wildlife Lab in Gainesville for necropsy. Samples taken during necropsy will go to the Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study in Georgia for further testing. FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg will receive additional samples for testing for algal toxins.

Busch Gardens is sending blood, fecal, and tissue samples to the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute for testing for algal toxins.

Toxin analysis will help determine if the pelican deaths are is potentially related to red tide. Results are expected to be available two to three days after the labs receive samples. Results from samples submitted to SCWDS will take longer, possibly weeks.

Biological testing experts from Arcadis, a consultant the city hired, are taking further samples today for independent testing.

“There is no preconceived notion as to what may be going on out here,” said Scott Lehman, Arcadis senior asset consultant. “Our intent is to be that third party review to see if we find anything independent of what the city is finding.”

So far, Palenchar said, the city has found that the water quality is “well within the parameters for recreational usage.”

The test results from the independent consultant Arcadis will likely be ready by early next week.

Kathleen Peters asks state for millions to help solve sewage problems in St. Pete, St. Pete Beach

State Rep. Kathleen Peters filed two bills Wednesday aimed at helping pay for sewer improvements in St. Petersburg and St. Pete Beach.

Peters, a Republican from Treasure Island, asked for $5.5 million in state funding.

Of that, $3 million in state funding would be earmarked for St. Petersburg to smoke test sewer pipes for leaks, install and seal manholes, among other work. The remaining $2.5 million would go to St. Pete Beach for the engineering, construction and permitting of the city’s sanitary sewer system.

Sewer systems in South Pinellas were the focus of much news last year after St. Petersburg and other cities either dumped or had overflows of raw and partially treated sewage into Tampa Bay, Clam Bayou and other waterways. The problems were blamed in part on aging infrastructure that allowed rain- and groundwater to seep into the systems and overburden them.

Heavy rains during two tropical storms overloaded the systems. And, in St. Pete Beach’s case, the system was already at capacity in good weather.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and the City Council pledged to spend millions to fix and upgrade the system. Work began this month in the Bahama Shores and Coquina Key neighborhoods.

The $3.2 million project is part of Kriseman‘s infrastructure plan, The work consists of lining the pipes, which is supposed to extend the life of sanitary sewer mains and prevent groundwater infiltration from entering the city’s sewage collection system. Depending on the weather, the project is expected to be completed by September.

Riviera Bay, Coffee Pot Bayou water test results near normal, St. Pete says

Initial test results from water samples taken from waters in and around Coffee Pot Bayou and Riviera Bay have shown no abnormalities, but testing of sick and dead pelicans will continue, St. Petersburg officials said.

“From all we’ve seen, the water there is in overall good shape,” said Interim Water Resources Director John Palenchar. “But we will continue testing, and so the signs will stay up for awhile.”

The city has collected 15 dead or dying pelicans since Jan. 12. City workers also responded to a fish kill earlier this month in Riviera Bay.

This week, warnings for recreational water users about the dead pelicans (first seen at the Riviera Bay retention pond, then over the past weekend in and around Coffee Pot Bayou) were posted along the shoreline from North Shore Park through Coffee Pot Bayou. The signs informed residents about the enhanced and cooperative testing being spearheaded by the city of St. Petersburg and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission after sick and dead pelicans were found in the area.

The city has also brought in an independent biologist to further study what’s causing the birds to be sick.

Initial water samples from the retention pond where the sick birds were first encountered showed low levels of dissolved oxygen. Samples from nearby Riviera Bay and waters further south into Coffee Pot Bayou had normal levels of oxygen.

In addition, the other tested elements fell within normal parameters for recreational waterways, except for a lone site near the Coffee Pot Bayou boat ramp showing poor water quality.

“The good news is that the water is in good shape,” Palenchar said. “We are continuing with follow-up sampling and data sharing with FWC and our environmental consultant. … We will continue to work with the FWCC and our independent partners to pinpoint the problem.”

Palenchar added that the incident is in no way related to last summer’s heavy rains and the subsequent discharge of potentially treated sewage water.

A reminder from the FWC:  Residents who see sick or dead birds or other wildlife are encouraged to make an online bird mortality report or to call FWC’s Fish Kill Hotline at 1-800-636-0511.

PSTA to expand Direct Connect program, Uber rides to bus stops

Need a ride to the bus stop? Hail an Uber from anywhere in the county to a PSTA bus stop and PSTA will pick up the tab.

That’s the gist of the Direct Connect program created by the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority to solve the problem of the so-called first mile/last mile obstacle to the use of public transportation. Agency officials say the public-private partnership is the first in the country to solve that problem.

At issue is the rider’s ability to get to a bus stop in order to catch a bus. Many stops are not within walkable distance from a rider’s home. Under the Direct Connect program, a passenger can call one of PSTA’s business partners — Uber, Lyft, United Taxi, or Wheelchair Transport — to hitch a ride to and from the bus stop.

Details were not available, but the program is likely an expansion of the Direct Connect service the PSTA piloted last February in East Lake and Pinellas Park.

Pinellas Park and East Lake were chosen because local bus routes in those areas were scheduled to be cut because of low ridership.

Under that pilot, someone who lives in those areas could summon Uber, United Taxi or Care Ride for a lift to a bus stop.

In the case of Pinellas Park, the available stops are the transit center at the Shoppes at Park Place, 3801 70th Ave. N, or the Super Wal-Mart, 8001 U.S. 19 N.

In East Lake, the bus stops are at the Shoppes at Boot Ranch, 246 E Lake Road S, or Tarpon Mall, 40932 U.S. Hwy. 19 N.

PSTA will pay half the fare, up to $3 for rides to and from the designated stops in those zones. The service is available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

A second pilot, that extended service to more people was announced last October. Riders could call Uber, Lyft, United Taxi, Care Ride, or Wheelchair Transport for a ride to the nearest designated bus stop. PSTA would pay an average of $1 to use the program.

Charlie Crist asks EPA to investigate deaths of pelicans, egrets in St. Pete

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the troubling deaths of more than 20 pelicans and egrets in the Tampa Bay area last week, as well as the massive beaching of false killer whales this weekend that resulted in more than 80 deaths of these mammals.

The freshman Democrat from St. Petersburg wants the EPA to test the toxicity of the surrounding waterways to see if these deaths are linked to poor water quality caused by harmful algal blooms.

The four-paragraph letter dated Tuesday, says:

“I am writing today to request that the EPA investigate two recent events of great concern to me: multiple pelican and egret deaths in the Tampa Bay area, as well as the deaths of more than 80 false killer whales in Everglades National Park.

“In the waters surrounding my district, at least 22 pelicans and egrets died last week alone, with many more birds falling ill and being taken in for rehabilitation. Following a recent cold snap and resulting fish kill, there has been an influx of birds to the area. While a fish kill following cold weather is not uncommon, the deaths of the birds suggest there is something besides cold weather happening in the waters around Tampa Bay. The city of St. Petersburg has asked the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to test for the presence of toxic algae in the water, but I am requesting that the EPA also get involved in investigating this alarming situation.

“In addition, more than 80 false killer whales died over the weekend during a mass beaching on the Gulf Coast of Everglades National Park. While the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and FWC are performing necropsies to determine the cause of the stranding, I would like the EPA to test the toxicity of the surrounding waters to determine if a link exists between the stranding and water quality.

“Both of these incidents are extremely disturbing and raise concerns of harmful algal blooms in the waters off of Florida’s Gulf Coast. Given the devastating effects of last year’s algal blooms on both the east and west coasts of Florida, I am asking that the EPA fully investigate these events, report the findings to me and the public, and work to mitigate further impacts. Thank you for your swift consideration and attention to this matter.”

CASA installs rooftop solar to save money

CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse) has installed an array of solar panels on the roof of its new domestic violence center.

The project was fully funded through a public-private partnership between the Pinellas County Community Development Block Grant Program, CASA and a private donor. Installation was completed by Solar Energy Management, a locally-owned firm selected through a competitive bidding process.

In all, 407 solar panels have been installed to create a massive 130-kilowatt rooftop solar system. Most importantly, money spent on a significant monthly electric bill will now be available to help end domestic violence in Pinellas County.

The system will also benefit the environment. CASA officials estimated that 5,208 tons of carbon dioxide will not have to be produced because of the new system. That has the same effect, they said, of planting 121,346 trees. 

The new solar array puts CASA on a more sustainable path, not only from an environmental standpoint, but from an economic one as well. The agency anticipates reducing its domestic violence center’s electric bill by an average of 70 percent to 80 percent per year throughout the 25-plus-year life-expectancy of the solar power system. These savings will be used to fund CASA’s programs helping survivors of domestic violence attain safety for themselves and their children.

Alicia Garza, co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter, to speak at USF

Alicia Garza, social activist and co-creator of #BlackLivesMatter, will speak at the University of South Florida at 8 p.m. today (doors open at 7:30 p.m.) as part of the student-run University Lecture Series in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom.

The lecture is part of the university’s MLK Commemorative Week, celebrating the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The student organizers of the event expect Garza to engage the audience in a discussion about race relations in America and how her organization’s activism became the national movement it is today, galvanizing individuals to stand up together against violence, police brutality and social injustice.

According to Garza’s bio, her work helped #BlackLivesMatter grow from a social media phenomenon into a human rights organization. The movement began with Garza’s social media posts in the wake of George Zimmerman’s 2013 acquittal in the death of Trayvon Martin. Along with co-creators Opal Tometi and Patrisse Cullors, she turned the hashtag into an organizing network of more than 26 chapters and a rallying cry of human rights marches.

Garza’s career has put her at the intersection of organizational strategies and social movements. As executive director of People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER), she organized against police violence in black communities. In 2015, she was named to The Root 100 list of African-American achievers and influencers between ages 25-45 and the Politico 50 guide to thinkers, doers and visionaries transforming American politics. She is now special projects director for the National Domestic Workers Alliance.

The lecture is free and open to the public on a limited first come, first served basis following priority seating for USF students.

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