St. Petersburg Archives - Page 7 of 33 - SaintPetersBlog

DEP says St. Petersburg sewage discharges violate environmental laws

city-of-st-peteThe Florida Department of Environmental Protection has entered into a consent order with the City of St. Petersburg after determining the city violated environmental laws that resulted in the unpermitted discharges of sewage into Clam Bayou and Tampa Bay during August of 2015, June of 2016, and Aug. 31-Sept.13 of this year.

The 11-page document was signed by Mary Yeargan, Southwest District Director for the Florida DEP and sent to St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Public Works Administer Claude Tankersley on Friday. Yeargan writes the DEP will soon be “reaching out to schedule a meeting in the very near future to discuss the terms of this Order.”

The DEP found violations to have occurred at three specific times: The first on Aug. 2-10 of 2015, when more than 31.5 million gallons of raw sewage dumped into Clam Bayou and surrounding neighborhoods.

On June 6-9 of 2016, approximately 230,000 gallons of untreated wastewater and effluent was released through overflows of manholes, and 9.77 million gallons of partially treated wastewater through the emergency outfall at the Albert Whitted Treatment Plant.

And from Aug. 31-Sept. 6 of 2016, unpermitted discharges of wastewater and effluent from several treatment plants, “resulted in the release of an unknown number of untreated wastewater and effluent through overflows of manholes and between 78 and 93 million gallons of partially treated wastewater” through Albert Whitted, and 58 million gallons of treated effluent to Jungle Lake.

In June, Pinellas County House District 69 Republican Kathleen Peters sent a letter to Florida DEP Secretary Jon Steverson, calling for an investigation into the city’s sewer system.

DEP spokesperson Dee Ann Miller says in June, the City of St. Petersburg and the DEP discussed a consent order, which sets up remedies and timelines “to reach solutions to bring the facility back into compliance.”

That document was delivered on Friday.

The Tampa Bay Times reported Friday that Mayor Kriseman is calling for an independent firm to investigate why a 2014 consultant’s study that indicated closing down the Albert Whitted sewer plant could lead to spills and dumps never reached his desk.

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Rick Kriseman calls for review of St. Petersburg water department management

kriseman-rick-tiger-bayMayor Rick Kriseman has called for a review of the management of the St. Petersburg water resources department.

Kriseman’s call comes in the wake of accusations by water resources employee Craven Askew that city officials knew closing the Albert Whitted sewer plant could cause overflows and the subsequent dumping of wastewater into Tampa Bay.

Kriseman issued this statement late Friday afternoon:

“Included in Mr. Askew’s email is a consultant’s report that I believe has never been shared publicly or with my office or with City Council. As such, I have asked our legal and human resources departments to work with an independent firm to learn why this report has only recently surfaced and to conduct a thorough management review of Water Resources. I demand accountability to me, to city council, and to the citizens we serve.”

Askew claimed whistleblower status — which would protect him from firing or other retaliation — when he filed his complaint Thursday. The gist of the complaint was that city officials knew the Southwest Water Reclamation Facility, where the Albert Whitted wastewater was directed, was not capable of handling a heavy rain event. Yet, knowing that, Askew alleged, city officials closed Albert Whitted without making the necessary improvements.

In the complaint, Askew referred to a study that recommended improvements be made and completed before diverting the flow from Albert Whitted to Southwest.

“The city experienced high weather in August 2015, which caused over 30 million gallons spilled at Southwest, Clam Bayou, and Tampa Bay due to Albert Whitted shutdown,” Askew wrote. “We have since then had a rain event in June 2016 and September and August 2016 which discharged estimated sewage of 80 million gallons into Tampa Bay.”

Askew said he had told city management staff about his concerns in July.

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Tampa region leads state in demand for STEM jobs

Looking for a STEM job? Tampa Bay might just be the place to be.

The region added more than 39,000 private sector jobs over the year, and leads the state when it comes to high-skill, high-wage STEM jobs. According to the governor’s office, there were 15,727 openings in STEM fields in August.

“I am proud to announce today that the Tampa area added 39,500 new jobs over the year and also led the entire state in job demand with nearly 50,000 job openings,” said Gov. Rick Scott in a statement Friday. “Because of our focus on creating a business-friendly environment, more job creators are choosing to invest in Florida, which means more opportunities for our families.”

Scott announced the monthly jobs numbers during a stop at All Access Multimedia, a Fort Myers marketing and production company that specializes in commercials, infomercials, and web videos.

The state added 22,600 private-sector jobs in August, bringing the total number of jobs created in 2016 to 167,100. The unemployment rate remains at 4.7 percent, one of the lowest rates since November 2007, according to the governor’s office.

“This is a great month,” said Scott, who noted the state has added nearly 1.2 million private sector jobs since he took office.

According to the Department of Economic Opportunity, 23 out of the 24 metro areas saw year-over-year jobs gains. In the Tampa region, professional and business services was one of the top industries over the year. The industry added 13,200 jobs, followed by the transportation and utilities industry with 7,900 new jobs.

The Tampa area also continues to be one of the metro regions with the most demand, with a reported 49,542 job openings in August.

The largest gains once again occurred in the Orlando area, where the state jobs agency reported 48,300 private sector job were added over the year. The unemployment rate in the Orlando area was at 4.4 percent, a 0.7 percentage point drop from August 2015. The Orlando area saw gains in the leisure and hospitality industry, adding 13,600 jobs over the year. Construction came in second with 10,200 new jobs, followed by education and health services with 8,400 new jobs.

Monroe County had the lowest unemployment rate in August at 3.1 percent; while Hendry County had the highest unemployment rate at 11.6 percent.

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St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman: “It’s been a tough couple of days”

Downed power lines, fallen trees, flooding, intersections without working traffic signals are just a few of the problems St. Petersburg is facing from the passing of Hurricane Hermine, Mayor Rick Kriseman said.

kriseman-rick-tiger-bay-840x440And even worse, the city’s sewer system was so overwhelmed by the rains that officials had to pour “millions” of gallons of wastewater into Tampa Bay.

“We know it’s been a tough couple of days,” Kriseman said.

Kriseman was speaking at a press conference early Friday at the city’s master fire station, 400 Dr. MLK St. S.

Although St. Petersburg officials had tried to prepare for heavy rains by draining the system and adding 3 million gallons of extra capacity to the Albert Whitted sewer plant, “it certainly” wasn’t enough, Kriseman said. The city received an average of 9 inches of rain on Wednesday alone at its three plants and 11 inches of rain at one facility.

“There was nothing we could do,” Kriseman said.

On the other hand, Kriseman said one goal officials have is to prevent sewage backing up into homes or pouring onto city streets.

“We’ve done a pretty good job in that respect,” Kriseman said.

Kriseman said he’s not sure how much wastewater went into the bay, but believed it was “millions” of gallons.

The city, he said, has both short- and long-term plans to solve St. Petersburg’s sewer woes. The City Council has earmarked about $58 million in the proposed 2016-17 budget.

The problem is not St. Petersburg’s alone. Other municipalities in the county are also having problems – a sign of a countrywide problem, Kriseman said.

“The country’s infrastructure is aging and it needs to be repaired,” he said. He called on Tallahassee and Washington to help make sure that happens.

Kriseman added a cautionary note.

“There are a lot of power lines down in this community,” he said. “If you don’t have to go out today, don’t go out.”

And, he said, be sure to stay out of flooded areas because live power lines may be in the water.

It’s unclear how many Pinellas residents are without power. Duke Energy said it’s staged more than 1,200 workers from Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky at three strategic locations to ensure a rapid response to service needs.

Customers who are without power can report outages in several ways:

Visiting the mobile website at m.duke-energy.com

Texting OUT to 57801 (Standard text and data charges may apply)

Calling the automated outage-reporting system at (800) 228-8485

For storm or power restoration updates, follow Duke Energy on Twitter (@DukeEnergy) and Facebook (Duke Energy).

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Hermine overwhelms St. Pete’s sewer system

Mayor Rick Kriseman on Tuesday assured St. Petersburg residents the city was prepared for the onslaught of rain expected from then-Tropical Depression 9.

kriseman2The lines had been cleared and cleaned, Kriseman said. The capacity of the system had been increased by 3 million gallons with improvements to the Albert Whitted sewer plant.

But the massive rainfall from the storm proved too much for the city’s system. By Wednesday night, St. Petersburg was discharging wastewater into Tampa Bay. That’s likely to continue at least until Hermine moves farther away.

“Our team is working really, really hard to manage this,” Kriseman’s spokesman Ben Kirby said. “It’s an ongoing emergency.”

It’s unclear, Kirby said, how much wastewater is being dumped into the Bay. The totals won’t be available until the emergency is over.

This is the second time in recent months that St. Petersburg has had to pump wastewater into Tampa Bay. When Tropical Storm Colin hit in June, water made its way into leaky pipes and overloaded the system.

City officials said they had no choice then or now. If they didn’t discharge wastewater into the bay, the impact on residents would be much worse.

A statement from the city explained, “In order to prevent raw or diluted sewage from negatively impacting our residents and their homes, the city of St. Petersburg has initiated a controlled wastewater discharge into Tampa Bay.

“Based on prior samples during similar conditions, 90 percent of the discharge is expected to consist of rainwater/storm water.”

Kirby said officials are hoping residents will help the situation by conserving water — not washing clothes or doing other water-intense chores until a couple of days after the storm has passed.

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St. Pete sewer system ready for TD 9, mayor says

With memories of the effect Tropical Storm Colin had on St. Petersburg’s sewer system in June fresh in peoples’ minds, Mayor Rick Kriseman sought Tuesday to reassure residents the city is ready for Tropical Depression 9.

“The city is prepared for this event,” Kriseman said.

The sewer lines have been cleared, he said, and the capacity of the system has been increased.

But residents also need to help out. Kriseman asked that residents refrain from using large quantities of water during the expected rains. Do chores like laundry either before or a couple of days after the storm has passed.

Kriseman made his comments during a press conference on the steps of City Hall. He was flanked by police Chief Anthony Holloway, fire rescue Chief James Large, fire division chief of emergency management Dean Adamides, and public works administrator Claude Tankersley.

“We have prepared our system as best we can for this event,” Tankersley said.

Among the improvements made since June is an increase in the storage capacity of the Albert Whitted sewage plant. Officials had expected the expansion to take four months, but managed to complete the work in two months, Tankersley said. That gives the city a three-million-gallon storage facility that was lacking in June.

When Tropical Storm Colin hit the bay area in June, rainwater made its way into leaky sewer pipes and overloaded the system. The city had to pump partially treated sewage into Tampa Bay to cope with the overflow.

Since then, the city has worked not only to clean out the pipes but also to increase the system’s capacity. And the city council has earmarked millions for both short- and long-term upgrades and repairs to the aging system.

But the weather isn’t giving the city a break. It’s been a rainy summer since June, and Tropical Depression 9 is forecast to dump between four and eight inches of water on the Tampa Bay area in the 48-hour period beginning Wednesday.

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Manuel Sykes questions will of city officials to support minority-owned businesses in Midtown

Suntrust Bank. Sweetbay Supermarket. Sylvia’s Queen of Soul Food restaurant. Walgreens.

Those are all businesses that have closed, or are about to close, in south St. Petersburg, the Rev. Dr. Manuel Sykes said Wednesday. Yet, the city seems to have done nothing to help them stay open or to replace the ones that have closed.

City officials could have stepped in with grants or loans or even delayed some actions, Sykes said. But instead of using the city’s power to help those businesses, Sykes said, it almost seems as if St. Petersburg officials stepped in to help some businesses go belly up.

“These things were almost designed to fail,” Sykes said.

Sykes, pastor of Bethel Community Baptist Church and a civic activist, was speaking in front of St. Petersburg City Hall. He, and other concerned residents, had gathered there to demand officials sit down to discuss the business situation in Midtown and answer questions from the community.

Much of the discussion centered on Sylvia’s, which closed earlier this summer. Greg Williams of Aracle Enterprises, which managed the restaurant, agreed management mistakes had been made. But, he said, the restaurant would have been viable with another infusion of cash. But the city refused to provide the necessary help for Sylvia’s to get a loan.

The city also refused to take late payments for the rent because the money came too late, he said.

Sykes agreed the city could have provided help. It has money in the Community Redevelopment District for that, he said. And the city has offered help and incentives for other businesses to succeed. Most notably, he said, the city has encouraged and provided incentives for businesses that will locate across the street from historic Manhattan Casino, where Sylvia’s was located.

“Why has one side of the street come to life?” Sykes asked. “Why has the side gone dark?”

All the community wants, he said, is a level playing field that provides African-American and minority business owners the same kind of help and deals other businesses receive.

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High-speed ferry between St. Petersburg and Tampa is a go

With a 5 to 1 vote, Pinellas County on Tuesday became the fourth governmental body to collaborate on the launching of a high-speed ferry between Tampa and St. Petersburg.

The vote cements a deal among St. Petersburg, Tampa and Hillsborough County to link the two counties by a high-speed ferry.

Comm_Dave_EggersThe lone holdout was Commissioner Dave Eggers who has opposed the proposal from the beginning. Among Eggers’ objections are a lack of market research on the viability of the project and the high risk of failure.

“I’m not in favor of this project for a number of reasons,” Eggers said. “I can’t support the use of public funds for a risky venture with no market research to back it up.”

Eggers was not the only skeptic. Largo resident Jeff Moakley said he believes officials are “frivolously” spending money for a “government subsidized boat ride on Tampa Bay.”

“It’s strictly a Petersburg and Tampa issues. It’s not a county issue,” Moakley said. “You’re just throwing away $350,000 to subsidize something two mayors want so badly they can’t see straight.”

If all goes well, the ferry will launch Nov. 1 for a six-month pilot project to test the viability of the idea. To get the project going, four governments – St. Petersburg, Tampa, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties – have each agreed to put up $350,000, or one quarter of the total $1.4 million cost of the pilot. Pinellas’ portion will come from BP settlement money.

The purpose of the pilot is to test the viability of a ferry service both for daily commuters and for tourists who wish to cross the bay. Plans are for HMS Ferries to provide a minimum of two trips between St. Petersburg and Tampa Mondays through Thursdays and Saturdays and Sundays. There will be a minimum of three trips on Fridays. Officials believe that schedule will test both the commuter market and the tourist market.

kriseman2The ride would cost $10 for a one-way ticket although St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said officials are working on weekly and monthly passes at greatly reduces fees. The fees for children who ride the ferry might also be lower.

“The rate … is going to help determine the ridership,” Kriseman said. The difficulty, he said, is finding “that sweet spot” for a cost that encourages people to ride the ferry but also provides profit for HMS, the private company running the ferry.

“I think you’re going to see different rates,” Kriseman said.

ken-welch-photoCommissioner Ken Welch said the cooperation among the four governments was unprecedented and boded well for future projects, “except the Rays. We’re going to keep them in Pinellas County.”

Welch made the motion to support the ferry. Pat Gerard seconded his motion. John Morroni, who is on sick leave, did not vote.

Kriseman gave each a sea captain’s cap to celebrate the deal.

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St. Petersburg council bans sale of dogs, cats from puppy mills in pet stores

Council members have unanimously approved an ordinance that bans pet stores in St. Petersburg from selling dogs or cats unless they can show the animal came from a humane organization.

The approval came after an emotionally intense public hearing in which animal advocates displayed graphic, gut-wrenching photographs of dogs kept in puppy mills for breeding purposes. Other supporters came close to tears over the plight of the animals that are in puppy mills or that are killed in shelters because of pet overpopulation.

Council member Karl Nurse, who had proposed the idea, which had the support of Mayor Rick Kriseman, made the motion to pass the ordinance. Nurse said he hoped the ordinance would help stem the “endless onslaught of puppies that are not spayed and neutered.”

The ordinance provides that pet stores, which includes groomers, flea markets and pet hospitals, cannot sell dogs or cats unless they come from rescue organizations or humane societies. The rule does not apply to hobby breeders who sell animals from their homes.

The ordinance also covers the display of pets for sale. The requirements include an age limit – the animal must be at least eight weeks old, have access to fresh water and a health certificate. Information about the animal’s breed, age, source and known health issues should also be provided.

Council members and advocates conceded that no pet store in St. Petersburg currently sells puppies and kittens. Instead, several pet stores either display animals from rescues and other humane groups, or have adoption days when such pets are available. Even so, the ordinance was needed, they said, to make sure no pet store does business with a puppy mill.

Council member Charlie Gerdes said he would like to thank St. Petersburg residents for being the reason that no pet stores are selling animals that come from puppy mills. It’s the public’s refusal to buy such animals that prevent the stores from carrying them. But Gerdes agreed the ordinance is necessary to avoid future problems.

“We don’t have them now, let’s not have them,” Gerdes said.

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