It’s been a relatively quiet week regarding the major sewage spills in St. Petersburg that have now resulted in state and federal investigations, and become a political issue for Mayor Rick Kriseman. But his administration got a kick in the shin from Clearwater House Republican Chris Latvala at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club Wednesday.
“As far as the dumping that’s going on in St.Petersburg, the city administration is still is not being truthful to the extent of what is going or what happened, but it’s unconscionable what happened,” Latvala said, referencing the fact that Mayor Kriseman originally claimed that a 58 million-gallon sewage spill from the city’s Northwest wastewater treatment plant earlier this month wasn’t wastewater, but admitted last Friday that it was “partially treated” wastewater.
Latvala went on to say he met last year with Gulfport City Council member Yolanda Roman to talk about the sewage issues that city was suffering from, even though Gulfport isn’t in his district. “So I met with her, and she told me about the sewer issues that they were having in Gulfport. St. Pete has never mentioned that to any of the legislators.”
Mayor Kriseman’s office declined to comment on his statement.
Meanwhile, House District 69 Republican Kathleen Peters told the audience at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club what concerns her most about the sewage issue was when she was informed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection last week at a delegation meeting that of all the sewer spills in Florida in 2016, Pinellas County was responsible for more than half. She said the potential environmental damage will cause more algae blooms and bacteria that “is going to hurt our tourism industry. It is going to hurt our quality of life. We have spent too many decades trying to clean up our waterways.”
Referring to how it took Tampa Bay decades to reduce its nitrogen pollution, she declared, “How dare we go backwards.”
But HD 66 Democratic candidate Lorena Grizzle downplayed the sewage situation, at least in comparison to the massive sinkhole created last month at phosphate giant Mosaic’s Polk County facility (the candidates at Tiger Bay were asked which situation was more serious). She mentioned how her mother Mary Grizzle — the first Republican female ever elected to the Florida state Senate — teamed up with Clearwater Sen. Harold Wilson in 1972 to pass a law that prohibited the discharge of secondarily treated sewage into South Florida bays and required wastewater treatment plants to meet state-of-the-art standards.
“This is a temporary thing,” she said. “It’s not the most dangerous thing that can happen.” She called the situation at Mosaic, “the worst thing that we have going on now because that’s now 750 feet deep (referring to reports that the sinkhole is possibly now that deep) they think it’s going into the aquifer, which is gypsum and radioactivity, and it’s got sulfites and sodium.”