St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman said Friday he’s leaving the decision to bring the Albert Whitted sewer plant back online up to city council members.
Kriseman said a consultant’s reported indicated the expense and time to bring the Albert Whitted Water Reclamation Facility up to a usable standard would be costly and time-consuming. The money and time, the consultant said, could be better used.
Kriseman also provided a quick update on the city’s progress in solving the city’s sewer woes.
City officials are moving as quickly as they can, he said, in hiring someone to do an audit of the city’s water resources department to discover the whos, whats and whens of a 2014 consultant’s report. The report warned the city that closing the Albert Whitted plant and diverting the flow to the nearby Southwest plant before the capacity at that plant was increased would be courting disaster.
“Most importantly,” Kriseman said of the external audit, it will find out “why the council didn’t see the report and why I didn’t see the report.”
Kriseman said he’s also devoting one employee in the city’s procurement department to purchases related to the water resources department and the sewer improvements. That should help move things along quickly, he said.
The city expects to have a timeline available in the next two weeks, he said, outlining the city’s plans going forward. Among those plans is the expenditure of about $58 million in the coming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. That money will be spent relining pipes and starting projects designed to increase the capacity of the system.
The city has earmarked an additional $230 million over the next five years for other improvements to the system, and another $8 million a year on pipes.
But Kriseman said it will all take time and will not solve the problems caused by lateral pipes – those leading from homes and businesses into the public system. Those, he said, will also have to be fixed to help prevent future flooding.
The mayor said he’s also hoping that other municipalities that send their sewage to St. Pete for treatment will also work to improve their systems.
The problem in St. Petersburg, he said, is not capacity. The city has enough capacity to handle all the sewage it treats. The problem is an incursion and rain problem. When heavy rains get into the system, he said, that overburdens the system and causes the overflows.