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Jack Latvala calls for delegation to meet again to discuss Pinellas sewer woes

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

State Sen. Jack Latvala has called for a follow-up workshop meeting of the Pinellas legislative delegation to hear and discuss the effects of the recent discharge of untreated sewage into Tampa Bay waters by cities in Pinellas County during Hurricane Hermine.

The meeting will be Nov. 16, from 9-11:30 a.m. at the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital Education and Conference Center, 701 4th St. S. in St. Petersburg.

Part of the event will be a presentation by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. This meeting will be in a workshop format, and while the public is invited to attend, it must end promptly at 11:30 a.m., so there may be limited time for public input.

It will be the second time the Clearwater Republican called a delegation meeting to discuss the county’s sewer woes.

The first meeting, in September, came after St. Petersburg discharged untreated and partially treated wastewater into Tampa Bay as Hurricane Hermine passed in the Gulf.

That discharge was the second time this year St. Petersburg 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.

Part of the problem arose from the closure of the Albert Whitted sewer plant, which reduced capacity in the city’s sewer system.

Although St. Petersburg has been the main focus for sewer problems, other Pinellas municipalities — including Gulfport, St. Pete Beach, and Tarpon Springs — also experienced sewer overflows.

The delegation is only one group focusing on the county’s sewer issues, which local officials blame on an aging system and long-term failure to maintain the overall system.

Gov. Rick Scott called for a DEP investigation into St. Petersburg’s sewer discharges, which his office said amount to more than 150 million gallons.

A few days before, St. Petersburg had signed a consent order with the DEP after the agency found environmental violations to have occurred at three specific times. The first was Aug. 2-10, 2015, when more than 31.5 million gallons of raw sewage dumped into Clam Bayou and surrounding neighborhoods.

Mayor Rick Kriseman and the St. Petersburg City Council have authorized an investigation into the city’s water resources department to find out why information concerning the closure of the Albert Whitted plant was not given to higher ups.

And on Monday, a task force met for the first time to discuss possible countywide solutions to the issues. The panel, convened by Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice, is made up of elected and technical representatives from the county, cities, and community and privately owned sewer systems.

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