As Hurricane Hermine churned its way northward in the Gulf of Mexico, it dumped as much as 22 inches of rain on portions of Pinellas.
Heavy rains and flooding caused sewage overflows across the county and the dumping of millions of gallons of raw and partly treated sewage into the Gulf.
Within days, Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice called for a countywide task force comprised of representatives from cities and private companies that own sewer systems in the county.
“We all saw how Hurricane Hermine exposed the weaknesses within the multiple systems,” Justice said. “This task force will identify solutions that can be implemented on both a short-term and long-term basis, as well as ways to mitigate emergency situations.”
He added, “By creating this task force, we seek to form a collaborative team of policymakers and technical leaders to address the challenge of managing wastewater infrastructure within the complex network of city, county and private sewer systems.”
Now the county has scheduled the first meeting of the group for 9 a.m. Oct. 17 at the Digitorium on the Seminole Campus of St. Petersburg College, 9200 113th St. N.
Justice, who proposed the task force, has asked 19 mayors and council members (or their designees) to be members. Those include St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and council member Amy Foster, Largo Mayor Woody Brown, Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos, Tarpon Springs Mayor Chris Alahouzos, Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis, Dunedin Mayor Julie Ward Bujalski, Seminole Mayor Leslie Waters, and North Redington Beach Mayor Bill Queen.
He’s also asked community activists to take part. Among them, Tim Lima of the Council of North County Neighborhoods, Corey Givens of the NAACP, Linda Umberger of the Lealman Community Association, and Marlene Murray of CONA.
He’s also asked for a technical working group from Pinellas County, St. Petersburg and other cities’ public works departments to take part.
In a memo inviting members to the group, Justice outlined three key goals:
— Avoid and/or mitigate spills, overflows, and releases of sewage into the environment, particularly water bodies.
— Increase the capacity and resiliency of the collective sewer system and wastewater treatment infrastructure.
— Seek opportunities to address drainage and stormwater issues that impact the sewer system.