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Rick Kriseman unveils wastewater improvement plan

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman on Thursday unveiled a $304-million, five-year plan to solve the city’s wastewater woes.

“Our residents and our environment have been failed by an outdated and compromised wastewater system,” Kriseman said. “It is time to execute this plan so that we are well-prepared for a future of extreme rain events.”

The plan calls for an estimated investment of $304 million on projects through 2021. Some of this money has already been budgeted; the plan will require an additional $142 million to complete the work. Short-term projects will take approximately two years, and the plan should be completed in five years.

A healthy economy makes this important investment feasible, without any immediate need to reprioritize other unrelated city advances, Kriseman said.

The plan would increase the capacity of existing plants, line and seal targeted pipes and manholes, engineer enough redundancy in the city’s wastewater system to sustain operations for two weeks should one of the three sewage treatment plants go offline or be otherwise rendered inoperable in a crisis situation.

If a crisis should happen, the city’s wastewater plant would be able to operate totally within the rules and guidelines of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the mayor said.

Both the Southwest and Northwest plants would be expanded, with work expected to be completed in 2017. The lining and repair of pipes also is expected to be complete next year. Master planning would be completed in 2019. Those short-term projects are expected to cost $45 million.

Longer term projects costing a total of $259 million would  be completed by 2021. Those include further expansion of the Southwest and Northwest plants and further master planning.

Kriseman said officials are still considering whether to reopen the Albert Whitted wastewater facility to add even more capacity to the system.

Kriseman said residents can expect to see construction zones and possible discharges in case of heavy rains until the work is complete. But, once it is complete, residents will see an updated and improved wastewater system.

St. Petersburg’s wastewater system came under fire this past summer when the city was forced to dump millions of gallons of untreated and partially treated wastewater into Tampa Bay during two tropical storms. The heavy rains that accompanied the storms overwhelmed the system in part because of leaky pipes that allowed rainwater into the system.

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