This week, the St. Petersburg City Council will take up one of the city’s most pressing issues — fixing its aging sewage and storm drainage system.
Heavy rains from Tropical Storm Hermine exposed a host of complications in how the city handles wastewater, leading to nearly 200 million gallons of sewage being dumped into Bay area waterways in 2016.
As a result, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is demanding St. Petersburg takes care of the problem. To that end, the state laid out a 5-year, $326 million plan to repair and refurbish infrastructure – with taxpayers picking up much of cost through a 10 to 20 percent increase in water bills.
City Councilmembers will vote on that plan Thursday.
The project would begin by replacing and refurbishing parts of the city’s 950 miles of water pipes, working on the oldest pipes first and increasing the system’s overall capacity.
As for the costs, Walter Donnelly with the Alliance of Bayway Communities explained to Bay News 9: “The fact of the matter is heretofore, probably for the last two decades, there probably should have been costs passed down … Sooner or later, just like my home budget, if I don’t keep up with my home budget, you’ve gotta pay it sooner or later.”
St. Petersburg Public Works Administration representative Claude Tankersley says the next five years of repairs will pose a challenge.
“There will be some roads torn up,” Tankersley told Bay News 9. “But a lot of the work we’re trying to do is what we call ‘trenchless technology,’ which allows us to do it without tearing up the road.”
However, there is a bright spot; if voters approve a renewal of the “Penny for Pinellas” sales tax in November, the proposed water rate increase could be reduced in January.