In the wake of a tropical storm that saw St. Petersburg dump millions of gallons of partially treated wastewater into Tampa Bay, City Council members agreed Thursday on several initiatives designed to start replacing and repairing a deteriorated sewer system.
But council members agreed repairs won’t come quickly enough to prevent another overflow.
“We will be dealing with serious spill events over the summer, and we need to be straightforward about that,” council member Darden Rice said. The sooner something could be done, the better, she said.
They agreed to:
— Spend about $3 million on a study to identify parts of the sewer system that need repair and upgrades. This would also identify all the leaks in the system.
— Spend up to $3 million from the $6.47 million the city received from the BP oil spill settlement on improvements to the system. Council member Karl Nurse, who proposed spending the money, said it would be used to help get work started as soon as possible on a multi-million dollar backlog of high-priority broken pipe repairs.
— Set aside at least $20 million from the next Penny for Pinellas to be used for sewer repairs and expansion. The next penny will be up for a vote in November 2017 and would begin in 2020 after the current Penny lapses. By the time the vote happens, Nurse said, officials would have been able to determine what needs to be renovated or expanded.
— Approach Pinellas County officials to allow them to use about $6 million of tax money set aside for the in-town community redevelopment area for sewer system rehabilitation projects.
— Discuss the possibility of bringing the Albert Whitted pump station back online. A general estimate puts the cost for that at about $1.5 million. The work would take about a year.
The flurry of sewer-related items on Thursday’s council agenda comes after Tropical Storm Colin hit the Bay area earlier this month. St. Petersburg released about 10 million gallons of partially treated wastewater into the Bay near the Albert Whitted station. The city also had a smaller spill of untreated wastewater go into the Bay because of manhole covers that overflowed.
The city has come under criticism from residents and nearby governments. Republican state Rep. Kathleen Peters called for the state Department of Environmental Protection to investigate what happened and the condition of the sewer system.
In other action, the council:
— Agreed to spend up to $220,000 for a study that would analyze Tropicana Field and its potential for redevelopment, with and without a ballfield. The study would include a master plan for a redeveloped site including the ballfield. The study will cost $320,000. The Tampa Bay Rays have agreed to pay $100,000 of the cost.
— Gave support to the concept of a monument commemorating the world’s first commercial flight of the Benoist Airboat.
— Spend up to $387,500 of money from the BP oil spill settlement to allow Tampa Bay Watch to plant a seagrass mitigation bank on city-owned submerged property.