Environmental groups announce intent to sue St. Pete over sewage dumps
First there was the media glare. Then the protests. A state investigation began. A federal probe might yet follow.
Now, come the lawsuits.
Or at least the threat of one.
Suncoast Waterkeeper, Our Children's Earth Foundation and the Ecological Rights Foundation notified Mayor Rick Kriseman and Public Works Administrator Claude Tankersley on Thursday that they intend to file suit in federal court against the city for violations of the Clean Water Act.
Suncoast Waterkeeper is a non-profit based in Sarasota. Our Children's Earth and Ecological Rights foundations are based in California.
"St. Petersburg’s recent extraordinarily large sewage discharges to Tampa Bay have caused serious human health risks and environmental damage. The needed infrastructure improvements are urgent, the ecological impacts will take a long time to heal, as will the damage to the public’s confidence, shaken by the city’s failure to notify and warn the public of these spills. The systemic improvements required to address these shortcomings are significant and will benefit from citizen participation and oversight," read a news release from the organizations.
The environmental groups said the sewage spills across the region are concerning, but the scale of St. Petersburg's problem made it a logical first step. They say that federal court action has proven in the past to be an effective way to make sure signification action is taken by governments' to correct environmental damages.
The letter concludes with an offer to negotiate with the city on solutions to a crisis in which about 200 million gallons of raw and partially-treated sewage was dumped or spilled by the city into Tampa and Boca Ciega bays and other waterways.
If the 60-day limit expires without resolution, a lawsuit will proceed, the groups stated.
Lorraine Margeson, a St. Petersburg environmental advocate, said the threatened suit would force governments to make changes quickly.
"Frankly this needed to happen in order to force government into real action with real investments and on a much faster schedule than planned. We can not despoil our bay like this again. this legal action will force swift compliance I believe on many levels and force the other governments into faster action as well. The time for excuses are over, the time for action is now," Margeson said.
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