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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Kornell blasts recent GOP interest in St. Pete sewage crisis

22

September

Last August, when 31.5 million gallons of raw and partially-treated sewage spilled from the city's Southwest wastewater treatment plant, Steve Kornell was outraged. 

But, he said, only one state or federal elected official called him to see what she could do: U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor. 

The Tampa Democrat showed concern about Eckerd College and local residents affected by the spill, he said.

Now,  Republicans like U.S. Senator Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. David Jolly have asked the U.S. Environmental Protection to investigate. Gov. Rick Scott, also a Republican, has launched a state investigation. State GOP lawmakers like Jack Latvala, Kathleen Peters and Jeff Brandes have held public meeting about the issue.

None of those elected officials contacted him last year, said Kornell, a Democrat.

"Now to come out and pile on? What are they going to do to help us solve the problem?" Kornell said. "Grandstanding, it's not helpful."

Castor has recently asked the EPA for technical assistance and help for the beleaguered region, which has seen more than 250 million gallons spilled. 

She currently represents a big chunk of St. Petersburg, including Kornell's district. That will change after November's election  when the district lines officially change and the winner of the 13th Congressional District race between Jolly and Charlie Crist will be the new representative. 

Jolly responded to Kornell's comment by saying he wasn't going to engage in a political back and forth.

"As I've said before, I won't engage in political conversations around an environmental crisis. I would simply say I would agree with Steve's assessment from six days ago that "the city should not be in the business of misleading people," Jolly said.

Brandes said Kornell may have forgotten his own offer of state help at a Gulfport forum in 2015. The state senator also said he offered to try to secure state funding for sewer improvements but was told by city officials they weren't needed.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 22, 2016 8:25pm]

    

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