St. Pete announces 'good news', total dump into Tampa Bay now at 8.45 million gallons
Since noon Wednesday, the city has dumped another 5.5 million gallons of partially-treated sewage into Tampa Bay.
That brings the total amount dumped, so far, to 8.45 million gallons. Initally on Tuesday, city officials said they expected to release at least 2 million gallons, but then played coy the next day, briefly arguing that they wouldn't publicy report the amount until they filed an official report with the state. They changed their minds.
City officials cast news of the updated dumping totals as "good," pointing out the the city's much-criticized sewer system has handled 96 percent of the sewage flow which spiked during and after Tropical Storm Colin earlier this week.
The city's Public Works Administrator Claude Tankersley announced the updated amount via text around 9:30 a.m. The partially treated sewage is piped into Tampa Bay about a quarter mile east of Albert Whitted Airport.
Tankersley characterized the dump as "highly diluted" as well as "partially-treated" although Wednesday he said "diluted" was the wrong term to use to describe wastewater that has been treated with chlorine and given primary treatment -- a process that allows the solids to settle to the bottom of tanks before being pumped out to the bay.
Earlier this week, Mayor Rick Kriseman's spokesman Ben Kirby insisted that the Tampa Bay Times use "very diluted wastewater" to describe the sewage being discharged. The newspaper declined to do so. Kriseman and his staff made similar appeals to other media outlets, alas, to no avail.
City officials have spent much time on semantics. Kirby apologized to the Times on Wednesday, saying he was wrong to describe the discharge as "diluted wastewater." This mea culpa came after Tankersley said "diluted" described waste affected by rainwater and other "natural" elements while "partially-treated wastewater" better reflected the limited treatment given to the sewage before being released into the bay.
But on Thursday, Tankersley reversed himself, saying all the wastewater arriving at Albert Whitted is diluted so it is appropriate to include that language to describe the sewage.
"Using both phrases allow us to accurately differentiate between the wastewater spilling direclty from manholes versus the discharge from Albert Whitted (sewer plant)," Tankersley said.
Burst manholes spilled at least 1,500 gallons on untreated--or raw--sewage on Tuesday. Tankersley said that figure is likely to be higher after futher analysis.
Below is Tankersley's complete, somewhat technical text:
"Good news. We've successfully processed and treated 230 million gallons through the plants Monday through Wednesday (Midnight Monday morning through Midnight Thursday morning). From Tuesday June 7 at 7:25 PM through 7:00 AM Thursday June 9, we discharged 8.45 million gallons (total of the entire discharge operations) of highly diluted partially treated wastewater. These numbers show that we have successfully handled and treated 96% of the flows from St Pete, St Pete Beach, Treasure Island and Gulfport. The quality of the highly diluted partially treated wastewater shows that we are achieving at least 97-98% treatment. This assumes that raw wastewater has 5 million to 5 billion colony forming total coliforms per 100 ml. Samples of the 8.45 million gallons of highly diluted partially treated wastewater discharged from Albert Whitted have not exceeded 12 thousand colony forming total coliforms per 100 ml. Twelve thousand divided by 5 million shows we are achieving 97-98% treatment."