St. Pete decides sewage dump numbers are public record after all
St. Petersburg dumped between 2.8 and 3.3. million gallons of partially-treated sewage into Tampa Bay since 7:25 p.m. Tuesday and noon today, city officials said.
And the pumping continues.
The city's decision to release an estimate came after Mayor Rick Kriseman's aides and the city's public works chief denied several requests by the Tampa Bay Times for updated discharge figures.
Chief of Staff Kevin King said that wastewater department staff hadn't shared notes. He compared their work to the negotiations between the city and the Tampa Bay Rays to let the team look outside the city.
"No public record exists," said Public Works Administrator Claude Tankersley.
In fact, one did. Tankersley had met with staff about an hour before a phone interview with the Tampa Bay Times this afternoon. At that meeting, the 2.8-3.3 million gallon discharge totals had been discussed. Tankersley said he didn't inform the newspaper of that meeiting because he had been under a lot of stress and had a lot of numbers in his head. He said he takes responsibility for the mistake.
This morning, Tankersley said the city wouldn't release estimates about how much partially-treated wastewater was being pumped into Tampa Bay to relieve an overburdened sewer system beset by Tropical Storm Colin's aftermath.
Last August, when the city pumped 1.1 million gallons into Tampa Bay, the dump was originally reported to the media to be 5.5 million gallons.
Tankersley said he wanted the city to avoid "being beaten up" by the media this time around for annoucing any inaccurate numbers.
The public would learn the full extent of the spill when the city reported its official report to the state, probably by the end of the week, he said.
"Unfortunately what we’re finding is that getting actual number, the number everyone can hang their hat on, takes time," Tankersley said.
He then repeated that the total dump was likely to be less than the 2 million gallons he had originally estimated Tuesday.
In fact, it is already much more. And the pumping continues.