St. Pete says it won't dump as much into Tampa Bay as predicted, but won't say how much is being dumped
The good news is that a respite from the rain gave St Petersburg's strained sewer system a chance to recover, the city's public works administrator said Wednesday morning.
The bad news is that the city is continuing to discharge partially-treated wastewater into Tampa Bay.
The city won't say. And will keep mum until it reports the dump to the state, maybe by the end of the week.
"We got kind of beat up last year by putting out numbers and then having to revise them" said Claude Tankersley, who was hired as the city's public works administrator in February.
Tankersley said he was confident that the final tally would be less than the "couple" million that he estimated on Tuesday. But that all depends on how much more it rains, he said.
Before being dumped into the bay, the sewage is being allowed to settle in tanks at the shuttered Albert Whitted sewer plant, treated with chlorine (but not too much so as to spare marine life) and then piped 1/4 of a mile east into the bay, Tankersley said.
What's not being done is most of the 24-hour or so normal treatment process of aeration, fecal-matter eating bacteria and filtration, he said.
He praised sanitation workers who have worked long hours clearing debris, managing heavy sewage flows and doing dirty work in challenging conditions. "They've been outstanding," Tankersley said.
St. Pete Beach and Madeira Beach asked residents Tuesday not to flush their toilets because of the overwhelemed sewers. St. Petersburg didn't.\
"The worst thing we can do is to inconvenience our citizens by telling them they can't use their bathroom," Tankersley said.
If the city had issued such an order, the flow might have been reduced by 10 percent, but "people wouldn't notice a manhole overflowing by 90 gallons instead of 100."
Tankersley said he didn't believe the decision not to ask residents to stop flushing was linked to the later decision to dump partially-treated sewage into Tampa Bay.
Having empty storage tanks at the shuttered Albert Whitted sewer plant helped prevent a bigger dumping as it absorbed some of the exces flow with its storage tanks, Tankersley said.
The city has been negotitating with a Texas company to convert those tanks into a fish farm. City Development Administrator Alan DeLisle said recently that negotiations are progressing.
Considering the city has used the Albert Whitted plant for two consecutive years to handle excess sewage during heavy rains, should it be contemplating turning them over to a private fish-farming company?
"Given the events of the yesterday, I'm sure that city decision makers will gather to talk all of that through," he said.