Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Oldsmar residents tell council they don't want reclaimed access fee

OLDSMAR — The woman behind the podium cleared her throat and addressed the Oldsmar City Council: "I don't want that poop water in my yard."

Lee Street resident Kathy Widger, 67, came to the council meeting Tuesday to express her disgust for reclaimed water and her reluctance to start paying for access to it.

The City Council was considering final approval of an ordinance that would charge every home in the city a reclaimed water availability fee of $5.60 a month, even if reclaimed water lines had not yet been extended to their street.

About 44 percent of the city now has access to reclaimed water; two-thirds of that portion uses it. Soon, perhaps in the next five years, reclaimed water will be available to every home, officials say.

People arrived Tuesday night to protest the fee and, in some cases, even the use of reclaimed water, which is sewage effluent given advanced treatment and used to water lawns and wash cars.

"I'm handicapped enough in my life," said Widger, who wore a back brace. "I don't want to have to go out and use reclaimed water to water a lawn that I never water. I want out of this."

Widger and some of her neighbors have expressed concern in letters, emails and Facebook posts: If I don't use it — or can't use it — why should I pay for it? And will it hurt my dog?

Six spoke up, some passionately, during the meeting.

City officials say that reclaimed water, like drinking water, is a necessary community resource. If reclaimed water is available, residents don't have to use precious drinking water for irrigation. It puts to good use sewage effluent, which otherwise would be emptied into area streams and bays. And it can be used during droughts, when irrigating with drinking water often is restricted.

The monthly availability fee helps to sustain the service. While the availability fee would be mandatory, no one would be required to connect to the reclaimed water system or use the water.

"Could you answer the lady's question about the quality of the water?" Mayor Jim Ronecker asked Public Works Director Lisa Rhea, who sat in the audience. "Assure her it's not poop water?"

Rhea, a former science teacher, took the podium and began to debunk myths: Reclaimed water no longer contains fecal matter. It is highly treated, going through a filtration process, then a disinfection process. It won't hurt your dog, who has probably stuck his nose in worse things.

"By the end of it," she said, "if you were to take two glasses of water — your drinking water and your reclaimed water — and you were to test them at a lab — or just look at them — there's really no difference."

After some debate, the council voted to reduce the monthly service availability fee from $5.60 to $3.90, effective Jan. 1. Council members also decided to exclude Gull Aire Village, a retirement community of about 700 units, from paying the fee.

Residents of Gull Aire will not be able to access reclaimed water because the water line runs behind the homes, out of service range. And, council members said, the lots in Gull Aire are "the size of postage stamps," so residents have little need for reclaimed water for lawns.

Danielle Paquette can be reached at or (727) 445-4224.

Oldsmar residents tell council they don't want reclaimed access fee 12/19/12 [Last modified: Thursday, December 20, 2012 5:09pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Lightning shifts search for defense to free agency

    Lightning Strikes

    CHICAGO — As much as he tried, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman left the weekend's draft without acquiring another top-four defenseman.

    Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman gestures as he speaks to the media about recent trades during a news conference before an NHL hockey game against the Carolina Hurricanes Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. The Lightning, over the past few days, have traded goaltender Ben Bishop to the Los Angeles Kings, forward Brian Boyle to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and forward Valtteri Filppula to the Philadelphia Flyers. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA101
  2. Half of Florida lawmakers fail or nearly fail review of support for public records

    State Roundup

    WEST PALM BEACH — Half of Florida's legislators failed or nearly failed in a review of their support for public records and meetings given by Florida newspapers and an open-government group after this year's legislative sessions.

    State Senator Bill Galvano, R- Bradenton (left) and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran ranked on opposite sides of the spectrum in an analysis of support for open records. Galvano scored a B-minus and Corcoran scored a D-plus.
[Times file photo]
  3. Yale dean on leave over offensive Yelp reviews leaves post

    Bizarre News

    NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A Yale University dean who was placed on leave over offensive reviews she posted on Yelp has left her position at the Ivy League institution, school officials said Tuesday.

  4. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park


    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]