ST. PETERSBURG — Residents in southwest St. Petersburg are raising a stink about a plan to close an 86-year-old sewage treatment plant at Albert Whitted Airport.
City officials plan to divert the sewage now treated at Albert Whitted to a plant 7 miles away off the Pinellas Bayway next to Eckerd College and the Maximo Moorings neighborhood, which has about 600 homes.
"It's already noisy, it already smells," said Brian Pumphrey, a treasurer of the civic association. "Now they're going to increase the sewage it treats by 50 percent; it'll only get worse."
On Thursday, Pumphrey asked the City Council to reconsider the project, but it went ahead and approved a number of contracts associated with design and engineering costs for a new force main and lift station that will push the wastewater to the Southwest Water Reclamation Facility next to Eckerd College. Only members Wengay Newton and Steve Kornell voted against the $2.3 million in contracts.
"They could have split it up," Kornell said, "so that not all of the wastewater goes to this one facility."
Although a 2002 study proposed splitting up the sewage among other plants if the city closed the Albert Whitted facility, public works administrator Mike Connors said a more recent analysis showed sending all of the waste to the Southwest plant was the cheapest option. He said the Southwest facility would still have about one-fifth of its capacity unused after getting the Albert Whitted waste.
Steps will be taken to blunt the effects of the project on its neighbors, he said. The city regularly applies chemicals that neutralize odors. And the city recently spent $60,000 on landscaping to block the view of the plant. Any noise comes from trucks, not the plant, he said.
The project is necessary because of the rising expense of operating the plant at Albert Whitted Airport, Connors said. New state rules required costly improvements to that facility, and the diversion would lead to about $32 million in savings over 20 years.
"There's too much at stake in terms of savings for us not to do this," Connors said.
Michael Van Sickler can be reached at (727) 893-8037 or mvansickler@ tampabay.com.