Thursday, December 14, 2017
Opinion

Talking trash about Tampa's water is Mayor Bill Foster's folly

Uh-oh, this could mean — snore?

Perhaps we need to embrace our little victories wherever we stumble upon them. Still, St. Petersburg's Bill Foster could well lay claim to being one of the most small-potatoes, parochial, petty mayors in the state. No small accomplishment.

For it was a huffing and puffing and preening Foster who was caught bragging the other day that St. Petersburg's water system was the cat's pajamas of water systems, especially compared to Tampa, which hizzoner not too subtly hinted was little more than a Haitian cistern meets a bucket brigade.

Foster was, of course, alluding to a boo-boo recently when a squirrel chewed through a power supply line leading to the Tampa water plant resulting in a loss of power, which unfortunately set off a chain of events that disabled backup systems that … well, the long and short of it is that squirrels happen.

Despite the varmint with unusual eating habits, in the end Tampa's water supply was never at any great risk for contamination, and by Sunday everyone was free to brush their teeth without fear of being turned into a newt.

But that didn't stop Foster from crowing St. Petersburg's water system was invulnerable from attack be it from commies, Martians or an odd chipmunk looking for a snack.

And the big lug was only getting warmed up, hectoring Tampa for allowing the city's water system to be felled by a critter. "There's no reason why that should happen," Foster the Pure opined. "A rodent shouldn't be able to knock out a water system." Well!!!!

It is probably not a good idea to irritate Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, a delightful and hail-fellow-well-met to be sure. But Buckhorn is also quite capable of succumbing to the merest slight and holding a grudge that makes a Borgia look like a Hare Krishna.

For mocking Tampa with those fighting words, Buckhorn will now probably steal the Tampa Bay Rays. So there.

Foster touted the water tower at Crescent Lake as the city's Maginot Line of defense if a system failure were to occur — no matter how remote a prospect — as being capable to provide Ponce de León-like perfect water.

Say that's an awfully nice water tower you have there. It would be a shame if anything happened to it.

Any bets the drones, surplus B-52s and Blackhawk helicopters Buckhorn stashed away with all that Republican National Convention security money might well target the Crescent Lake tower in a late-night mission?

Or perhaps Buckhorn could snidely suggest at least Tampa has squirrels strong enough to eat through high-voltage electrical wires. What's St. Pete got? Free range monkeys.

It might also be noted that Bill Foster's assessment of the two cities' water system was a bit like comparing wheelchairs and brass poles. Tampa supplies its own water via the Hillsborough River. St. Petersburg has to re-pump water from regional wholesaler Tampa Bay Water.

Put another way, St. Petersburg's water system is just as much at risk for an unintended or accidental service interruption as any place else.

Why anything could happen. A giant badger with the munchies could gnaw through a power grid. The maintenance contract could be inadvertently given to the Crystal River nuclear power plant people. Or the Tampa Police Department's version of Seal Team Six on a training mission could mistake the Crescent Lake Tower for Osama bin Laden's house.

You know. Anything. Squirrels happen all the time.

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