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Charlie Frago, Times Staff Writer

Charlie Frago

Charlie Frago covers St. Petersburg for the Tampa Bay Times. Previously, Frago covered Clearwater for the newspaper. He has also worked for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock, the Greensboro News & Record in North Carolina and the City News Bureau of Chicago. In 2011-12, Frago was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. He has a master's degree in journalism from Northwestern University. He joined the Times in May 2013.

Phone: (727) 893-8459

E-mail: cfrago@tampabay.com

Twitter: @CharlieFrago

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  1. West St. Petersburg spill wasn't as clean as previously claimed, Kriseman says

    Water

    ST. PETERSBURG — For more than a week, Mayor Rick Kriseman insisted that 58 million gallons of sewage that spilled into west St. Petersburg neighborhoods was essentially the same thing residents sprinkle on their lawns: reclaimed water.

    The mayor said it wasn't sewage. He said it was clean.

    On Friday, Kriseman said he was wrong.

    The mayor told the Tampa Bay Times late Friday that a 58 million-gallon sewage spill from the city's Northwest wastewater treatment plant earlier this month was dirtier than he had previously thought....

    Craven R. Askew blew the whistle on the city’s sewage crisis.
  2. The political stink of sewage: Kriseman says probes are attacks by GOP

    Local

    ST. PETERSBURG — Awash in a sewage crisis, Mayor Rick Kriseman is facing a state investigation ordered by Gov. Rick Scott and a possible federal probe requested by U.S. Rep. David Jolly and Sen. Marco Rubio.

    The three prominent Republicans have asked authorities to determine who is culpable for the 151 million gallons the city dumped or spilled after Hurricane Hermine.

    The mayor chalked Scott's probe up to politics earlier this week. On Friday, he said Jolly and Rubio were playing politics, too....

  3. Brandes says he tried to help on sewers, Kriseman wanted money for ferry

    Blog

    Mayor Rick Kriseman and Council member Steve Kornell, both Democrats, in recent days have chalked up interest among Republican lawmakers in the city's massive sewage dumps to politics.

    Republican Gov. Rick Scott's state investigation? Politics, said Kriseman. Congressman David Jolly and Sen. Marco Rubio's calls for a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency probe? Grandstanding, said Kornell....

  4. Jolly turning St. Pete sewage crisis to state law enforcement authorities

    Blog

    Minutes after Mayor Rick Kriseman finished telling CIty Council members that his administration would devote more attention, manpower and time to the city's sewage crisis, Congressman David Jolly announced that, after talking with whistleblower plant operator Craven Askew and reviewing the facts of the case, he's turning it over to state law enforcement,

    Jolly's said unnamed state law enforcement officials with oversight over environmental matters agreed with his assessment and will start a formal investigation....

  5. Kriseman takes criticism over sewage at City Council meeting

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — With a state investigation under way and possible federal action looming, Mayor Rick Kriseman faced harsh music at City Hall on Thursday, making a rare, extended appearance at a regular City Council meeting to hear often fierce criticism from council members and the public.

    In his opening remarks, Kriseman vowed more attention, staffing and transparency in dealing with the sewage crisis. The city has dumped or spilled about 151 million gallons this year, creating huge dirty plumes in Tampa Bay and sending walls of wastewater coursing across major streets....

    St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman told the council Thursday he didn’t communicate well about the sewage problems and that’s “something we can improve on.”
  6. Kornell blasts recent GOP interest in St. Pete sewage crisis

    Blog

    Last August, when 31.5 million gallons of raw and partially-treated sewage spilled from the city's Southwest wastewater treatment plant, Steve Kornell was outraged. 

    But, he said, only one state or federal elected official called him to see what she could do: U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor. 

    The Tampa Democrat showed concern about Eckerd College and local residents affected by the spill, he said....

  7. St. Petersburg budget set for approval

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council will likely spend much of its energy on the latest twists and turns of the city's sewage crisis today at its meeting, but members are also expected to give final approval to a $511 million budget and increased utility rates to pay for sewer and stormwater fixes.

    While the budget process has been smooth this year without the rancor over union contracts that made previous budget cycles somewhat bumpy, this year's budget does differ from previous offerings from Mayor Rick Kriseman....

  8. Jolly offers whistleblower protection to any worker with info about St. Pete sewage spills

    Blog

    U.S. Rep. David Jolly has already asked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate St. Petersburg's sewer crisis.

    Now he's offering to protect whistleblowers. One such whistleblower, Craven Askew, the Northeast plant operator, has already come forward with information about a 2014 study that warned against shuttering the Albert Whitted plant and questioning Mayor Rick Kriseman's statements about the health risks about a 58 million gallon spill in at the city's Northwest wastewater plant. ...

  9. Kriseman places top sewer officials on unpaid leave

    Blog

    Mayor Rick Kriseman, whose administration is now the subject of a state probe and a possible federal investigation, has placed his Water Resources Director Steve Leavitt and Engineering Director Tom Gibson on unpaid administrative leave.

    The news came minutes after Gov. Rick Scott ordered the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to investigate the city's sewage dumps and spills, which total 151 million gallons after Hurricane Hermine. ...

  10. Kriseman replaces two St. Petersburg wastewater officials as Rick Scott orders investigation

    Water

    As Gov. Rick Scott ordered the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to investigate St. Petersburg's sewage crisis Wednesday, Mayor Rick Kriseman announced he was replacing two top city wastewater officials.

    Water Resources director Steve Leavitt and engineering director Tom Gibson have been placed on unpaid leave. Both are longtime city employees who were intimately involved in the closure of the Albert Whitted plant, the expansion of the city's Southwest plant and have been at the forefront of addressing the city's growing sewage mess....

    Mayor Rick Kriseman said the governor’s actions were politically motivated.
  11. Whistleblower says Northwest sewage spill was dirtier than St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman says it was

    Water

    ST. PETERSBURG — A top wastewater official once again blew the whistle Tuesday, saying that the 58 million gallons of waste that spilled from the Northwest treatment plant was not as clean as the mayor has asserted. In fact, it's a potential public safety hazard.

    The city posted warning signs in the Azalea neighborhood near the Northwest plant, but did not release any details about the spill until Sept. 12 — five days after it was over....

    Signs at St. Petersburg's North Shore Park earlier this month warn people to stay out of the water due to contamination from sewage released by the city's overwhelmed sewer system after Hurricane Hermine. A whistleblower released documents on Tuesday that he says show the 58 million gallons of waste released from the Northwest plant is dirtier than St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has said. The mayor reiterated his stance Tuesday. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  12. Environmental Protection Agency will look into St. Petersburg's sewage crisis

    Water

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Environmental Protection Agency will look into the city's sewage crisis, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor said Tuesday.

    "They're in a fact-gathering mode. Reviewing and deciding how they can help," said Castor, a Tampa Democrat whose district includes St. Petersburg. "We're going to need all the help we can get in the Tampa Bay region."

    The EPA said last week it had no plans to examine the St. Petersburg situation. But then the sewage problem became an issue in Monday night's Congressional District 13 debate between U.S. Rep David Jolly, the Republican incumbent, and Democrat Charlie Crist....

    U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D.-Tampa, seen here speaking in August, on Tuesday asked the Environmental Protection Agency will look into St. Petersburg's sewage crisis. [ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times]
  13. Whistleblower says NW plant spill dirtier than Kriseman claims

    Blog

    One of the city’s top wastewater officials once again blew the whistle Tuesday, claiming that a 58-million-gallon spill earlier this month at the city’s Northwest plant was a public safety threat.

    "I noticed the following 10 violation througout the spill," wrote Craven Askew, who runs the city's Northeast wastewater treatment plant. "Public safety and the environment is suspected to be possibly in danger due to the sewer (sic) spills produced by the Albert Whitted....and Northwest (plant) spills." ...

  14. Jolly said he's close to calling for EPA investigation of St. Pete sewage dumps

    Blog

    U.S. Rep. David Jolly, locked in a battle with former Gov. Charlie Crist for the 13th Congressional District seat, said Tuesday he would "very, very likely" call for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate  St. Petersburg's release of  about 151 million gallons of raw and partially-treated sewage into Tampa and Boca Ciega bays since Hurricane Hermine.

    Jolly's comment came a day after a debate in which Crist, lambasted the Republican incumbent for not moving to help the city in a sewage crisis that Crist compared to the environmental disaster in Flint, Mich....

  15. Charlie Crist, David Jolly spar in CD 13 debate

    Blog

    It didn't take long for the barbs to start flying in the 13th Congressional District debate on Monday.

    Just minutes in, former governor Charlie Crist, a Republican-turned-independent now running as Democrat, was asked about abortion. He said he supported a woman's right to choose.

    "Mr. Crist, this is why we can't believe what you say," said Congressman David Jolly, the Republican incumbent fighting to retain a seat he won in 2014. Jolly then ticked off the anti-abortion positions Crist had taken when he was a Republican politician....

    U.S. House Debate Congressional District 13 between U.S. Rep. David Jolly, the Republican incumbent, and Democrat Charlie Crist, at the Palladium Theatre in St. Petersburg Monday evening.