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EMPTY BOAT SPURS FRUITLESS SEARCH

ST. PETERSBURG

Authorities searched for a possible missing boater Thursday after a marine unit found an empty boat off Mullet Key.

Investigators were following a few leads but had not identified a person who might be missing, said Sgt. Jim Bordner of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

About 10 a.m. a deputy on patrol spotted a small fishing boat with a 25-horsepower engine stranded in Bunces Pass, just north of Fort De Soto.

The 16-foot Gheenoe's engine was cold, but the throttle was depressed three quarters down, an indication that the boat had recently been running, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Robert Simpson. Also on the water, authorities found two stadium-style foam seats.

ST. PETERSBURG

3,000 sure signs of autumn

Logan Kaufman, 8, of Kenneth City stacks one of 3,000 large and medium pumpkins Thursday at the Clearview United Methodist Church, St. Petersburg, during the church's 12th annual pumpkin patch. The patch is open daily through Oct. 31.

ST. PETERSBURG

Police try to quell e-mailed rapist rumor

Police are warning the public about an erroneous chain e-mail that warns of a serial rapist in northeast St. Petersburg.

Police spokesman George Kajtsa said the e-mail, which provides details about three supposed attacks, is false but may have stemmed from two incidents that really occurred.

On Sept. 20, a woman reported that she had been a victim of sexual battery at a BP gas station. Investigators later determined her claim false.

Then on Oct. 10, a woman was trying to buy drugs near 38th Avenue and 28th Street, Kajtsa said. A friend had offered to set her up with a dealer. She was raped at gunpoint by the person who was supposed to sell her drugs, he said. The investigation is continuing.

Kajtsa called that attack an isolated incident and said the public has no reason to fear a serial rapist in St. Petersburg.

TAMPA

Hillsborough County fails lead pollution test

Hillsborough County is one of 18 counties in the United States that flunks a new air quality standard for lead that the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled Thursday.

The county's top air quality regulator says the violation is mostly the fault of one company, EnviroFocus Technologies, with a factory at 1901 N 66th St., off Orient Road, that recycles lead batteries.

"They take old car batteries in, melt them down and sell the lead back ... to make new batteries," said Jerry Campbell of the Hillsborough Environmental Protection Commission.

The factory's owner, a Minnesota firm called Gopher Resource Corp., already has begun renovations that will help Hillsborough comply with the new standard by the deadline of 2017, he said.

EnviroFocus officials could not be reached for comment.

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