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Tourists, fishermen along Bayshore Drive aren't fans of sewage dump

ST. PETERSBURG — Richard Ruiz cast his line into Tampa Bay Tuesday, wading waist deep into the water the signs said not to enter. He had good luck, hooking a few redfish and a seatrout, but didn't keep anything.

"I threw it all back," said Ruiz, 31. "All of it."

He and his girlfriend Amanda Gispanski, 30, came to North Shore Park from Tampa. The two visit about every two weeks. She swims, and he keeps what fish he's allowed to. But on Tuesday, Gispanski stayed away from the water and Ruiz tossed everything he caught back into the bay.

"It really sucks because I love to swim," Gispanski said. "That's like my thing. And now I can't even get in the water."

Up and down the parks and trails along Bayshore Drive Tuesday, locals and tourists complained about the problems brought on after 70 million gallons of partially treated sewage were released into Tampa Bay and other waterways, as well as city streets, over 10 straight days following Hurricane Hermine.

RELATED STORY: Frustration rises as Tampa Bay area sewage toll grows

Ben Kirby, spokesman for St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, said the city was planning to reopen all three of its beaches Tuesday after two days of bacteria testing showed levels within healthy limits. The city has posted its water quality testing results on its website,

stpete.org.

John Palenchar, St. Petersburg's environmental compliance manager, and Suzanne Young, a USF researcher who found strong indications of an antibiotic-resistant bacteria on the St. Petersburg shoreline, could not be reached about the safety of the water for fishing late Tuesday.

Fishermen were annoyed. Though there was not a potent smell at North Shore Park, Dan Carpenter and friend Tevin Newman, both 24, packed up their gear when told of the recent dump.

"This is like the best spot," said Carpenter, who said he spotted a 30-inch snook off a pier there. "But this changes the game completely … We should probably move, yo."

Farther south, outside the Dali Museum, tourists took note. Though the stench was not noticeable at times, it hit when the breeze shifted.

James and Cindy Noreto of South Pasadena were walking up to the museum with Karen Kramer and Tony Bomentre, family visiting from the Philadelphia area.

"It punched us right in the face," James Noreto said of when he opened the car door. "It smelled like the circus. You could tell right away."

Kirby, the mayor's spokesman, suggested late Tuesday that the smell was coming from the former Albert Whitted treatment plant, which has been pressed back into service to store sewage, not Tampa Bay.

This group was taking no chances.

"I've actually seen it in the news as far back home as Philadelphia," Kramer, 57, said. The group has avoided the beach while in town.

"We've stayed by the pool," Bomentre said.

Contact Jack Suntrup at jsuntrup@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8092. Follow @JackSuntrup. Times staff writer Charlie Frago contributed to this report.

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