Tampa Mayor Jane Castor’s often derided reclaimed water plan is no longer gasping for air.
On Thursday, Tampa City Council members indicated they will ensure it drowns.
The reclaimed water plan, known as Purify Usable Resources for the Environment, or PURE, had been proposed to convert the highly treated sewage into water clean enough to be added to the Hillsborough River, a potable water source for both the city and region.
It was a variation of the Tampa Augmentation Project, or TAP, proposed by former Mayor Bob Buckhorn, that would have converted the wastewater into drinking water. That plan was scrapped in 2019 amid opposition from a City Council majority.
After pushback from environmental groups and several council members, Castor also backed away from her plan. As with Buckhorn’s proposal, critics called it toilet-to-tap and it remained a dominant issue during the municipal election campaigns that concluded April 25.
“As originally framed, PURE is no longer,” Jean Duncan, the city’s administrator for infrastructure and mobility, told City Council members in a May 15 memorandum.
She repeated that stance Thursday during a City Council work session.
“PURE process is no longer in place,” she said. “That does not mean the water challenges that started this process have gone away.”
Under a 2021 state law, the city of Tampa, by 2032, must reduce its daily discharge of reclaimed water into Tampa Bay by 50 million gallons.
In March, the city offered 50 million gallons a day of its reclaimed water to the region’s water utility, Tampa Bay Water, which provides tap water to Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties and the cities of St. Petersburg, Tampa and New Port Richey.
“All along I think that’s been the best option,” said City Council member Bill Carlson.
The city suggested the reclaimed water could be considered for recharging the aquifer, aiding the Hillsborough River Reservoir in Sulphur Springs or injecting it underground — as Hillsborough County does — to act as a barrier to saltwater intrusion in south Hillsborough.
Tampa Bay Water, which is studying ways to expand future water supplies, said it would examine the idea but made no promises to accept the city’s offer.
City Council member Lynn Hurtak said she would introduce a motion at the June 1 regular council meeting to end a PURE-related contract with outside consultant PCL/Carollo. The contract is scheduled to end after PCL/Carollo completes a pilot study of using a so-called ion-exchange process to try to better clean nutrients from the wastewater. That study begins next month and is expected to be completed in October.
“For the public, I think folks really want to know that this sunsets,” said Hurtak. “This is done.”