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St. Petersburg City Council wants answers on wastewater woes

St. Petersburg's beleaguered sewers, which prompted 16.5 million gallons to be discharged into Boca Ciega and Tampa bays during recent heavy rains, are now a subject of City Council scrutiny.

Council members Steve Kornell and Karl Nurse have both items on the Aug. 20 meeting agenda that seek more answers about the city's wastewater system.

Kornell is asking for an independent engineering review of the city's Southwest wastewater plant, including an analysis if the flow from the now-partially reopened Albert Whitted plant should be spread among the city's other two plants in the northwest and northeast. He also is asking the city stop work on the bio-solids project at the plant until the study is complete.

"We need to make sure we're doing this right. The costs are very negative for our environment," Kornell said Friday.

The Albert Whitted plant shouldn't have been shut down before a 15-million gallon storage tank was completed at the Southwest facility, Kornell said, but he is more concerned about avoiding future sewage dumps. And he's concerned about city staff providing council members all the available information. They didn't do that when they neglected to inform him of a study examining the viability of dispersing waste among the three remaining plants when Albert Whitted was shuttered, he said.

"I think we need to slow down. Legitimate questions have been raised about this project and they've been ignored every step of the way," Kornell said.

Nurse is asking city staff to provide an analysis of how the city's infrastructure performed during the recent heavy rains. The storm served as "best practice" for what the city could expect in a hurricane or tropical storm, he wrote in a memo.

A review could identify where the city could improve its sewer and stormwater capablities, he wrote.