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St. Pete Faces $820,000 In Fines Over Sewage Spills

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Suzanne Young
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

St. Petersburg faces $820,000 in fines from the Department of Environmental Protection for releasing over 200 million of gallons of sewage during summer storms.

The city can offset most of those fines if it agrees to implement projects that will help keep future releases from happening.

The fines are part of an order drafted by the state that ensures the city will complete several projects, such as increasing storage, repairing lines and digging new injection wells for disposal of treated water.

City spokesman Bill Logan says St. Pete has already started many of the projects. 

"This is one of those deals where the DEP has essentially come back and said your plans to move forward and get this taken care of are good,” Logan said. “What this does is helps hold us accountable and that's good as well."

The order also forces the city to justify whether it should reopen its Albert Whitted sewage plant. The facility closed in 2015 causing a drop in capacity and leading to the sewage spills. An idea to reopen the plant was tabled after the cost tripled to $30 million.

Last month, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman rolled out a plan to spend $340 million on the city’s wastewater infrastructure.

The plan has two parts with two price tags. The short-term fix will cost $45 million to increase capacity for treatment and storage at the city's Southwest and Northwest water treatment plants.

The money, which will come from bonds, will also be used to repair aging sewage pipes and develop a master plan for future improvements.

The city hopes to have the most needed improvements in place by August or September of next year.

The second part of the plan would be complete by 2021 and cost $259 million. The money would be used for more enhancements at the water treatment plants, more repairs to sewage pipes and manhole covers and to implement parts of the master plan.

The city would have to increase taxes or use additional bonds to pay for the repairs.

Julio Ochoa is editor of Health News Florida.