Correction to the Tampa Bay Times
The Tampa Bay Times posted a story online on Tuesday, August 20 with the headline “Down the hatch: St. Petersburg has sent more than 21 million gallons of improperly treated sewage into the aquifer since 2018” followed the next day, August 21 with the printed version which had the headline “Sewage reporting lapse, the city of St. Petersburg didn’t tell the public of wastewater dumping into the aquifer.”
Each story includes inaccuracies, beginning with the headlines.
Water we have sent down injection wells is not untreated sewage, but is highly treated wastewater, also called effluent.
In the first two paragraphs, the Times notes that the City injected 21 million gallons of wastewater into the aquifer. Please be aware that the aquifer utilized by our injection wells is not connected to anybody’s drinking water (which we get from Hillsborough County).
The Times also reports that “the city didn’t tell the public” that nearly 19 million gallons of wastewater was pumped into injection wells that didn’t meet standards.
This is also inaccurate.
These violations, like violations that happen around Tampa Bay and Florida every day, are publicly reported to the DEP. Also, Claude Tankersley, our Public Works Administrator, reported these injections to City Council during their May 17 2018 Council Meeting. He fielded questions from Council Members Rice, Kornell, and Montanari on the issue.
Furthermore, a Tampa Bay Times reporter was in Council Chambers for that May 2018 Council Meeting, but did not report the information to the public.
The Times story reports that “…St. Petersburg is the only wastewater permit holder in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties to violate state law by putting less than reclaimed water quality effluent down its wells between Jan. 1, 2018 and Monday, the period covered by the Times public records request for all sewage systems in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.”
Only one utility in Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties is permitted by the Florida DEP to dispose of their wastewater using injection wells: the City of St. Petersburg. Every other utility in Pinellas and Hillsborough discharge effluent to surface water bodies like creeks, bayous, and Tampa Bay.
In other words, Hillsborough County didn’t put any “reclaimed water effluent down its wells,” because Hillsborough County doesn’t utilize any injection wells.
For more information about Public Works, including ways to report issues or concerns, and water state performance, click here. For spill notifications, and other notifications, visit our Public Works Alerts web page: click here. To report issues, contact our 24-hour dispatch 727-893-7261.
 The University of Florida’s Training, Research and Education for Environmental Professionals (TREEO), the leading training center for sewage, wastewater and environmental professionals defines “sewage” as “used water and water-carried solids from homes that flow in sewers to a wastewater treatment plant”. (emphasis added). The Clean Water Act defines “domestic sewage” as “waste and wastewater from human or household operations that is discharged to or otherwise enters a treatment works” (emphasis added)