It could help the city keep reclaimed water sprinklers from running dry and help Tampa Bay avert an environmental calamity.
A city council committee on Thursday discussed using a barge to bring the city some of the 1.2 billion gallons of acidic wastewater the state wants to get rid of at the closed Piney Point Phosphates plant in Manatee County.
According to Tampa Bay Tribune reporter Carlos Moncada, officials worry the wastewater will escape rain-swollen gypsum stacks and pollute the Bay.
The state Department of Environmental Protection is seeking approval from federal regulators to dispose from barges as much as 700 million gallons of treated wastewater into the Gulf of Mexico.
It also has asked St. Petersburg to consider taking up to 500,000 gallons of treated wastewater a day to supplement its limited supply of reclaimed water used to irrigate landscaping.
The DEP has proposed sending more than 80 tanker trucks a day across the Sunshine Skyway and along a residential section of the Pinellas Bayway to a wastewater treatment plant the city operates near Eckerd College, off Interstate 275 in south St. Petersburg.
Four council members all but killed that idea Thursday because of the potential for noise and safety problems.
But Councilman John Bryan suggested what he called a more environmentally friendly and less costly transport method: A barge that would dock at the Port of St. Petersburg and pipe the treated wastewater into a nearby water reclamation plant, where it would be treated again and blended with the reclaimed water supply.
``I would be more apt to go for something like that,'' Bryan said. ``Because then there's no adverse impact on any neighborhoods or roads.''
The city would accept the treated wastewater only when needed, particularly from April through June when exceptionally high demand for reclaimed water previously has forced the city to limit its use to three days a week.
The DEP was trucking Piney Point water to a Manatee County treatment plant until above-normal rainfall eliminated the need for it, said Patti Anderson, the city's water resources director.
``I think they're looking for help in every direction,'' Anderson said of state officials.
For the city to accept the treated wastewater, it must amend its ordinances so it can receive transported waste from outside its service area.
The city also would ensure the wastewater would not degrade the reclaimed water supply, possibly harming vegetation, and that it would recover its costs. In fact, the arrangement likely could produce additional revenue for the city, Anderson said.
Council members plan to discuss the subject again April 10. The earliest the city could accept the treated wastewater is January, after a public hearing and vote in October or November.
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