Protesters confront Mayor Kriseman about sewage dumps

Evan Axelbank reports

- Protesters were met by Rick Kriseman outside of a city meeting Wednesday, where they discussed the rush of sewage that contaminated parts of Tampa Bay. The encounter marks the second day of protesters showing up at St. Pete city meetings, demanding answers. 

Many beach towns struggled to keep sewage and storm water out of homes and streets during floods caused by Hurricane Hermine. 

"It is quite ironic that yesterday, everything was still deemed dirty and unsafe, and today they're saying it's clean," said protestor Marci Emerson. "In 24 hours, would you be seeing that much of a difference?"

The mayor insisted a city study showed the water was 99.993-percent clear of fecal matter and back to normal levels since Tuesday night. But protestors said they want long-term assurances that the water is, and will stay safe.

Several municipalities in Pinellas County, including Largo and Clearwater, said Hermine overcame their sewer and storm water systems, sending nearly 175 million gallons of sewage into the Bay. Commissioner Charlie Justice wants to launch a task force to determine what needs to be done to prevent that from happening again.

"There really needs to be a true regional study about the infiltration of the water into the system that is not just in the pipes, but in the ground water attacking the pipes," said Justice.

Kriseman said the city would be spending a big portion of $60 million to expand the city's treatment capacity over the next several years.

"The problem is, the frustration I share as much as those folks do, is I can't flip a switch and fix everything, even if I had unlimited dollars. It just takes time to do some of the repairs that we have to do," Kriseman said. "[But] we are going to be spending a lot of money."

Kriseman pledged to discuss an independent study with his staff.

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