It stinks in the sink


Dear editor:

The corrupt city government of St. Petersburg, mainly current Mayor Rick Kriseman, should be the one to pay to fix and upgrade their sewer system. He should also consider not penalizing the residents of St. Pete because of bad negotiation skills and other jurisdictions that refuse to fix their sewer systems.

There are seven satellite (wholesale sewer customers) communities whose sewers flow into the St. Petersburg sewer system. These customers have “interlocal” signed agreements with the City of St. Petersburg.

Similar to the City of St Petersburg, Gulfport and St. Pete Beach (SPB) are under Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Sewer consent orders. The St. Petersburg sewage infrastructures haven’t been worked on since the 1970s and through big money development and gentrification of the black community, Kriseman, Baker and all of the other failed administrations have failed to maintain or upgrade this system.

To add insult to injury, SPB and Gulfport sewer inflow and infiltration (I&I) problems are exacerbating the St Petersburg sewer leaks at the Northwest sewer treatment plant (SPB) or Southwest sewer treatment plant (Gulfport). The FDEP hasn’t required maintenance of sewer systems in Pinellas County.

When Rick Baker occupied the mayor’s seat in City Hall, he signed a binding sewer agreement with the City of St. Pete Beach allowing them to pump their sewage into St. Petersburg, an already suffering sewage system. This contract allegedly can never be reopened, however, this city government is trying to make residents pay for infrastructure improvements that corruption and SPB’s unmaintained sewer system has caused.

A mayor who is genuinely concerned with the interests of the people would allocate serious resources towards rebuilding the sewage systems throughout St. Petersburg, including re-opening and modernizing the Albert Whitted sewage plant that was only closed to begin with because of the real estate developer lobby’s influence in City Hall.

The workers within Water Resources should also be empowered to exert authority over the functioning of their departments, a key platform point espoused by the candidates Akile Anai and Jesse Nevel who ran for city council and mayor in the August primary election.

They would also hold themselves responsible for putting their residents in harm’s way by dumping sewage into the drinking water of the people, which is a huge human health risk, especially when much of this was avoidable.

A mayor in the interest of the people would not have made the black community the first resort when it came to dumping sewage. They would not continue to build more high-rises and condominiums, straining the infrastructure even further.

They would not give leniency to cities like SPB, whose government should be paying their share for the mess they have made.

In the midst of making bad deals at the expense of the people of St. Petersburg, city council approved the reduction of cost to treat SPB sewage last year.

Going forward, critical infrastructure, including sewers, may not be fundable for low-lying areas subject to sea level rise.

Saltwater seeping into sewer lines in low-lying areas due to sea level rise will become a larger factor in future St. Petersburg spills. SPB has zero sewer capacity now, so their planned high-rise development will create more sewage leaks at St Petersburg’s northwest sewer treatment plant. Big developers should be required to pay an infrastructure tax so that no development comes at the expense of our public health and the environment. Beyond that, a moratorium on high-rises sounds like a good plan.

Mayor Kriseman and former Mayor Baker are definitely to blame for the enormous past sewer spills and future spills, in part because they have not provided oversight of sewage flowing into the St Petersburg system that increases the probability of spills.

Is it fair that St Petersburg’s black community receives the brunt of poor oversight? Should residents be subject to sewage in the streets and their houses?

Communities United for Reparations and Economic Development (CURED) is a new grassroots movement, built off the campaigns to elect Akile and Jesse, that is building a precinct-based organization to influence public policy and run candidates for office on a genuinely progressive platform of unity through reparations.

I joined CURED because I see a need to end big money in politics. All it has done is corrupt city government and put the people at risk. It’s time for a healthy infrastructure for St. Pete residents, and I believe that starts with putting social justice and reparations for the oppressed black community of St. Petersburg at the center so that we can begin solving all of our issues on the local level, including the sewage system.

When I turn on the faucet in my home, I have to hold my breath for a moment to air out the smell. It stinks in the sink and big money is to blame.

Anne Hirsch

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