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Storing river's water an option, utility reports

Tampa Bay Water is slated to decide between this plan and a plan for treated wastewater into the Hillsborough River.

Published September 13, 2006

TAMPA - Tampa Bay Water officials Tuesday unveiled an alternative to their controversial plan to take more water out of the Hillsborough River, and replace it with treated wastewater.

Instead, they say they can take more water from the river and the Tampa Bypass Canal when their levels are high and store it in the 15-billion gallon reservoir in south Hillsborough County for use during the dry season.

"It is a viable alternative," said Paula Dye, chief environmental planner for the utility. "It shows our public outreach works."

Concerned about environmental impacts of putting treated wastewater in the river, the proposal was presented several months ago by scientists from the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.

Tampa Bay Water studied the suggestion, and Tuesday revealed it would cost $186-million, the same as the treated wastewater plan. It would provide 17-million gallons of water a day, Dye said.

The treated wastewater proposal - called downstream augmentation - would provide 13-million gallons a day.

The Tampa Bay Water board is scheduled to decide which project to pursue at its meeting Oct. 16.

Officials with the utility - which supplies drinkable water to Tampa, New Port Richey, St. Petersburg and Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties - say the region needs an additional 12-million gallons a day by 2012 to meet growing demand.

Dye explained the two options to meet the demand at a public meeting Tuesday evening, at which environmental advocates made their choice clear: They do not want the wastewater in the river.

"It's hard for me to imagine how it would be safe for fish to swim in it and breathe it through their gills if it's not safe for us to drink it," said John Hendershot, a member of the Sierra Club.

Dye received a box full of 811 letters from people opposing the wastewater plan from Mike McCleary, community organizer for Clean Water Action.

They're worried about the effect it would have on wildlife in the river. Particularly concerning are the compounds from medicines and home personal care products that remain in the water even after treatment.

"That's the critical factor," said Tom Krumreich, a representative from Florida Consumer Action Network.

"What I felt good about tonight is they acknowledged the fact that they don't know if augmentation is safe," said Phil Compton, a member of the nonprofit Friends of the River.

[Last modified September 13, 2006, 06:03:22]

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