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Residents to get say on well sites

Tampa Bay Water is looking for 16 sites in Pinellas Park to drill wells that will supply a new desalination plant.

By ANNE LINDBERG

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 25, 2001


PINELLAS PARK -- Now that Tampa Bay Water has decided this city could be a good place for a desalination plant, the next step is finding wells to get at that water.

Scientists from the utility have picked 30 possible sites, mostly in industrial or commercial areas of Pinellas Park. They plan to trim that list to 16 sites where wells might be drilled to provide up to 5-million gallons of brackish water per day for the plant.

Brackish water has more salt than drinking water, but less than seawater. Thus, it's more economical to clean brackish water than seawater.

Before paring the list to the final well sites, scientists and officials from the utility want Pinellas Park residents to have a chance to comment on the locations. An open house is scheduled for 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School cafeteria, 6410 118th Ave. N.

The information that scientists glean from that meeting, combined with other data, will enable them to make the final cut to 16 in March.

Then, on March 20 at the middle school, Pinellas Park residents will have another chance to talk with Tampa Bay Water before anything becomes final.

"We're interested in hearing what residents have to say about the individual well sites," said Mike Coates, Tampa Bay Water project manager.

In choosing those locations, Coates said, care was taken to make sure the wells would be unlikely to hurt other users, such as plant nurseries that rely on wells for irrigation.

"We believe the sites we are presenting at the public meetings meet those criteria," Coates said.

The Pinellas Park Brackish Water Desalination Project will be considered by Tampa Bay Water's Board of Directors in July. If chosen, final design will begin and the plant could be on line by 2005.

Tampa Bay Water supplies drinking water to Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties, and several cities, including St. Petersburg. Pinellas Park buys its water from the county.

The desalination plants are one link in a far-reaching plan to make sure the region is supplied with fresh drinking water.

Most of the water Tampa Bay Water uses comes from 11 facilities in Pasco and north Hillsborough counties. Those facilities deliver as much as 158-million gallons of water each day, but the supply is dwindling. Tampa Bay Water has to cut back usage in the next few years. By 2007, the utility will be allowed to pump only 90-million gallons of water a day from those wells.

Pinellas Park became a potential site for a desalination plant last year. Another possible site is in Clearwater.

The 16 well sites would be used in rotation, meaning 12 or 13 of them would be used at one time. While all the wells would be within a 3-mile by 4-mile rectangle, no two wells would be closer than 1,000 feet apart.

If you're interested

Tampa Bay Water will hold two public meetings to discuss 30 possible well sites in the Pinellas Park area. The wells would provide brackish water for a desalination plant. At the first meeting, residents will have a chance to comment on the site locations. At the second meeting, the list will have been reduced to 16 possible sites and residents will have the opportunity to comment on those choices. The first meeting is Tuesday. Those interested can drop in any time between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. The second meeting is scheduled for March 20. It will begin with an open house at 6:30 p.m., then a presentation at 7 p.m., with a question-and-answer session from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Both meetings will be at the Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School Cafeteria, 6410 118th Ave. N.

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