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Council looking for water solutions

Problems with St. Petersburg's reclaimed water system have officials looking at potential fixes.

By BRYAN GILMER

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 12, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- Maybe proposing emergency restrictions on the use of reclaimed water wasn't such a good idea.

That's what City Administrator Tish Elston acknowledged Tuesday to City Council members, who declined to impose the restrictions two weeks ago because reclaimed water customers loudly objected.

Most customers paid between $500 and $1,000 to hook up to the system on the premise that they could use as much of the recycled wastewater as they like for $10.36 per month.

They were also told they would be immune from the drought restrictions placed on people who water with drinkable water.

So they were upset when Public Utilities Director William Johnson and Mayor David Fischer proposed restricting reclaimed water use to two or three days per week at the same time that they proposed limiting irrigation with drinkable water to a single day. The council approved the restriction on irrigation with drinking water.

Johnson, Fischer and Public Works Director George Webb said the reclaimed water system pressure drops on days when demand is heavy.

A big problem lately is not the drought or heavy demand but that one of the city's four wastewater treatment plants has not been feeding water into the system, Council member Kathleen Ford pointed out Tuesday.

The Alfred Whitted plant's water has not met reclaimed water standards because it is undergoing a filter replacement.

The pressure dropped so low Tuesday that people could not water when a second plant had to be taken off line, Webb told council members.

Because plants sometimes are taken off line, the management plan for the reclaimed water system needs some changes to keep serving its 10,000 customers well -- or be expanded to cover more of the city as many council members desire, Elston said.

Some possible fixes council members discussed Tuesday were:

Metering reclaimed water and charging customers extra when they use more than 30,000 gallons per month.

Cutting back on watering at city parks during reclaimed water shortages.

Storing surplus reclaimed water in the underground aquifer during the rainy season and pumping it during the dry season when demand is highest.

Building more above-ground storage tanks to serve the same function.

Imposing watering restrictions on reclaimed water users, but charging them less in return.

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