By JEAN HELLER
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 13, 2000
CLEARWATER -- A citizens' challenge to the region's planned new water treatment plant could delay its completion by at least eight months.
Jerry Maxwell, general manager of Tampa Bay Water, will tell his board Monday that a request for an administrative hearing on permits for the plant could force the utility to continue current pumping levels at overused well fields beyond Dec. 31, 2002, the deadline for cutbacks.
The challenge comes from thegroup Save Our Bay and Canals.
SOBAC has been fighting the location of a seawater desalination plant near Apollo Beach, as well as plans to siphon some high-water flows from the Hillsborough and Alafia Rivers and the Tampa Bypass Canal. The surface water would be treated to drinking water standards at the new plant.
The challenge would have no impact on the desal plant, since Tampa Bay Water has the capacity to blend the 20-million gallons a day produced there with water pumped from two other Hillsborough well fields, one of them a new field planned for Brandon.
"But it will cost us the 22-mgd to 40-mgd we would be getting from surface water treatment and keep us leaning on those old well fields," said Michelle Klase-Robinson, spokeswoman for TBW.
What SOBAC and some Hillsborough County officials question is a variance sought by Tampa Bay Water that would allow construction of the treatment plant to begin once the treatment process and 30 percent of the design were approved by the state Department of Environmental Protection. Opponents want to see a full plan.