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    Pinellas Park could be water source

    A regional water supplier has been searching for places to drill wells and build small desalination plants.

    By ANNE LINDBERG

    © St. Petersburg Times, published December 1, 2000


    PINELLAS PARK -- Early results indicate that the city would be a good place for a water-treatment plant.

    Tampa Bay Water, the area's largest utility, analyzed samples taken from five test wells at the old sewer plant site, 7095 102nd Ave. N. "The preliminary report indicates sufficient quantity and quality of groundwater in this region," Scott Pinheiro, the city's engineering services director, wrote in a memo to the City Council.

    Scientists sought to determine whether there was enough brackish water in the area that could be converted to drinking water. Brackish water contains more salt than potable water but less than seawater; it is more economical to clean brackish water than seawater.

    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 well into the next millennium.

    Most of the water that 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.

    One way to cut back, utility officials say, is to clean up brackish water. So Tampa Bay Water has been searching for places to drill wells and build small desalination plants.

    According to the tests in Pinellas Park:

    The city could produce 5-million gallons of brackish water per day that could be turned into drinking water.

    Taking that much brackish water out of the ground would not hurt the portion of the aquifer that's used for irrigation, nor would it harm the environment.

    "It's certainly going to be positive news for our board," said Michelle Robinson, a spokeswoman for Tampa Bay Water.

    The preliminary results do not clinch Pinellas Park as a future site for wells and a water-treatment plant, but the likelihood increases.

    Well sites will be selected before April, Robinson said. The plant likely would be north of Bryan Dairy Road and east of Belcher Road.

    A final decision by the Tampa Bay Water board of directors is scheduled for mid 2001, probably about July. Before then, Robinson said, a final report and feasibility studies must be executed and public hearings must be held, probably in May and June.

    City officials will have to keep an eye on the issue, Pinellas Park council member Rick Butler said. "At least we've got some time to be included (in discussions and plans)."

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