Sewer water in the Hillsborough & Alafia rivers?
The last time Tampa Bay Water suggested dumping treated sewer water into the Hillsborough River, the answer from the public, the reviewing agencies, and the City of Tampa was a big, booming NO. Of course they don’t call it “dumping treated sewer water into the river,” they call it “downstream augmentation with reclaimed water.”
Despite the public opposition, the idea is being discussed again as part of a contract with the City of Tampa. Tampa Bay Water wants to withdraw more clean water from our rivers—upstream—to supply future growth and development, and then replace that clean water (“downstream augmentation”) with treated sewer water (“reclaimed water”).
Scientists have raised red flags over the proposal to supplement downstream flows with highly treated, nutrient-rich wastewater currently discharged into Hillsborough Bay from the City of Tampa’s Howard Curren Wastewater Treatment Plant.
While overall nutrient loadings to Tampa Bay would remain unchanged, downstream augmentation would increase nutrient loadings in the lower Hillsborough River, proliferating the growth of algae and stressing marine life in summer months when temperatures rise and the water is stagnant.
Treated wastewater is damaging to Tampa Bay, but not nearly as damaging as it would be to our rivers where the pollutants would be concentrated in a much smaller quantity of water.
Another problem with trading wastewater for freshwater in the Hillsborough River is that it seems to require lowering the standard for dissolved oxygen in the river, since treated wastewater has less oxygen than the water it would be replacing. This would be a problem for the river’s fish and aquatic plants, which need oxygen to, um, live. Not coincidentally, they need the oxygen to remain at the standard that is already set for the river, as this standard is based on their requirements.
There are much better ways we can use reclaimed water instead of polluting our rivers with it. Reclaimed water should be used for agriculture, landscape irrigation, and industrial uses; which would reduce the use of potable water for these purposes.
On Monday, Tampa Bay Water will discuss developing a contract (technically a “Memorandum of Understanding”) with the City of Tampa, that would include the use of Tampa’s reclaimed water for downstream augmentation. (See the agenda item.)
Downstream augmentation of both the Hillsborough River and the Alafia River remain on TBW’s Shortlist of water supply projects. This Shortlist is still in the planning stage, which is a good time for you to provide your comments. Tell them which projects you like, as well as dislike.
That comment form is a good place to start providing input, but I suggest you also tell TBW’s board what you think—especially about dumping treated wastewater into the Hillsborough and Alafia rivers. Contact Tampa City Council member, Charlie Miranda, and County Commissioners Mark Sharpe and Al Higginbotham. (See my letter.)