Hermine Caused Massive Sewage Discharge in Fla.

     (CN) – In a revelation that could damage Florida’s booming tourism industry, several cities in the Tampa Bay area report more than 200 million gallons of sewage was dumped into area waterways in the days after Hurricane Hermine.
     Heavy rains from the hurricane overwhelmed the area’s water plants, resulting in the dumping of partially-treated and raw sewage. The outflow of sewage shut down some beaches in the days after the hurricane and some environmentalists claim the discharges may have caused the death of several birds.
     St. Petersburg discharged the most sewage, according to water reports sent to Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection. St. Petersburg officials said the city discharged water for 10 days after the storm.
     The city earlier estimated 70 million gallons was discharged into Tampa Bay. A report released Wednesday revealed another 58 million gallons — mostly treated was discharged in another location.
     Under heavy criticism in the days after the storm, Mayor Rick Kriseman has pledged to use $58 million in St. Petersburg’s budget to solve the wastewater woes.
     “The real issue here is those leaky sewer pipes,” said St. Petersburg mayoral spokesman Benjamin Kirby. “This is an infrastructure problem we inherited.”
     More than 23 inches of rain fell in August before the storm, which added another 14 inches. St. Petersburg typically receives about 55 inches of rain over the course of an entire year.
     “The work has already begun,” Kirby said of fixing the pipes. “It’s going to take a little time to fix it.”
     He added: “Nobody is madder about it than the mayor.”
     In a YouTube video, Mayor Kriseman addressed the issue and pointed to climate change factoring in the problem.
     “Climate change has arrived,” he said. “This is what it look like.”
     In addition, some beachgoers have witnessed black skimmer birds flopping around on the beach and dying. As their name suggests, black skimmers “skim” the surface of the water with their lower bill, hoping to catch small fish.
     Since mid-August, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has received reports of “distressed” black skimmers in the affected areas.
     “We have sent samples to the UGA College of Veterinarian Medicine SE Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study for necropsy and diagnostic testing,” said spokeswoman Susan Smith. “The results from their testing, and additional testing being conducted by FWRI, are still pending.”
     The revelation has the potential to damage Florida’s booming tourism industry. In the first quarter of 2016, over 29 million people visited the state, including a record number of tourists coming to the Tampa Bay area.

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