Commissioner-Charles-Justice-web
Charles Justice
Pinellas County Commission Chairman

 

With the rainy season approaching, this is a good time for me to update you on our Wastewater/Stormwater Partnership. I’m happy to report that we’re making excellent progress toward reducing sanitary sewer overflows in Pinellas County.

 

First of all, you’ll notice that I wrote Partnership. We began as a Task Force some 18 months ago and recently rebranded with the new name to emphasize the collaboration that is taking place between county, city and agency partners. A cooperative approach is the only way we can view our infrastructure broadly and better address our wastewater challenges during heavy rains.

To refresh your memory, the Partnership is made up of a steering committee of elected officials and policymakers, for which I serve as moderator, and a technical working group of county and municipal experts. The technical working group met regularly for months to identify our areas needing improvement and formulate solutions, and in January 2017, we implemented an Initial Action Plan.

That brings us to the public meeting we held in early April at St. Petersburg College-Seminole Campus. With a number of interested citizens in attendance, Pinellas County Interim Utilities Director Megan Ross and representatives on a technical working group provided a progress report on more than 180 projects that are completed, underway or planned. These projects represent important investments we are making to protect public health, safeguard the environment and provide infrastructure stability.

Our goals in support of these core principles are 1.) avoiding and mitigating spills and releases of sewage into the environment; 2.) increasing treatment capacity and system resiliency; and 3.) seeking opportunities to address stormwater drainage issues that affect the sanitary sewer system. Based upon those goals, our Action Plan is broken into seven categories as follows:

  • Conducting inflow and infiltration studies
  • Addressing hydraulic bottlenecks, or insufficient pipe capacities
  • Rehabilitating and replacement programs for aging infrastructure
  • Stormwater drainage improvements
  • Resource sharing and maximization
  • Developing a public dialogue program, including educating citizens about how to inspect their home’s connection to the sewer system
  • Developing legislation, regulations and local ordinances

It’s important to emphasize the role property owners must play in maintaining residential sewer pipes and private sewer collection systems. Many homeowners do not know that this part of the infrastructure on their property is their responsibility to maintain and may not even realize that their line could be damaged.

I want to thank the members of the Partnership for their buy-in and commitment to this endeavor. There were probably naysayers when we first met in October 2016 who thought this was a political exercise or merely a reaction to the crisis at that time. But this group has worked hard to show that we are committed to solving as many of our wastewater/stormwater problems as we can.

I welcome your thoughts on how Pinellas County can continue to take a leading role in addressing our long-term infrastructure needs. Please feel free to contact me at (727) 464-3363 or cjustice@pinellascounty.org. To learn more about the Wastewater/Stormwater Partnership, visit www.pinellascounty.org/taskforce.