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St. Pete dump of wastewater: “A major environmental disaster”

Kurt Zuelsdorf is the owner of Kayak Nature in Gulfport. Over the years he has organized thousands of people to pick up trash from Clam Bayou to keep the area as pristine as possible. His business depends on nature, but he’s been shut down since St. Petersburg City Officials decided to dump more than a million gallons of partially treated waste water into the Bayou.

“It’s been severe since the day the dump occurred. We’ve had to close down because the contamination levels have been off the charts,” said Zuelsdorf. The smell of sewage in the area has dissipated, but Zuelsdorf says he still can not open his business.

“I have to base my business on how I want to be treated. Were in Kayak’s and paddle boards, you’re going to get wet. I’m not going to send my kids out there, I’m not going to send your kids out there,” said Zuelsdorf.

City officials are well aware of the problem. At a City Council meeting on Thursday they used a discussion over a water rate hike to bring up the recent dump of partially treated waste water into the Bayou. “Spilling what we did in Clam Bayou is unforgivable and a disaster but it does make a difference that every other utility that didn’t have plants down and and had their normal capacity running, every single one of them had overflows,” said Council Chairman Charlie Gerdes.

Councilman Steve Kornell says the city needs a full examination of the problems that led to the waste water release. “We had a major environmental disaster. We need to ask all of the questions to make sure that we do everything we can to make sure it does not happen again,” said Kornell.

The council did give preliminary approval to a 3.75% hike in the cities water rate structure. Council members acknowledged that will do little by itself to repair many of the cities ageing pipes.