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Fish and wildlife officers begin investigation into St. Petersburg's sewer crisis

ST. PETERSBURG — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has opened an investigation into St. Petersburg's sewage discharges, a spokeswoman confirmed Tuesday.

The wildlife commission is the law enforcement arm of the state's Department of Environmental Protection, which recently ordered the city to fix its broken sewer system, which was overwhelmed by Hurricane Hermine last month.

"Our agency launched an investigation in support of DEP," wildlife commission spokeswoman Susan Smith said. "The FWC Division of Law Enforcement is conducting a comprehensive investigation. Once it is complete, we will release all of our findings to the public, including any information that may have been gained through subpoena."

Last month, Gov. Rick Scott ordered the DEP to investigate the city's sewage dumps and spills. Since last August, the city has discharged nearly 200 million gallons of untreated or partially treated sewage into Tampa and Boca Ciega bays, as well as local waterways and watersheds.

But the DEP doesn't have the ability to pursue criminal prosecutions. For that, the state relies on the wildlife commission. Although utilities across Tampa Bay discharged sewage in the wake of Hermine, St. Petersburg's 150 million gallons was by far the most.