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Tampa renews push for reusing wastewater

Update: Tampa Mayor Jane Castor delays wastewater reuse project

More than a year after scrapping a controversial toliet-to-tap plan, the city has a new proposal.

TAMPA — Out with the TAP, in with the PURE.

It’s been more than a year since Tampa gave up trying to sell a plan — dubbed the Tampa Augmentation Project or TAP — to convert wastewater to drinking water in the face of environmental and City Council opposition.

The struggle to persuade critics to get over their aversion to a project they dubbed “toilet-to-tap,” has taken on a new dimension and a new acronym — PURE — to stand in for a program that promises to “purify usable resources for the environment.”

There are some key differences between the old and new plans. PURE proposes to clean sewage to drinking water quality before injecting into the aquifer, something that critics feared TAP wouldn’t do.

And the final product will be dumped into a reservoir on the Hillsborough River below the intake for the city’s water supply, meaning the converted wastewater would only likely enter the city’s water supply during periods of drought when the water didn’t flow over the dam downstream from the David L. Tippen Water plant.

The extra 50 million gallons a day, on average, would replenish the water levels in the river and help wash out the creeping salination of Sulphur Springs, issues that city officials said concerned the Southwest Florida Management District, the agency that controls the city’s permit. That permit is up for renewal in 2023.