Ecologists to Investigate Dead Birds in St. Pete

The city of St. Petersburg has hired scientists with Arcadis U.S. to help municipal and state officials determine why more than a dozen pelicans have been found dead or sick in or near local waterways in recent days.

“We want to have experts evaluating this,” John Palenchar, St. Petersburg’s interim director of Water Resources, said in a press release Tuesday, January 17. Arcadis U.S. is a multinational environmental consultant.

Among other things, officials are testing the water for biological indicators and dissolved oxygen content, he said.

A cold-weather fish kill near Riviera Bay Lake by Weedon Island Preserve last week was accompanied by reports of sick pelicans. John Norris, St. Petersburg’s director for Stormwater, Pavement and Traffic Operations, said that more than one ton of fish were removed from the lake by his crew. Dead birds were also found over the weekend in and around Coffee Pot Bayou.

“We have not yet determined if there is a connection between the fish kill in Riviera Bay and the pelicans found sick or dead in other parts of the city,” Norris said.

St. Petersburg’s Public Works Administration, which includes the Water Resources and Stormwater departments, is working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and other local partners to remove the birds and identify the cause of the illness.

All testing by the city, FWCC and Arcadis will be coordinated and used to formulate a plan to keep the birds safe, city officials said.

In the meantime, residents have been cautioned to avoid contact with surface water until further notice, and signs warning people to not play, swim or fish in the area due to “Unknown Potential Health Risk” have been posted along waterways from St. Petersburg’s downtown to Weedon Island.

In an updated press release Tuesday afternoon, January 17, officials stated that initial test results from water samples taken from waters in and around Coffee Pot Bayou and Riviera Bay have shown “no abnormalities.”

“From all we’ve seen, the water there is in overall good shape,” said Palenchar. “But we will continue testing, and so the signs will stay up for awhile.”

Most of the tested elements “fell within normal parameters for recreational waterways, with the exception of a lone site near the Coffee Pot Bayou boat ramp that showed poor water quality,” the release stated.

Palenchar added that the incident is “in no way related to last summer’s heavy rains and the subsequent discharge of potentially treated sewage water.”

The latest information can be found at www.stpete.org/water/waterquality.php.

For more information contact FWCC at 888-404-FWCC or St. Petersburg’s Water Resources Department at 727-893-726.

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