This closure came only days after St. Petersburg ceased its tests of Clam Bayou and the bay, which it had been performing since the early August decision to pump over 15 million gallons of untreated sewage into a holding pond in the nature preserve which straddles the boarder of the two cities. Gulfport announced that it would begin testing of the Gulfport side of Clam Bayou as well as continuing daily tests of the beach and marina.
According to a press release October 27 from the city of St. Petersburg, for more than a week in the middle of October all of the samples consistently showed fecal coliform levels within the criteria for the Florida Department of Health’s Healthy Beaches Program. This was before recent rain may have flushed more polluted water into the bay.
St. Petersburg communications director, Ben Kirby said Wednesday November 4, however, that even after recent closures, the city of St. Petersburg has no intentions to reinstate testing any of the Gulfport waterways.
Gulfport Councilman Dan Liedtke was one of many not happy with St. Petersburg’s decision.
“They are turning a storm water pond into a sewage treatment pond,” Liedtke said. “All this matter goes to the bottom and periods of heavy rain stirs it up and sends it to the beach.”
Kirby disagreed, crediting regular runoff with the higher fecal levels.
“It’s a misconception [that recent high levels are the lingering result of the St. Petersburg actions],” Kirby said. “This is something that has been happening long before the pumping happened.”
Kirby provided information that does indicate spikes of high levels of coliform dating back to 2010 and can be seen here.
Said Gulfport City Manager Jim O’Reilly, however, “We haven’t had to close our beach in 20 years until this incident happened.”
According to a statement on the Gulfport city website, as of Tuesday, November 3, the marina and Gulfport Beach are within the criteria for the Florida Department of Health’s Healthy Beaches Program and are open for in-water activities.
Clam Bayou sample data currently still exceeds safe levels, with a “poor” Enterococci level of 140, and will remain under advisory until retesting can take place.
On Thursday, October 29, Liedtke tweeted to St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman inviting him to come for a swim in Clam Bayou. As of press time, the councilman had not received response.