Not Everyone on Board with the Treatment Train 

Progress on Gulfport’s 49th Street Outfall Treatment Project was the subject of some debate at the December 15 city council meeting.

A resolution regarding the next stage of the project was on the agenda Tuesday night. Gulfport Public Works Director Don Sopak and Dr. Bob Brown of environmental engineering firm Cardno Ltd., gave a presentation on the project before council’s vote.

The plan, they explained, will rely on baffle boxes, devices designed to help collect solid debris and sediment, as well as two ponds to filter storm water runoff before it enters into the marina waters.

“What we’re trying to correct is the outfall on 49th Street,” Sopak explained. “We’re trying to get rid of what they call the ‘first flush’ which is stuff in the pipes, plastic bottles, McDonald’s wrappers, brake dust, basketballs – everything in that pipe when it’s dry tends to get flushed straight out to the bay during the first rainfall.”

The current solution to rainwater drainage along the 49th Street corridor is a 76-inch pipe that runs the length of 49th Street and dumps directly into Boca Ciega Bay, garbage and all.

“The current pipe takes about 169 acres of mixed residential and commercial drainage and has no storm water treatment at all,” Sopak said.

The plan creates two detention ponds connected by a pipe that would be located in the small patch of land directly west of the Municipal Marina.

“This first pond will be a wet pond, which would be the settling pond and the next one would be a polishing pond that would finish treatment and will discharge in the marina,” Sopak said.

According to Sopak, two ponds in a series like this is called a “treatment train.”

The idea is that water would flow through pipes with the baffle boxes on its way to these ponds. Then, it would enter the pond where more trash and sediment would settle. It would then enter the second pond that would do much of the same before emptying out into the marina waters.

“It’s actually going to take 7,515 pounds-plus of total suspended solids out of the bay. That’s quite a bit,” Sopak said.

Public comment was generally negative towards the proposal, however, with some residents concerned that the plan would not work, and could cause sediment or pollution issues in the marina.

“No one I know disputes the fact that Gulfport needs better storm water solutions, but this suggested plan funnels storm water overflow into the marina. Why would we want to do that?” resident Cindy Davis said.

But much of the concern about the plan was over aesthetics.

“Can’t you make it look pretty?” resident Rose-Marie Seawall pleaded to council.

Sopak explained that there were already tentative plans to put up a wrought iron fence, shrubbery and trees around the ponds as well as the possibility of a park in between them.

Councilman Dan Liedtke reminded council that this wouldn’t be the first or only such pond in Gulfport.

“I have 30 ponds in Ward 1 alone,” Liedtke said.

Council intitally seemed wary about passing the resolution, but was assured by City Manager Jim O’Reilly that this was only one of several stages before the project would be finialized next year.

Council then unanimously passed the resolution authorizing the city manager to make grant applications to the Southwest Florida Water Management Department to receive $640,000 dollars to help with the project. The total cost of the project is $1,780, 582. Gulfport plans to match the $640,000 and also receive a $500,000 state appropriation to complete the project.

The next step in the project for council will take place in January when bidding on construction would begin and a meeting will be held regarding the results in March.

Council Rejects St. Petersburg’s Memo

Council also unanimously voted to reject the “Memorandum of Understanding” sent back from St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman. The memorandum was intended to outline an agreement on future “wet weather protocols” with neighboring St. Petersburg, and stemmed from that city’s decision in August to dump untreated sewage into Calm Bayou causing repeated beach, marina and bayou closures.

“I don’t like what we were sent back [from St. Petersburg],” Henderson said. “I feel like it’s not much of a promise. So I do not think we should accept this version of the agreement.”

“It’s insulting and insufficient,” Vice Mayor Yolanda Roman said. “We are not respected.”

Council agreed to not accept the letter, but will later discuss their next plan of attack.

Councilman Michael Fridovich suggested the city should just resend what they sent originally to make Gulfport’s demands clear.

“Keep it simple. Don’t add anything more or anything else,” Fridovich said. “And have someone hand deliver the letter to Kriseman.”

The vote down was followed by a rare round of applause from the audience.

St. Petersburg’s version of the Memorandum can be seen here.

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