Tampa City Council considers expanding reclaimed water program

05/28/09 Mitch E. Perry
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The Tampa City Council today gave approval for the Iorio administration to go forward on a plan to expand its reclaimed water system to residential and business customers at a cost of $341 million. But Council members did not want to address when the plan would become mandatory in South Tampa.

Mike Smith is a vice president with CDM, a consulting group that the city paid $135,000 to provide a report on how to expand the reclaimed water system. He said some plans, such as building a wastewater treatment plant in North Tampa, were simply not feasible.

Smith said that Tampa Bay Water and Swiftmud potentially could share costs on a more specific plan to expand reclaimed, which includes bringing the service to large customers, such as Tampa International Airport, the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, the University of Tampa, and other areas – as well as expanding it in the South Tampa.

Nick Cumas with Greeley and Hanson presented a plan on how to pay for the reclaimed water expansion; options included having reclaimed being cheaper than potable water initally, but ultimately raising those rates to make it comparable to potable. And he recommended what he called a Readiness to Serve charge.

One of the recommendations by the consultants to implement the plan is to make it mandatory for all of those in South Tampa who can hook up to the system. Smith said he wanted to force those residents to get on the system by the end of this year.

Councilman Charlie Miranda has been a large enthusiast for reclaimed water. He said he knew the idea of mandating that citizens use such a service could be considered a form of excessive government, and he wanted to make sure that those who might have a financial hardship were treated accordingly.

Councilman John Dingfelder said he also supported the plan with some caveats; he said requiring people to get on reclaimed by December was unrealistic.

Miranda also brought up the idea that is currently being studied by Swiftmud – injecting treated wastewater into the Florida Aquifer. Miranda referenced the infusion of treated wastewater in Orange County, California. Last year that county began operating the world’s largest water reclamation plant, which can turn 70 million gallons of treated sewage into drinking water every day.

Dingfelder expressed concerns that have been discussed globally about what is known as aquifer recharge.

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