Tampa City Council discusses agreement on sending reclaimed water to Polk County

04/24/08 Mitch E. Perry
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The Tampa City Council voted today to approve the first step in a $180 million deal that would send reclaimed water to Polk County.

The plan would be to send the waste water from Tampa and Hillsborough County to reservoirs owned by Mosaic Fertilizer, where it would be sold to its customers, including Tampa Electric.

The Memorandum of Understanding was presented to the Council last week for approval, but was delayed until today, mainly because of concerns expressed by Councilwoman Mary Mulhern.

Mulhern acknowledged that the benefits were potentially huge for the city. But she said she was concerned about how the phosphate company Mosaic would be using the water, and hoped that an environmental impact study would be conducted before any deal actually happens.

The Iorio administration brought the deal to the Council last week for approval, but it was delayed after Mulhern said she felt blindsighted by learning about the project just 48 hours before she was to vote on the plan.

As currently proposed, the first phase of the plan would deliver 12 million gallons of reclaimed water a day to Tampa Electric by 2015.

City Councilman Charlie Miranda supports the plan. He says that transmission problems with the city’s reclaimed water system, known as STAR, has created a situation where’s there’s plenty of reclaimed water, with no place for it to go.

The regional water authority, Tampa Bay Water, has spoken out against the plan. According to the St. Petersburg Times, Board Chair Susan Latvala has said the proposal “would have a significant and long lasting impact on our current and future water supplies.”

But City Administrator Steve Dagnault cautioned the Council that the agreement they were asked to approve does not lock the city into a contract that does not address all of the Council’s concerns.

Dagnault said it is clearly understood in the Memorandum of Understanding that the city is not committing any money or any water at this time. And Dagnault said the city is still looking to sign up customers for the reclaimed water program.

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