Elected official supports whistleblower – says St. Pete sewer dept. told him same story a year ago

Gulfport city council member Dan Liedtke today posted a one minute video online about the St. Pete sewage debacle. Liedtke also offered some damning comments to the Guardian that are sure to further damage the credibility of beleaugered St. Petersburg mayor Rick Kriseman.

The video was recorded at a forum on February 12, 2016, long before the latest sewage dump into Tampa Bay. In the video, Liedtke talks about the sewage dumped by St. Pete in  2015 and says “I’ve had people from inside the St. Pete sewer department e-mail me and call me and say we all knew this was going to happen.”

Gulfport city council member Dan Liedtke
Gulfport city council member Dan Liedtke

“My goal in reaching out to the Guardian and the Times is to boost the credibility of the whistleblower” Liedtke told the Guardian, referring to claims made by St. Pete sewage department chief plant operator Craven Askew, who last week sought federal whistleblower protection. “I went public because what the whistleblower is now saying, I heard pretty much the same thing already right after the sewage dump in August of 2015 “.

“Because of the sewage in Tampa Bay, we’ve had to increase testing, and some waterways have had to be closed to in-water activities”, Liedtke said. He also mentioned that Kayak Adventures, which operates out of the Gulfport Municipal Marina, is “hurting”.

Kurt Zuelsdorf, owner of Kayak Nature Adventures in Gulfport, was quoted in a Friday New York Times article on the sewage debacle. “This has set us back decades”, Zuelsdorf said to the New York Times. “We’re seeing dead birds washing up on the beaches.” Persistent customer cancellations because of the sewage releases have forced Zuelsdorf to lay off employees.

Now that sewage dumping become a national story, tourism and evelopment could take a hit. The number of tourists coming to the Tampa Bay area could drop, and citizens are already demanding that sewer upgrades be completed before there is any more new large real estate development projects.

In June, Liedtke said that he wanted citizens to know the truth about the sewage situations, and that people can handle the truth. “The only one who can’t handle the truth is mayor Rick Kriseman” , said Liedtke on June 10th, in unusually harsh language between elected officials.

St. Pete mayor Rick Kriseman (with the red tie) at a ribbon cutting unrelated to sewage infrastructure

More and more, Kriseman’s actions are looking like a deliberate “pump and dump” scheme, thereby giving a new meaning to a term usually reserved for stock market fraud. The state launched an investigation into the city’s sewer system already in June following Tropical Storm Colin, after the city dumped 10 million gallons of sewage water into Tampa Bay.

Thomas W. Reese, a St. Petersburg environmental lawyer, already last year called the city’s actions “intentional and loathsome.” Reese said today that when he threatened legal action last year on behalf of his client, city council members Karl Nurse and Steve Kornell were helpful. “Kriseman wanted to study the issue further”, Reese said. “Even though the consultant report is a few years old, the city knows what it needs to do.”

That the City of St. Petersburg “knows what it needs to do”, and that no significant further study is needed – that is something Liedtke agrees with completely.

As always, the Guardian reports and the readers decide.

Footnote: the Guardian will no longer use the term “sewage spill” to describe St. Pete’s sewage releases because the term “spill” implies that it was accidental. The evidence no longer supports such a view of the situation. Therefore, the Guardian will use the term “sewage dumping” going forward.

Picture posted on Voteonthepier.Com's Facebook page with the comment: "much of this is the usual litter & decaying seagrass that always piles up in the basin during the summer. However, the difference this time is, this is so putrid you literally gag at the smell of feces."
Picture posted on Voteonthepier.Com’s Facebook page with the comment: “much of this is the usual litter & decaying seagrass that always piles up in the basin during the summer. However, the difference this time is, this is so putrid you literally gag at the smell of feces.”

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