TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A controversial effort to turn treated wastewater in drinking water is no longer a topic of conversation in the City of Tampa, as officials today, instead, announced the launching of the Progressive Infrastructure Plan to Ensure Sustainability.
In a presentation for the plan — referred to as PIPES — City of Tampa officials say that nearly 2,600 water main breaks have occurred in Tampa since July of 2017, and more than 1,200 of those happened in 2018 alone.
In May of 2019 alone, Tampa residents saw more than 360 water main breaks.
Officials say aging pipes throughout the city — many of which are approaching 100 years of use— have caused the thousands of water main breaks, along with almost 1,300 more wastewater cave-ins.
Tampa has spent more than $20 million in repairs each year for these problems.
A two-decade-long, $3.2 billion solution will only increase the average water bill for residents from about $41.29 to $46.50 in the first year of implementation. However, the city plans to gradually increase water and wastewater rates over the next seven years.
“We also know that some of our residents are on a fixed income and these fees can at times be challenging, that’s why we are offering customer assistance to nearly 30,000 of our customers,” said Mayor Jane Castor.
With this, Tampa will be one of the last cities in the state to establish a base charge to cover fixed costs during times of low water usage, and consumption charges will increase by 3 percent in the first year, gradually increasing for six more years.
According to the city’s website, the plan is a “proactive approach to renew our infrastructure, prevent breakdowns, and provide a long-term, permanent fixes to our water and wastewater systems. “
The PIPES plan will was approved by six council members on Thursday night.
“Strong cities around the world are built on their foundation- safe neighborhoods, reliable city services and steady fiscal stewardship. Tampa’s vote for P.I.P.E.S. was for a historic investment in rebuilding and maintaining Tampa’s water infrastructure,” said Castor. “We know that any time we have to increase fees it’s a difficult decision, but tonight, council voted to make sure all of Tampa’s neighborhoods will have a sustainable infrastructure. “
Last week, five city council members voted to have the $300 million Tampa Augmentation Project, which would reuse and treat the city’s wastewater supply for drinking water, removed from the city’s updated budget.