TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The City of Tampa is looking to augment it’s drinking water supply. The plan involves elements that may have some people turning up their noses.
Tampa currently treats millions of gallons of wastewater at the Howard F. Curren Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant. Roughly three million gallons of that wastewater is used to water some lawns in South Tampa under the “Star Project.”
The first phase of the “Star Project” brought reclaimed water to a select few South Tampa neighborhoods. Plans to expand the project were rejected by Tampa’s City Council when a consultant determined it could cost $1.3 billion to bring reclaimed water to all customers.
That was in 2009 and at the time, not everyone who was eligible to sign up for the “Star Project” was taking advantage of it. As a result, 55 million gallons a day of treated wastewater is being pumped into Tampa Bay.
Since then, the city has been looking for ways to better use the treated wastewater.
Current City Water Director Chuck Weber is exploring one plan that would use the treated wastewater to add to the city drinking water supply.
“It starts with the wastewater collection system,” Weber said. “As part of this program, what we would be doing is enhanced monitoring in that system and looking for anything that could be a problem in the wastewater treatment facility itself.”
The wastewater would then go through several additional levels of treatment before being introduced into the drinking water supply.
“It uses chemistry and biology and advanced treatment to get the water to a quality that’s every bit as good as what’s coming out of the Hillsborough River, which is our drinking water source right now,” Weber said.
The idea has come up before in front of Tampa’s City Council and been rejected, mostly because of the public’s reaction when the plan is presented.
“I don’t want to drink that water,” said Alicia Gonzalez when she was told about the idea. “To me, it’s always going to be in my mind that it’s sewer water.”
Alison Kroll had a near physical reaction when she was told about the idea.
“It’s disgusting because just the thought of it,” she said. “What kind of filter could you possibly have to filter waste, chemicals, everything.”
Chuck Weber says it will take a good deal of public education before the plan can be put into place.
“The water that we are drinking now, no matter what source it came from, at one point it went through a wastewater treatment plant,” Weber said.
Tampa’s City Council will get a chance to weigh in on the idea when they are presented the plan later in August.