Was St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman going to wait until the polls closed Tuesday to tell city residents about the latest sewage spill?
It might look that way.
The mayor who is running for reelection today didn't even give the Tampa Bay Times a chance to get a quick notice out. The accident that occurred around 8:30 p.m. Monday didn't appear in any Monday night TV or radio reports either.
In fact, when the Times asked, a Public Works spokesman told the newspaper he didn't know about any spill. (See the Twitter screenshot on this page.)
But wait. Before you (understandably) jump to conclusions by assuming Kriseman slapped a gag order on the 1,000-gallon spill at the Southwest Reclamation Facility headworks, Department of Public Works Communications Manager Bill Logan told Sunshine State News the incident isn't anything like it looks.
"First of all, the spill was only 1,000 gallons and it never affected the waterways," Logan explained. "It was confined to the property lines of the sewer plant" and happened during a normal influent (sewage and rainwater) bypass.
"But because we're a 'zero discharge city,' we tweeted it out this morning and got it up on our website as soon as we could, even though no one was affected."
Logan said it was after 9:30 a.m. when he found out; the city posted the notice on its site at 10:34 a.m. By Florida law, it had 24 hours to get the information out.
St. Petersburg has been rocked by a failing sewer system that started with leaky pipes as far back as 2001 and culminated when the city dumped up to 200 million gallons of waste from 2015-16. It will take $360 million to put right. A state report in July placed much of the blame on the administration of Mayor Rick Kriseman's decision to close the Albert Whitted Water Reclamation Facility and his failure to reopen the plant to alleviate the sewage spills.
Though Rick Baker, Kriseman's predecessor in the job and his opponent in today's mayoral election, was not named in the 7-page report, he was in office when the system began to crumble. Nevertheless, for Kriseman whose decisions on the city sewage system have been widely pilloried, this latest spill -- however minuscule -- has to be a blow on election day. Talk about bad timing.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith