April 2021 – PURE, Purify Usable Resources for the Environment, is a proposed water infrastructure project intended to result in environmental and water resource benefits. If approved, the city will redirect up to 50 million gallons per day of highly treated reclaimed water that would otherwise be discharged into Hillsborough Bay from the City’s Howard F. Curren Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Chuck Webber, with the City of Tampa, presented this project to the Hillsborough River Interlocal Planning Board’s (River Board) Technical Advisory Council (TAC) at their March regular meeting.
PURE will treat reclaimed water to meet and exceed drinking water standards. The purified water will then be pumped into the Floridan Aquifer via a series of recharge wells. This will create a freshwater “bubble” that will function as a buffer against brackish water and saltwater intrusion that threaten our freshwater supplies in the aquifer and Sulphur Springs. This purified water will eventually be extracted from the ground via a different set of wells, called recovery wells. The water—which will now have gone through multiple purification processes—will then be added to the Hillsborough River Reservoir.
The project will provide an additional source of freshwater to meet minimum flow requirements for the Lower Hillsborough River and Sulphur Springs. The minimum flow standard ensures that the river remains healthy and capable of sustaining healthy habitats for local fish and wildlife. The project is also intended to create a saltwater intrusion barrier to help safeguard freshwater resources, such as Sulphur Springs, which has become increasingly saline. Nutrients that may be present in the treated reclaimed water will also no longer be discharged into Hillsborough Bay. When the treated reclaimed water is not needed for river flow it will be blended in the reservoir and withdrawn for Tampa drinking water supply.
At this early stage in the proposed project, the Sierra Club, the League of Women Voters, and the Friends of the River environmental group have issued letters of caution outlining concerns and questions regarding the need, safety, and appropriateness of the project. Concerns raised include the short- and long-term health effects on the residents of Tampa that would drink the reclaimed water; how the reclaimed effluent will affect the aquifer; and whether there is a need for the project or if there are better alternatives. Mr. Webber said that consultants are evaluating the project and will have additional information in the months to come.
The River Board’s TAC took action to state the following as guidance to the River Board: “The Hillsborough River Board TAC acknowledges and appreciates the City of Tampa including the Hillsborough River Board as a valued stakeholder for the Hillsborough River system. The TAC supports the activities presented by the water department to study, analyze, and evaluate technical reports with the help of outside industry experts. We look forward to reviewing these results, when available and appropriate, to aid our discussions regarding a formal recommendation to the Hillsborough River Board.” The River Board is expected to review the project at their meeting on April 20.
Source: City of Tampa | https://www.tampa.gov/water/projects/pure