St. Pete, FWC Testing Waterways After Sick, Dead Pelicans Found
The city has called in an independent ecologist to help.
ST. PETERSBURG – After more than one dozen pelicans were found dead or sick in or near local waterways, the city is working alongside the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and other local partners to remove the birds and identify the cause of the illness.
“We are testing the water for biological indicators and dissolved oxygen content,” the city’s interim director of water resources John Palenchar said. “Per Mayor Rick Kriseman’s direction, we are also pursuing more extensive testing in order to better determine a cause prior to Florida Fish and Wildlife’s necropsy results.”
Early Tuesday (Jan. 17) afternoon, city officials announced they were bringing in an independent ecologist from Melbourne-based Arcadis U.S. in an effort to expedite and enhance testing and investigation.
“We want to have experts evaluating this, independently tasked to find out – as soon as possible – what’s causing this,” Palenchar said.
All testing by the FWCC, the city and Arcadis will be coordinated and used to formulate a plan to keep the birds safe, as well as alerting residents and recreational water users to any potential problems.
St. Petersburg has been dealing with this situation since last week, when a fish-kill was reported at a stormwater retention pond in the Riviera Bay area. John Norris, director for stormwater, pavement and traffic operations for the city said that more than one ton of fish was removed from the lake by his crew.
“We have not yet determined if there is a connection between the fish kill in Riviera Bay and the pelicans found sick or dead in other parts of the city,” Norris said.
“RBLake #1” is a freshwater stormwater pond with many exotic tilapia, which are susceptible to low temperature and Dissolved Oxygen (DO) issues. The city is also looking at Coffee Pot Bayou, about three miles south of the the Riviera Bay location. It is thought that the birds initially fed on fish at RB Lake#1 and flew to this second location near a substantial pelican habitat.
The Department of Environmental Protection has also been notified, although there are no reports of a recent spill or discharge into our waterways.
In an abundance of caution, signs with the following message have been posted along waterways from St. Petersburg’s downtown to Weedon Island:
Unknown Potential Health Risk
DO NOT PLAY SWIM OR FISH IN THIS AREA
Due to recent bird illnesses in this vicinity, residents are cautioned to avoid contact with surface water until further notice. Water Samples are being taken and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is being apprised of the situation. FWCC can be contacted at 888-404-FWCC. The city water resources department can be contacted at (727) 893-7261.
For information about St. Petersburg water resources, go to stpete.org.
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