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Red Tide linked to pelican deaths, but St. Petersburg still denies any link to sewage dumps

Earlier this spring, a city-funded study concluded that dozens of pelicans found dead in January had been exposed to botulism while feasting on tilapia carcasses.

But the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said recently that a toxin from Red Tide was found in some of the birds and may have contributed to their deaths.

Wildlife commission officials would not say if the pelican deaths are part of a criminal inquiry into St. Petersburg's sewage-dumping woes, but Red Tide can be caused by sewage spills.

"As the investigation is ongoing, we are unable to speak of any connection that may exist," spokeswoman Kelly Richmond said. The commission is investigating the city's dumping of 200 million gallons of sewage from an overburdened system since August 2015.

A few months ago, interim Water Resources director John Palenchar said the city-sponsored study proved the city's sewage crisis had nothing to do with the dead pelicans.