One of the St. Petersburg's highest ranking sewage operators has filed for federal whistleblower protection, saying the city was warned that closing a water treatment facility would result in sewage being dumped into Tampa-area waterways.

  • Craven Askew has filed for federal protection as a whistleblower
  • He claims the City of St. Peterburg knew a sewage spill was likely

Since August 2015, St. Petersburg has dumped more than 190 million gallons of sewage into Tampa Bay and other local waterways. Craven Askew claims city officials were warned this could happen when they shut down the Albert Whitted water treatment facility.

Askew, the chief operator of the city’s northwest water treatment plant, has sent a letter informing the mayor and City Council that he has filed for federal whistleblower protection, citing public safety.

In the document, he says he is "exercising my rights" under the whistleblower act and Federal Water Pollution Control Act "prohibiting retaliation against any employee who reports alleged violation relating to discharge of pollutants into water."

Councilman Steve Kornell said the sewage spills are a crisis and the Askew's claims needs to be taken seriously.

“I don't expect any problems for this employee. I expect him to be treated fairly,” Kornell said. “I hope he is taken into consideration and that he is listened to."

The whistleblower letter claims a 2014 study showed St. Petersburg's southwest water treatment plant “could not handle the flow due to high weather events” if Albert Whitted were to close.

Despite the concerns, Askew claims the city closed the plant anyway without making the recommended upgrades to the southwest site.  

Moving forward, Askew recommends the city reopen the Albert Whitted facility until the necessary upgrades are complete.