An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Seminole County, USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

U.S. House Rep seeks EPA investigation of Little Wekiva River silting

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate what has caused the Little Wekiva River to badly silt up in Seminole County.

Murphy sent a letter Tuesday to EPA Administrator Michael Regan. She requests a federal inquiry similar to a state probe being triggered by a bill pushed through the Legislature this spring by Republican state Sen. Jason Brodeur and Republican state Rep. Keith Truenow. Their effort, which wound up getting approval in Truenow’s HB 727, calls for various state agencies to study the river’s problems.

Now a parallel probe is being sought from federal investigators.

“I respectfully request that the Environmental Protection Agency investigate the surrounding area for potential Clean Water Act violations,” Murphy submitted to Regan.

The Little Wekiva River and its sister waterway the Wekiva River run through western Seminole and Orange counties. Naturalists and kayakers flock to them. The rivers were designated national Wild and Scenic Rivers. They also receive special state protection designated under Florida’s Wekiva Aquatic Preserve.

Yet in the past couple of years, sediments have filled a stretch of the Little Wekiva north of State Road 434. Sediment and invasive plants choke the riverbed. Stretches once four feet deep are reduced to puddles. Blocked runoff swamps surrounding forest. Spreading water threatens nearby homes with flooding.

Blue-green algae warning issued for Lake, Seminole waterways

Health officials in Lake and Seminole counties issued Blue-green algae alert Monday.

The Florida Department of Health said it found harmful blue-green algal toxins in both Lake Howell in Seminole County as well as the Dead River residential canal south of U.S. Highway 441 which connects Lake Eustis and Lake Harris in Lake County. The findings came from samples taken on June 9.

Blue-green algae can harm both the freshwater and brackish ecosystems, but also in some cases be toxic to humans if ingested, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

If toxic, the cyanobacteria can cause nausea, vomiting and even liver failure in severe cases.

Officials advised people to not drink, swim or use watercraft in waters where an algae bloom is visible; wash skin and clothing with soap and water if they come into contact with the algae or discolored or smelly water; keep pets away from the area; don’t cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms; or eat shellfish from water with the blooms.

Fish caught from freshwater lakes is safe, the DOH stated, advising people to rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts and cook fish well.

Proposed Florida constitutional amendment aims to give waterways legal rights

Floridians and organizations within the state could take legal action on behalf of waterways under the amendment.

Florida environmentalists have begun collecting signatures to introduce an amendment to the state's constitution that would recognize a person's legal right to clean water.

The amendment aims to do this by recognizing a waterway's legal right to "exist, flow, be free from pollution, and maintain a healthy ecosystem." Meaning, Floridians and organizations within the state could take legal action on behalf of waterways, according to the proposed amendment.

If the waterway's rights were violated, then the amendment requires the penalty to be paying whatever the cost is to restore the water to its "pre-damaged state."

The petition would need to reach nearly 900,000 signatures by February 1, 2022, in order to be placed on Florida's ballots.

Biden administration initiates legal action to repeal WOTUS

Clean-water safeguards ended by Trump would be restored

The Biden administration began legal action Wednesday to repeal a Trump-era rule that ended federal protections for hundreds of thousands of small streams, wetlands and other waterways, leaving them more vulnerable to pollution from development, industry and farms.

The rule — sometimes referred to as “waters of the United States” or WOTUS — narrowed the types of waterways that qualify for federal protection under the Clean Water Act. It was one of hundreds of rollbacks of environmental and public health regulations under former President Donald Trump, who said the rules imposed unnecessary burdens on business.

The Trump-era rule, finalized last year, was long sought by builders, oil and gas developers, farmers and others who complained about federal overreach that they said stretched into gullies, creeks and ravines on farmland and other private property.

Environmental groups and public-health advocates said the rollback approved under Trump would allow businesses to dump pollutants into unprotected waterways and fill in some wetlands, threatening public water supplies downstream and harming wildlife and habitat.

The water rule has been a point of contention for decades. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Michael Regan has pledged to issue a new rule that protects water quality while not overly burdening small farmers.,

SJRWMD debuts improved water quality data web portal

Up-to-date information now available to public

PALM BAY — Public access to the most up-to-date water quality information in the St. Johns River and the Indian River Lagoon just got better, thanks to a web portal redesign by the St. Johns River Water Management District’s data collection and management team.

“People are interested in the health of our waterways, particularly the Indian River Lagoon,” said Christine Mundy, chief of the District’s Bureau of Water Resource Information. “The upgraded web portal increases our transparency as a public agency and improves access to data we collect at our continuous water quality monitoring stations in the Indian River Lagoon and the St. Johns River.”

Six water monitoring stations in the lagoon and three in the St. Johns River transmit continuous water quality data — including information about chlorophyll, water temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen — which the District uploads and shares on its new Aquarius WebPortal at secure.sjrwmd.com/aqportal.

A user guide explains how to select station locations and data, display available parameters on a map, view charts of key parameters for related locations in dashboards and explore specific locations and parameters in a data set or chart.

Unlike manually gathered water samples, continuous water quality data provides a constant stream of information during all hours of the day and under a variety of weather conditions, offering a more complete picture.

“The data we collect can serve as indicators when algal bloom conditions are developing,” Mundy said. “The new portal also gives the public the same information we use in making long-term management decisions about our waterways.”

SJRWMD to share innovative algal bloom treatment contract with water managers, FDEP

PALATKA – At Gov. Ron DeSantis’s direction to deploy innovative technology to actively assess and address critical blue-green algal conditions, the St. Johns River Water Management District is now offering other Florida water management districts and the State of Florida access to a proprietary algicide treatment to fight cyanobacterial, or blue-green algae, blooms.

In support of Gov. DeSantis’ Achieving More Now For Florida’s Environment plan (Executive Order 19-12) to protect Florida’s environment and with funding from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), the District entered into an agreement with BlueGreen U.S. Water Technologies (BGWT) in early 2020 to evaluate the potential of its Lake Guard Oxy Technology, a proprietary innovative product that selectively targets cyanobacteria, in preventing and/or controlling algal bloom formation in Lake Minneola.

“Our agreement with BGWT was amended in October 2020 to allow FDEP to respond to emergency conditions in the South Florida Water Management District that required water releases from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie Estuary,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “The Board has now ensured that each of our partner water management districts and FDEP can take rapid actions by accessing this contract without delay when critical harmful algal bloom (HAB) conditions are present.”

The update allows funding treatments up to $5 million from a variety of funding sources should potential bloom conditions occur across Florida.

The District recently completed the final treatment application of a six-month pilot project to test BGWT’s innovative treatment to suppress and control cyanobacterial blooms at Lake Minneola in Lake County.

An overabundance of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, can increasingly be found in Florida’s waterways, including its rivers. Potentially HABs also can result in human health advisories and closures of recreational areas by local health departments, harm fish and wildlife, as well as causing local and regional economic impacts.

Between November 2020 and May 2021, using a combination of collected field data, water samples to guide application of the hydrogen peroxide-based product, the BGWT pilot project identified algal-prone areas in Lake Minneola and then deployed its technology in strategic locations to reduce current or forming cyanobacterial blooms. During the pilot study, Lake Minneola received 14 treatments.

With the Lake Mineola pilot treatments now complete, the contract calls for a final report to be issued and a public meeting to be scheduled. Visit the project webpage or follow the District on social media for updates as they are posted.

Poll: Floridians want federal infrastructure plan to deal with climate change

A new poll shows a majority of Floridians think infrastructure improvements in the $2 trillion dollar infrastructure plan Democrats are calling the "American Jobs Plan" should include measures to deal with the effects of climate change or natural infrastructure investments to build resiliency and lower the costs of climate-driven extreme weather events.

EDF Action, the advocacy partner of the Environmental Defense Fund, commissioned Morning Consult to conduct the survey.

Three-quarters of respondents support funding natural infrastructure as part of the American Jobs Plan, with 66% of independents and 53% of Republicans in favor, as well as 75% of coastal respondents and 76% of inland respondents.

Restoring urban streams benefits habitat, water quality

Urban stream: Not always an oxymoron

The concept of an “urban stream” might seem like an oxymoron, but restoration efforts across the state are proving that naturalized streams provide significant benefits even in densely populated settings.

For example, at Joe’s Creek in St. Petersburg and Phillipe Creek in Sarasota steep ditches are being restored to recreate meandering streams that improve both habitat and water quality, says John Kiefer, a water resources engineer at Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions.

“The trick is finding sufficient rights-of-way to allow the stream to spread out,” he said. “In many cases, even in urban cores, there is enough room.”

And those narrow ditches with steep sides aren’t just bad for fish and water quality, they’re expensive to maintain, Kiefer said. Rather than allowing rainwater to slowly flow through a more natural system, they cause flashes of freshwater that erode shorelines, move pollution quickly, destroy critical low-salinity habitat and require high levels of maintenance.

Restoring those deep channels to naturalized streams – typically within existing rights of way – allows the systems to process nutrients before they reach larger bodies of water like rivers, lakes and bays. Sediment has time to settle rather than increasing as soil washes away from eroding stream banks. Fish, including juvenile snook that need low-salinity habitat to thrive, respond quickly to the restored streams.

State tightens rules for sewage sludge used as fertilizer but leaves a loophole in place

As damaging algae blooms continue to afflict Florida, the state is taking steps to crack down on and track pollution from biosolids, the waste from sewage plants loaded with nutrients that can fuel blooms.

But the new rules, conservationists warn, continue to ignore a loophole for about 40% of the state’s waste.

At a final hearing last week, state environmental regulators said the new rules address two classes of sludge largely used in agriculture. Class AA, a third class, gets more highly treated to remove pathogens and heavy metals and is classified as a fertilizer not covered by the rules.

But environmentalists warn Class AA still contains phosphorus and nitrogen that feed blooms. Not including the class, they say, creates a gap in tackling worsening blooms that have increasingly fouled Florida waters and fueled saltwater blooms moving inshore.

Hurricane season begins June 1st. Be flood-ready.

June is Flood Control Awareness Month, and your local Water Management District encourages you to learn more about flood control.

Did you know? Flood control is a shared responsibility between Water Management Districts, local governments, drainage districts, homeowner associations and you.

Five things you can do to prepare for the wet season:

  1. Make sure drainage grates, ditches and swales in your neighborhood are clear of debris.
  2. Trim your trees and remove dead vegetation in your yard. DO NOT trim trees if a major storm is in the forecast.
  3. Check your community retention pond or lake for obstructed pipes and contact the appropriate authority for removal (could be your HOA, city, county, or local drainage district). ?
  4. Find out who is responsible for drainage in your community at www.sfwmd.gov/stormupdate.
  5. Make a personal plan for hurricane preparedness. Learn more at www.floridadisaster.org.

For more information, make sure to check out these resources:

Orlando partners with Florida DEP to improve WWTP

The City of Orlando Partners with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to Improve the Iron Bridge Water Reclamation Facility

ORLANDO – In partnership with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, the City of Orlando’s Iron Bridge Regional Water Reclamation Facility received funds to improve the plant solids processing system.

This improvement, financed by the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF), will cover the purchase of new equipment, which will save energy, reduce operating costs, minimize the use of chemicals and reduce the volume of plant solids produced at the plant.

This project will provide water quality benefits for community members in and near east Orlando as well as parts of Casselberry, Winter Park, Maitland, Seminole County and Orange County.

The CWSRF program is administered by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, with joint funding from the U.S. Environment Protection Agency and the City of Orlando.

CWSRF programs operate around the country to provide states and communities the resources necessary to maintain and improve the infrastructure that protects our valuable water resources city and nationwide.

For more information please visit epa.gov/cwsrf or contact Farhana Juman at Farhana.Juman@dep.state.fl.us.