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

Water-Related News

Pilot project is latest step forward to improve Lake Jesup’s water quality

The St. Johns River Water Management District’s work to improve water quality continues, with a pilot project now underway at Lake Jesup.

As part of the District's core missions focus, it launched the pilot project in early August to harvest and remove algae, suspended solids and associated nutrients from Lake Jesup’s waters to help the District determine the potential for a full-scale system to help achieve state water quality standards for the lake. The project received $1.65 million in a 2020 Harmful Algal Bloom Innovate Technology Project Grant through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and is expected to last eight months.

The District has accomplished a great deal of work since our Governing Board made Lake Jesup a priority basin nearly 20 years ago, starting with DEP’s adoption of Total Maximum Daily Loads for phosphorus. Working with many partners, The District is making progress to reduce nutrient sources and concentrations to improve the lake’s water quality and clarity.

In this latest project, a harvesting unit mounted on a barge is being transported around Lake Jesup so that algae can be harvested at various locations. An innovative dissolved air flotation technology will be used to attach microscopic air bubbles to algae and suspended sediment, allowing efficient separation of algal biomass and clarified water. Clarified water will return to the lake while algal biomass will be managed/treated at Seminole County’s Yankee Lake Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Also at Lake Jesup, the District’s Governing Board approved a contract in March 2020 to design and permit the Lake Jesup Nutrient Reduction and Flow Enhancement Project to encompass a wetland treatment system located within the District’s Lake Jesup Conservation Area. Completion of the design and permitting is ongoing.

Lake Jesup, the largest lake in Seminole County, is a hydrologically complex system with a large, urbanized watershed. The lake is shallow with a relatively low flushing rate and drains a 150-squ

Court vacates NWPR, is still weighing WOTUS restoration

A federal judge on Monday tossed out a Trump-era rule that rolled back water pollution protections, but is still weighing whether to restore Obama-era protections or simply undo the Trump rollback to return to pre-Obama regulations. In a court order, Judge Rosemary Márquez, an Obama appointee, vacated the Trump administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR), which governed which bodies of water get protection from pollution. Márquez remanded the rule for reconsideration to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Trump administration in 2019 repealed an Obama-era rule known as the Waters of the United States Rule, which expanded federal protections for smaller waterways.

And last year, the former administration put forward an additional rule, the NWPR, that reversed some protections, including for wetlands, that had been in place for decades.

The 2020 rule is the one that Márquez tossed and gave parties to a lawsuit challenging it 30 days to file proposals about what to do about the repeal rule.

The decision comes as the Biden administration seeks to revise the rule and asked the court to send the Trump rule back to it for reconsideration.

Blue-Green Algae Task Force talks stormwater at virtual meeting

Stormwater headlined Florida’s Blue-Green Algae Task force meeting Monday, with more than 250 tuning in to hear the online discussion.

Gov. Ron DeSantis mandated the five-member group in 2019, shortly after he took office, as part of a sweeping executive order designed to improve Florida’s water quality. His order included $2.5 billion for Everglades restoration and water protections — the highest level of such funding in the state’s history — and created the algae task force as well as the new position that oversees the group’s workings, the state’s chief science officer, currently University of South Florida Professor Mark Rains.

Rains kicked off Monday’s meeting by recapping its key accomplishments so far, before moving to the topic at hand.

“This task force under my predecessor, Dr. Tom Frazer, produced a consensus document that had a number of recommendations about what were the causes of water quality degradation,” he said. “Many of those recommendations went directly into SB 712, the Clean Waterways Act, and I think there’s a role for the Blue-Green Algae task force to play – kind of re-inserting themselves in that conversation along the way – as policies and practices change, and making sure that what was said in the consensus document is tracking all the way through to the actual changes of policy and practice.”

Water quality concerns stir up citrus BMP and phosphorus questions

As blue-green algae makes headlines again this summer, fertilizer from farms and urban sources are again under scrutiny. Last year, the state legislature passed the Clean Waterways Act to address continuing challenges with water quality.

The 111-page bill addresses agriculture, using biosolids as fertilizer, regulation of septic tanks, wastewater treatment systems, enhanced penalties, and other rules. It is part of the governor’s multibillion-dollar plan to improve the state’s water quality.

The BMP (Best Management Practices) Program for agriculture also saw some enhancements. The law requires that BMP manuals be updated more regularly to include current science. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) will now be required to collect and keep growers’ nutrient program records, with a particular focus on nitrogen and phosphorus. In the past, records of growers who are enrolled in the BMP Program were reviewed but not collected. Under the new law, growers have to fill out a Nutrient Application Report Form. These forms can be turned over to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). The law also instructs FDACS to have on-site verification visits to farms at least every two years to confirm BMPs are being followed.