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

Water-Related News

Florida DEP launches ‘One Water Florida’ campaign promoting recycled water

TALLAHASSEE – On July 16th the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced the launch of the One Water Florida Campaign to inform Floridians on the use of recycled water in the state to meet the growing demand for water. This campaign was designed in coordination with the state’s five water management districts, WateReuse Florida, the Potable Reuse Commission, the American Water Works Association Florida Section, the Florida Water Environment Association, The Nature Conservancy and the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association.

“Our water supply in Florida is not endless, and reusing water relieves pressure on Florida’s water resources and ecosystems,” said DEP Interim Secretary Shawn Hamilton. “This is one component of the state’s water supply planning to safely and sustainably diversify our water resources while protecting our precious environment.”

Florida is growing at a record pace with nearly 1,000 people moving to the state daily as well as an average of 350,000 people visiting the state each day. It is estimated that 1 billion gallons per day of additional water will be needed by 2040. Florida’s aquifers, lakes and springs cannot sustain the demand for water, and expanding the use of recycled water is an essential way to safely ensure there is plenty of water to meet the demand.

Potable reuse is highly treated recycled water from various sources that can be used for drinking, cooking and bathing. Purification uses proven technology to ensure the water is safe, with recycled water meeting all stringent state and federal drinking water standards. A variety of recycled water projects have been safely and successfully implemented throughout the United States, around the globe and even in outer space.

As part of the campaign, a new webpage has been launched to inform Floridians on recycled water as a future water source in the state. The website features:

  • Fact sheets and frequently asked questions.
  • Information on experts working with recycled water.
  • An interactive map highlighting recycled water projects around the state, country and world.
  • Additional resources such as research, presentations, videos and online publications.

Learn more about recycled water at OneWaterFlorida.org.

Seminole DOH issues Health Alert for Lake Howell

SANFORD – The Florida Department of Health in Seminole County has issued a Health Alert for the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins in Lake Howell. This is in response to a water sample taken on July 8, 2021. The public should exercise caution in and around Lake Howell where algal blooms are present.

Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:

  • Do not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski or boat in waters where there is a visible bloom.
  • Wash your skin and clothing with soap and water if you have contact with algae or discolored or smelly water.
  • Keep pets away from the area. Waters where there are algae blooms are not safe for animals. Pets and livestock should have a different source of water when algae blooms are present.
  • Do not cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms. Boiling the water will not eliminate the toxins.
  • Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe. Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts and cook fish well.
  • Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.

What is blue-green algae?

Blue-green algae are a type of bacteria that is common in Florida’s freshwater environments. A bloom occurs when rapid growth of algae leads to an accumulation of individual cells that discolor water and often produce floating mats that emit unpleasant odors.

Some environmental factors that contribute to blue-green algae blooms are sunny days, warm water temperatures, still water conditions and excess nutrients. Blooms can appear year-round but are more frequent in summer and fall. Many types of blue-green algae can produce toxins.

Is it harmful?

Blue-green algae blooms can impact human health and ecosystems, including fish and other aquatic animals.

For additional information on potential health effects of algal blooms, visit floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/aquatic-toxins.

Find current information about Florida’s water quality status and public health notifications for harmful algal blooms and beach conditions by visiting ProtectingFloridaTogether.gov. Protecting Florida Together is the state’s joint effort to provide statewide water quality information to prioritize environmental transparency and commitment to action.

What do I do if I see an algal bloom?

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection collects and analyzes algal bloom samples. To report a bloom to DEP, call the toll-free hotline at 855-305-3903 or report online.

To report fish kills, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute at 1-800-636-0511.

Report symptoms from exposure to a harmful algal bloom or any aquatic toxin to the Florida Poison Information Center, call 1-800-222-1222 to speak to a poison specialist immediately.

Contact your veterinarian if you believe your pet has become ill after consuming or having contact with blue-green algae contaminated water.

If you have other health questions or concerns about blue-green algae blooms, please call the Florida Department of Health in Seminole County Epidemiology Program at (407) 665-3000 option 1 and the Environmental Health Program at (407) 665-3604 for environmental questions.

You may also visit seminole.floridahealth.gov for more information.

Seminole DOH extends blue-green algae bloom alert for Lake Jesup

SANFORD – The Florida Department of Health in Seminole County has identified the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins in Lake Jesup. This is in response to a water sample taken on June 29, 2021. This extends the current health alert through July 29. The public should exercise caution in and around Lake Jesup where algal blooms are present.

Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:

  • Do not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski or boat in waters where there is a visible bloom.
  • Wash your skin and clothing with soap and water if you have contact with algae or discolored or smelly water.
  • Keep pets away from the area. Waters where there are algae blooms are not safe for animals. Pets and livestock should have a different source of water when algae blooms are present.
  • Do not cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms. Boiling the water will not eliminate the toxins.
  • Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe. Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts and cook fish well.
  • Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.

What is blue-green algae?

Blue-green algae are a type of bacteria that is common in Florida’s freshwater environments. A bloom occurs when rapid growth of algae leads to an accumulation of individual cells that discolor water and often produce floating mats that emit unpleasant odors.

Some environmental factors that contribute to blue-green algae blooms are sunny days, warm water temperatures, still water conditions and excess nutrients. Blooms can appear year-round but are more frequent in summer and fall. Many types of blue-green algae can produce toxins.

Is it harmful?

Blue-green algae blooms can impact human health and ecosystems, including fish and other aquatic animals.

For additional information on potential health effects of algal blooms, visit floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/aquatic-toxins.

Find current information about Florida’s water quality status and public health notifications for harmful algal blooms

Seminole County mulls strengthening natural land protections

Seminole County's Board of County Commissioners will begin discussions to strengthen protections of its natural lands, as Central Florida's governments, developers and citizens clash over building on environmentally sensitive areas.

The board plans to hold a July 13 work session on the matter, which will not result in a vote, Seminole County documents show.

The county's Natural Lands Program preserves roughly 6,629 acres from development, which is about 3% of the county's total land. The program, started in 1990, aims to "preserve and manage natural areas within Seminole County to enhance or promote bio-diversity, corridors, water resources, environmental education and passive resource based recreation for existing and future generations."

Past efforts to strengthen the program do not affect the board of commissioners' ability to dispose of these properties, according to Seminole County documents. Therefore, county commissioners will explore three options to beef up protections of these natural lands.

These new protections may make it harder for developers to build in certain parts of Seminole County, experts say. However, it would behoove commissioners to approach these discussions with a balanced approach to protect and respect the private property rights of landowners, said Lee Steinhauer, government affairs director and legal counsel for the Greater Orlando Builders Association and the Apartment Association of Greater Orlando. In addition, the county should ensure that it's not unduly restrictive of future development.

These considerations are important because charter amendments can be difficult to change after they're passed, Steinhauer said. "Some level of flexibility to account for unforeseen future circumstances and needs is important and should be considered as the commission explores the various options."

In general, Central Florida counties have been mulling ways to make it harder to develop environmentally sensitive lands.

Documentary: Florida’s freshwater springs are in jeopardy

The health and future of Florida’s natural freshwater springs may be in jeopardy, a new documentary suggests.

The two-part series, “The Fellowship of the Springs,” shines a light on the Sunshine State’s unique artesian springs, the threats to their livelihood and the efforts to save them. Both parts of the documentary will air 4-6 p.m. July 8 on WUCF in Central Florida.

Oscar Corral, the film’s director and producer, is based in Miami but fell in love with the springs when traveling with his family.

“I’m somewhat obsessed with Florida’s springs; I love them,” he said. “The springs are incredibly unique. There’s really no place on Earth that has springs like this that are this size, this pristine and under this concentration.

In the documentary, scenes show families and friends enjoying pristine blue waters at Rock Springs, Wekiwa Springs, Devil’s Den, Weeki Wachee Springs and Blue Spring.These “magic waters” are known as tourism destinations, as well as habitats for manatees, turtles and alligators. In addition, the Floridan Aquifer, the source of the springs, provides drinking water for a wide swath of Florida and parts of Georgia.

“We believe we have the largest concentration of artesian springs, these pressurized springs that come out of a confined aquifer, in the whole world,” said Dr. Robert Knight, director of the Florida Springs Institute. “In their natural state, they’re extremely productive aquatic systems because the water is clear and a constant temperature.”

These more than 1,000 recorded springs represent a unique habitat unseen in many parts of the world. But these beacons of tourism and sustenance in Florida are under threat.

EPA revokes use of phosphate waste products in road beds

Several environmental advocacy groups sued last year to overturn the waiver, which would have allowed the use of the slightly radioactive waste in road construction.

The Biden administration has withdrawn a previous approval of the use of phosphogypsum - the toxic byproduct of phosphate mining - in road beds.

This means the mountains of phosphate waste peppering Florida's landscape will remain.

The decision overturns a Trump-era move by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to allow use of the byproducts of fertilizer production. It was the first and only proposed alternative use of the slightly radioactive waste, now stored in two dozen mountainous "gypstacks" around the Tampa Bay region that can reach 50 stories high.

"The idea that we could possibly keep people and the environment safe from radioactive material, which then could become dispersed throughout the environment - as opposed to being kept in stacks - there's no foundation for that assumption," said Jaclyn Lopez with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Hers is one of the environmental advocacy groups that sued last year to overturn the waiver, which meant that it never went into effect. That lawsuit is now moot.

"Our preference would be that the industry stops making this radioactive waste," Lopez said, "and in the meantime we keep it in the stacks, so at least we know where it is, and we can keep the companies that create the waste financially responsible for them, and continue to better regulate this industry that seems to have a pretty poor track record of protecting the environment from its activities."

Industry advocates have said use in road beds would be one way to whittle down gypstacks, which have caused several environmental catastrophes in recent years. One, at Piney Point in Manatee County, allowed more than 200 million gallons of wastewater stored there to flow into Tampa Bay earlier this year.

Florida has one billion tons of radioactive phosphogypsum in two dozen stacks, including Piney Point. That nutrient-rich water has been blamed for algae blooms, and possibly exacerbating the affects of red tide.

The waiver had been requested by the Fertilizer Institute, which represents manufacturers and suppliers, including phosphate miners. But since only the miners construct gypstacks, the institute couldn't give the EPA enough information that the use in road base would be safe.

Here's an excerpt from the ruling:

Under Clean Air Act (CAA) regulations, EPA may approve a request for a specific use of phosphogypsum if it is determined that the proposed use is at least as protective of human health as placement in a stack. Upon review, EPA found that The Fertilizer Institute’s request did not provide all the information required for a complete request under these regulations. The EPA withdrew the approval for this reason. The decision was effective immediately, and phosphogypsum remains prohibited from use in road construction.

Video of June 23rd Blue-Green Algae Task Force meeting available

The State Blue-Green Algae Task Force met on June 23rd at the headquarters of the South Florida Water Management District in West Palm Beach.

Information at the meeting included a presentation on Innovative Technology from the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection and a presentation on Lake Okeechobee Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Monitoring and Management Strategies by the South Florida Water Management District.

For more information about the Blue-Green Algae Task Force, visit https://protectingfloridatogether.gov/state-action/blue-green-algae-task-force.

Dyes and isotopes track groundwater from sink to spring

The hydraulic connection between a sinkhole and a natural spring—the longest and largest yet documented—could help reduce the guesswork in mapping karst aquifers.

Beneath Florida’s cities and swamps lies a complex network of karst conduits. The same chemical weathering that carves truck-sized tunnels through the calcium carbonate rock also leads to sinkholes at the surface. For Florida insurance agents, sinkholes are a headache. But for the state’s hydrogeologists, every sinkhole is an opportunity to understand the aquifer below.

Sinkholes allow surface water, as well as contaminants, to flood into an aquifer. By mapping the network of entry points and exit springs, hydrogeologists can better understand the underground system and better protect drinking water at the source. That understanding is important to populations outside Florida: Karst aquifers provide drinking water for 25% of people on Earth.

Isotope analysis helps hydrogeologists trace water origins, but the technique’s use has generally been limited to sinkhole lakes and springs no more than 4 kilometers apart. Recently, however, a team in Florida used isotope ratios to connect points 32 kilometers apart. It’s the farthest hydraulic connection between a sinkhole and a spring yet documented and the first connection involving a first-magnitude spring (those discharging an average of 100 cubic feet—2.8 cubic meters—of water per second).

Report: Treasured but suffering, Florida springs get ‘miniscule’ attention

Florida’s care for its famous springs is so feeble that it will take centuries to restore these environmental treasures based on current efforts and assuming pollution from agriculture, septic tanks and other sources stops immediately.

That assessment from the Florida Springs Council, a coalition of more than a dozen groups defending springs and rivers, is based on an analysis of springs projects pursued by the state authorities.“Our analysis paints a bleak picture of the future of Florida’s most iconic springs,” states a Florida Springs Council report issued Wednesday.

The coalition echoes mounting frustrations among many springs and river groups that South Florida’s Everglades projects enjoy billions of dollars in state funding, while Central and North Florida’s spring systems—confirmed by authorities as polluted and declining in flows—receive minimal help.

“The state budget created and passed by the Florida Legislature each year, and signed into law by Florida’s Governor reflects the values of our elected leaders,” the report adds. “Clearly, our current elected leaders do not value the health of Florida’s springs or the communities that rely upon them.”

The report asserts that state agencies have woefully underfunded projects meant to restore spring water quality and quantity. But meanwhile, according to the Florida Springs Council, various authorities do far too little to regulate the springs’ pollution from agricultural, septic tanks, sewage systems and urban landscaping fertilizers.

Read the Report »

Blue-Green Algae Task Force meets for first time since November

FORT MYERS – The Blue-Green Algae Task Force met Thursday for the first time since November to discuss innovative technologies being used around the state to combat the toxic blooms.

State officials showed the scientist-led task force several blue-green algae fighting projects that have been launched around the state already, many through the Department of Environmental Protection grant funding.

Although green streaks lined the surface of the Caloosahatchee by the Franklin Lock Thursday, BGA Task Force member and Florida Gulf Coast University scientist Dr. Mike Parsons said the algae situation has been better in southwest Florida than they feared this year so far.

“Everybody’s trying to prepare though, so if and when we do get larger blooms, what are some of the treatments we can do?” Parsons said. “[The innovative technologies] won’t 100% get rid of it, but if you can knock it back a lot, that’ll be very helpful.”