An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Pollution from Florida’s phosphate mining industry a concern with Hurricane Ian

ST. PETERSBURG (Sept. 28, 2022) – The polluted leftovers of Florida’s phosphate fertilizer mining industry, more than 1 billion tons in "stacks" that resemble enormous ponds, are at risk for leaks or other contamination when Hurricane Ian comes ashore in the state, environmental groups say.

Florida has 24 such phosphogypsum stacks, most of them concentrated in mining areas in the central part of the state. About 30 million tons of this slightly radioactive waste is generated every year, according to the Florida Industrial and Phosphate Research Institute.

Florida DOH to private well owners in flood areas: Use caution, get wells tested immediately

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ORLANDO – The Florida Department of Health in Orange County reminds residents with private well water, if your well is affected by ?ood waters, there may be disease-causing organisms in your water making it unsafe to drink.

Learn about testing your well water by visiting: https://www.floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/private-well-testing/index.html

Find Out if your Water is Safe
Have it tested by a certified laboratory for coliform bacteria by visiting: https://floridadep.gov/DEAR/Florida-DEP-laboratory/content/nelap-certified-laboratory-search

While waiting to get your well tested, the Florida Department of Health recommends you do ONE of the following:

  1. Boil tap water and hold it at a rolling boil for at least one minute. Let it cool completely before using to avoid burns.
  2. Disinfect tap water by adding eight drops of plain, unscented household bleach (4-6% strength), per gallon of water. If a higher strength bleach is used (8.25% strength), only add seven drops of bleach. Mix the solution and let it stand for 30 minutes. If the water is cloudy after 30 minutes, repeat the procedure one more time. If still cloudy after the second treatment, dispose of water and start the process over again, OR use bottled water.

    Always store water in a clean, closed containers.
     
  3. Use commercially available bottled water, especially for mixing baby formula.

Boil water advisory lifted for Longboat Key

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The boil water advisory is rescinded for Longboat Key as the required water testing for Longboat Key and Manatee County were satisfactory. You no longer need to use boiled or bottled water for cooking and drinking water.

Debris collection is planned to begin on Wednesday, October 5. Debris placed in the right of way does not have to be bundled or bagged. Please make sure to separate vegetative debris from construction debris.

A Comfort Station for residents who need power to charge phones, and devices, and wi-fi for business or checking in with family is set up at All Angels Episcopal Church, 563 Bay Isles Road. The Comfort Station is open from 9am – 4pm 7 days per week. For information on the Comfort Station call 941-383-8161.

Details on Hurricane Ian Recovery efforts visit the Town’s website at www.longboatkey.org or our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Thank you for your patience during our recovery efforts.

Manatee County well-water advisory

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MANATEE COUNTY (October 4, 2022) – As Manatee County residents continue to clean-up after Ian, some are having to be extra careful when it comes to their drinking water supply—especially if that water is supplied through a well.

Flooded wells have the potential to be contaminated with bacteria. Surface waters are susceptible to many sources of contamination. During a storm surge or flood, sewage runoff and overflow from lakes, rivers and streams may be carrying bacteria such as E. coli and cholera, protozoa such as Giardia and viruses such as hepatitis. If surface water enters your well head, it may contaminate the well water that you rely on for drinking, cooking, washing and bathing.

If the well was flooded (meaning that the storm water went over the well head), residents should boil that water as a precaution until they can have it tested to assure that it is free of bacteria. The well water should be brought to a rolling boil for at least one minute. Aerating the water by pouring it several times from one container to another will help to dispel the flat taste of boiled water. And be sure to cool the water before using it on skin.

The Florida Department of Health in Manatee County (DOH-Manatee) is providing sterile bottles to residents so they can collect a well water sample and return to DOH-Manatee for testing at labs. Anyone who should have their well water tested can pick up a sterile bottle and instructions for collecting a sample of well water from the Myakka Community Center, located at 11060 Wauchula Road in Myakka City.

Samples should be collected and dropped off at the Myakka Community Center before 2 p.m. Monday thru Thursday. DOH-Manatee will collect the samples from the Center and send to labs. Results will be shared with residents by phone within 48 hours of DOH-Manatee sending the samples to the labs.

More information about well water testing can be found on the DOH Website or by calling DOH-Manatee at (941) 748-0747.

For more information on Manatee County Government, visit mymanatee.org or call (941) 748-4501. For information specific to the County's Hurricane Ian recovery efforts, go to mymanatee.org/manateerecovers. And follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @manateegov

Manatee County Utilities update – Oct. 2nd.

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MANATEE COUNTY (October 2, 2022) – Manatee County Utilities workers continue to make progress in their efforts to return the water and sewer services to normal, following the impact of Hurricane Ian.

As of Sunday afternoon, boil water advisories for residents of the island communities of Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach, and Holmes Beach, whose potable water service was interrupted during the storm, have been rescinded. Longboat Key does its own water testing, and residents of that community will need to check with city leaders for the latest results of their testing.

Boil water notifications for mobile home residents in the county who had service interruptions due to Ian are similarly able to use water for drinking or cooking with no issues, except for the following communities: Terra Ceia Village, Leisure Lake Co-Op and Sugar Creek Mobile Home Park Estates. Their water is being retested, and residents will receive rescission notices as soon as tests indicate.

Also, with the further restoration of grid power to lift stations across the county and the strategic deployment of generators to those stations that remained offline, Manatee County Utilities wastewater customers can confidently use their drains for flushing, showering and laundry needs.

“Our dedicated Utilities crews have worked tirelessly to support our citizens,” said Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes. “Their efforts are paying off.”

Manatee County Utilities also oversees operations at the County landfill, where residents have been bringing storm debris all weekend during special extended hours as they initiate their own post-Ian clean-up. Starting Monday—and running all week—the landfill will further extend operating hours from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Beginning Monday, Manatee County solid waste collections will begin again—with one significant change. Recycling collections will be suspended until further notice. This is to allow drivers to concentrate on trash and debris collection. However, there will be recycling collection sites available for residents at the following locations:

  • GT Bray Park, 5502 33rd Ave. Dr. W., Bradenton
  • Braden River Park, 5201 51st. St. E., Bradenton
  • Blackstone Park, 2112 14th Ave. W., Palmetto
  • Lakewood Ranch Park, 5350 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., Bradenton
  • Buffalo Creek Park 7550 69th St. E., Palmetto
  • Bayfront Park, 310 North Bay Blvd., Anna Maria
  • Manatee Public Beach, 4000 Gulf Dr., Holmes Beach
  • Coquina Beach, 2650 Gulf Drive S., Bradenton Beach
  • Bennett Park, 400 Cyprus Creek Blvd., Bradenton
  • Palma Sola Park, 7915 40th Ave W., Bradenton

These are self-service 24/7 locations for disposal of recyclable materials only. All cardboard must be clean, broken down or flattened to be recycled.

Debris can be prepared as yard waste and placed outside for collection on Wednesdays. Unprepared debris will be collected by contracted haulers on passes through the county—which will be scheduled soon. Those schedules will be abundantly communicated as soon as they are confirmed.

For more information about Manatee County's Hurricane Ian recovery efforts, go to mymanatee.org/manateerecovers or call (941) 748-4501. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @manateegov.

Manatee County reopens after Ian

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MANATEE COUNTY (Oct. 2, 2022) – After a week of storm preparations, storm waiting, storm watching and storm clean-up, Manatee County Government is poised to re-open Monday, October 3.

It will not be a complete reopening though, as some resources are still being repaired after being damaged by Hurricane Ian.

All Manatee County Public Library locations, except Downtown Central, will open tomorrow from 9 AM to 5 PM. All programs will proceed as scheduled tomorrow. Downtown Central Library—which had water intrusion and significant power interruption—will be closed for needed repairs and clean-up Monday.

Facilities at John Marble Park will not be accessible due to power issues and the American Red Cross establishing a temporary housing facility in the gym.

The following Manatee County Parks will not be open Monday:

  • Buffalo Creek Park playground
  • Palma Sola Park
  • Braden River Park
  • Coquina Beach South (Gulf-side)
  • Bunker Hill Community Park
  • Conservatory Park
  • Bennett Park

The following Parks will be closed until further notice:

  • Myakka Park
  • Crane Park
  • Holmes Beach Tennis Courts

Robinson and Emmerson Preserves will be open (but some trails may be closed). Duette and Rye Preserves will remain closed until further notice.

Manatee County Schools remain closed Monday, October 3.

Do you know the main hazards caused by hurricanes and tropical weather?

As a potential hurricane looms for Southwest Florida and other places in Florida, the National Weather Service has determined that there are six main hazards caused by tropical weather systems.

According to the NWS: While hurricanes pose the greatest threat to life and property, tropical storms and depression also can be devastating.

The primary hazards from tropical cyclones (which include tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes) are:

  1. Storm surge
  2. Flooding
  3. Winds
  4. Tornadoes
  5. Waves

Researchers will study how to best support Florida mangrove and coral reef ecosystems

At a time when developers are cutting down mangroves and building in such a way that's harming coral reefs, scientists will work with community members on solutions and policy changes.

A team of researchers led by the University of South Florida is getting $20 million from the National Science Foundation to develop solutions to protect and replenish coral reef and mangrove ecosystems.

Coral reefs and mangroves safeguard our coasts by reducing flooding, erosion and wave intensity during storms. They also provide habitat for marine life.

Mangroves serve as fish nurseries, and coral reefs help fish hideout, as well. So, in terms of the benefit to biodiversity, these are two really important ecosystems.

But mangroves are removed for development and coral reefs are threatened by pollution and rising temperatures.

Now, USF is collaborating with University of Miami, Boston University, Stanford University, University of California Santa Cruz, University of Virgin Islands and East Carolina University to combine natural features with artificial infrastructure to help these ecosystems thrive.

The scientists will look into hybrid models for coral reef and mangrove restoration, such as using concrete or cement to assist in mangrove planting so that they are protected and able to grow.

“If they're degraded systems or systems that have been destroyed in the past, are there ways in which one can restore those areas?” asked lead scientist Maya Trotz, a professor at USF’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

“What would it cost? Who needs to be at the table to make sure that that intervention is protected and at work? How would you design those interventions so that local communities really have a say in what the design look like?”

She said over the next five years, her team will focus on Biscayne Bay in Miami because they want input from diverse community members.

"The idea of working closer with communities and collecting new information: Are there additional things that we should be considering when we start to talk about equity?" Trotz said.

They’ll also spend time analyzing the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef Complex in Belize and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Workshops and meetings are planned in each location every year for residents to share their experiences and to add their input into conversations identifying solutions.

Although the research will be based out of South Florida and the Caribbean Sea, Trotz said the findings will translate to Florida's Gulf Coast and beyond.

“In Tampa Bay, we have mangroves, we have concerns about sea level rise, we have concerns about flooding and the risks to our properties,” Trotz said. “The lessons learned should be able to apply to any reef-lined or … mangrove-lined coastal system.”

Trotz so far has a team of about 20 but she’s currently hiring to double that number. The project is expected be completed by the end of August 2027.

“I hope that from this study, we have a better way to build research and action within communities to address issues related to protecting their coasts, that integrate nature-based solutions in a more holistic way than is probably done right now,” Trotz said.

“At a time when we're also seeing a lot of developments and a lot of development that is pretty much cutting these mangroves down, and that are building in such a way that they're harming coral reefs … it's sort of like, how do you amplify that importance to developers, and the persons who are part of that development before it's too late when we still do have some of these ecosystems in existence?”

The Little Manatee River is a step closer to receiving a federal ‘scenic’ designation

The designation would help preserve and protect the river from intrusive development, from its source in southern Hillsborough County to its mouth where it enters Tampa Bay.

The Little Manatee River is a step closer to being added to the National Park Service's Wild and Scenic River System.

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation sponsored by Congressman Vern Buchanan that would designate the 51-mile river as scenic. Now, the Senate must approve the measure.

The designation would help preserve and protect the river from intrusive development, from its source in southern Hillsborough County to its mouth where it enters Tampa Bay. Recreational activities, such as canoeing, kayaking, boating and fishing would still be permitted.

“Protecting Florida’s beautiful lands and pristine waterways is one of my top priorities,” Buchanan said in a release. “Designating the Little Manatee River as ‘scenic’ will ensure that it is kept in its current, pristine condition for future generations to enjoy."

If the river receives the scenic designation, the National Park Service would develop a management plan that includes ways to preserve the existing natural environment.

Only two other rivers in Florida are recognized under the federal program: The Loxahatchee River near Jupiter and the Wekiva River north of Orlando.

“From canoeing and fishing for bass or panfish upriver to skiing and fishing for various saltwater species downriver, this natural treasure has much to offer in terms of recreation and scenic beauty," Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White said in a release. "I have spent a lifetime enjoying all that this river has to offer and my hope is to see it preserved for many more generations of Hillsborough County residents to enjoy."

Longboat plans flooding projects with final ARPA funding

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The final $1.8 million given to the town will go toward floodwater projects in Buttonwood and Sleepy Lagoon neighborhoods.

Longboat Key received the second half of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds Aug. 15, which the Town Commission officially adopted into the town’s budget last week.

ARPA was signed into law March 11, 2021, providing $350 billion to state and local governments. The town was awarded $3,654,228 and received the first half of the funds in September 2021.

The town is only allowed to use the funding on eligible projects, which fall into four categories.

  1. Government services to the extent of lost public sector revenue
  2. Public health and negative economic impacts
  3. Premium pay for essential workers
  4. Improvements in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure

Based on guidance from town auditors, the commission amended the ARPA Special Revenue Fund in March, transferring the first half to the general fund. The second half of the relief funds go directly into the general fund, increasing the unappropriated fund balance by over $3.6 million.

At a recent commission meeting, Town Manager Tom Harmer reminded the six commissioners present about the funding and how they previously decided to allocate it.

During the November 2021 commission retreat, commissioners opted to use funding to aid in improving two long-term issues: the underwater sewer line from the island to the mainland, along with sea level rise and stormwater management control projects.

“Now that we have received this final payment, it is placed based on what commission direction previously was,” Harmer said.

For the sewer line project, the first half of the funding was moved into the wastewater capital fund to cover the project.

Last week's commission approval moved the remaining ARPA funding to the streets fund for stormwater management control projects, which include the sea level rise study, Buttonwood Harbor neighborhood and Sleepy Lagoon neighborhood studies.

SBEP Ecosystem Health Report Card shows improved water quality

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According to the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program (SBEP) Sarasota Bay Ecosystem Health Report Card, Sarasota County's water quality has been improving since 2018. The report card tracks a combination of four chemical and biological indicators of water quality and ecosystem health. Each indicator gives us a different perspective about the extent to which high nutrient levels might be affecting area bays.

The annual SBEP report card was highlighted during the Sept. 13 Sarasota County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) under Commissioner Moran's reports, stating "in some cases, our water quality is the best its been in 15 years." Commissioner Moran represents the BCC on the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program Board.

The SBEP report card highlights continued improved water quality and health in Big Sarasota Bay, Roberts Bay, Little Sarasota Bay and Blackburn Bay.

Visit the link below for more information and to view the report card.

9M gallons of wastewater bypassed into Manatee River; city says improvements are in the works

BRADENTON – A public notice of pollution was released by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection this week after nine million gallons of partially-treated wastewater had to be bypassed into the Manatee River. The city said excess amounts of rain overloaded its wastewater treatment plant and left them with no choice. The bypass took place during a ten-hour period beginning Monday night and ending Tuesday morning.

“The water was partially-treated. It goes through three levels of treatment, but the water that went through this week river had been treated twice,” said the city’s communications coordinate Jeannie Roberts.

The bypass came as no surprise to Suncoast Waterkeeper Founder Justin Bloom.

“It is 9 million gallons. That is a lot of partially-treated sewage. I think they do some chlorination to reduce some of the pollutants, but that is a significant impact on the Manatee River. This is what has been happening for the last several summers because their sewage system really needs a lot of attention. That is why we brought a lawsuit last year which we settled quickly with the city because they acknowledge that they need to make some significant investments in their infrastructure and that is what they are doing,” said Bloom.

City officials say the lawsuit helped accelerate improvement projects they already had planned. The city has begun the roughly $20 million process of re-lining the sanitary sewer pipes and manhole pipes city-wide. With the upgrade, the city says there wont be as much ‘seepage’ into the pipes during a heavy rain event, therefore making it less likely that the plant will be overwhelmed.

Florida scientists will study how homeowners affect the water quality of stormwater ponds

When residents purchase "waterfront properties," many don't realize the function of their nearby stormwater ponds and actually cause them harm by removing plants and mowing the grass too close to the edge.

Florida researchers are tasked with identifying the benefits of stormwater ponds, and how homeowners are interacting with them.

A team of scientists with the University of Florida have been granted $1.6 million from the National Science Foundation to study stormwater ponds and the people living around them for the next four years or so across the state. They’ll document environmental, social and economic benefits, collectively called ecosystem services.

“We want to have an ecosystem in there that can function and … reduce that nitrogen and phosphorus from heading out into these natural bodies of water,” Michelle Atkinson, an extension agent in Manatee County for the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, said. “Are aesthetic preferences impacting those environmental functions? That's what we don't know for sure. We have suspicions. We have our hypothesis, but we want to prove it.”

According to the UF press release, the researchers will conduct field work, focus groups, surveys and data collection both at the state level and in two communities in Manatee and St. Lucie counties that have a large number of stormwater ponds and where algae blooms have been a recent problem. The results could apply to other parts of the country.

Atkinson said she wants people to view these ponds as amenities and put some value to them.

“That’s what we're going to try to do is quantify some of those ecosystem services that our ponds do. By adding plants or managing a different way, can we put a value on those services, something that homeowners will feel important enough to want to protect? And say, ‘yes, let's do this in our community, because it's the right thing to do.’”

She said she hopes management changes come as a result of this study — whether it's voluntary from homeowners, or enforced by government.

Report: Sea level rise will affect the property lines of Florida’s coastal counties

Rising seas will shift tidal boundaries, leading to the loss of taxable properties, according to a new study. This is expected to impact the tax base of hundreds of U.S. coastal counties, with Florida being the state most affected.

A new analysis released Thursday highlights how sea level rise will change private property boundaries along coastal areas.

Using the latest climate models and current emissions data, researchers with Climate Central, a nonprofit news organization that analyzes and reports on climate science, have determined that private property owners across the U.S. will lose an area the size of New Jersey by the year 2050.

“By mid-century, more than 648,000 individual tax parcels, totaling as many as 4.4 million acres, are projected to be at least partly below the relevant tidal boundary level,” according to the report. “Of those, more than 48,000 properties may be entirely below the relevant boundary level. Florida, Louisiana, and Texas have the largest number of affected parcels.”

Don Bain, an engineer and senior advisor for Climate Central, said Florida has the most properties that will be impacted — more than 140,000 by 2050.

His team generated more than 250 individual county reports to identify any potential movements of public-private property boundaries. He said the losses will result in less property tax revenue.

Click here to find analysis results in your county

Study shows fertilizer ordinances improve water quality (but timing matters)

GAINESVILLE – A new University of Florida study has found that local residential fertilizer ordinances help improve water quality in nearby lakes, but the timing of fertilizer restrictions influences how effective they are.

Using 30 years of water quality data gathered by the UF/IFAS LAKEWATCH program from 1987 to 2018, scientists found that lakes in areas with winter fertilizer bans had the most improvement over time in levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, the main nutrients found in fertilizers.

These lakes also showed larger increases in water clarity and decreases in chlorophyll since the implementation of fertilizer bans. These measurements can also indicate lower nutrient levels, as excess nutrients can feed algae blooms that lead to turbid waters with higher levels of chlorophyll.

“To date, this is the most comprehensive study of fertilizer ordinances’ impact on water quality, not just in Florida but also nationally, and it would not have been possible without the efforts of our LAKEWATCH community scientists,” said Sam Smidt, an assistant professor in the UF/IFAS department of soil, water and ecosystem sciences and the senior author of the study.

TBRPC awards $90,000 in Stormwater Outreach and Education Grants

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Congratulations to the 2023 Stormwater Outreach and Education Funding Recipients!

The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) have selected the recipients of the FY2023 Stormwater Outreach and Education funding. This funding from FDOT aims to further public involvement, education, and outreach efforts to improve the quality of stormwater runoff in the Tampa Bay Region. Projects develop and implement creative public outreach programs and a variety of educational materials, such as door hangers, stormdrain murals, and hands-on activities for children.

This year, funds were distributed across 14 projects, totaling $90,000. Awardees included City of Dunedin, City of Madeira Beach, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, MOSI, Pasco County, Tampa Bay Waterkeeper, and others. Many projects were tailored to this year’s target audiences: 1) frontline communities; 2) construction and development industry; 3) lawn care and landscaping companies; and 4) tourism and hospitality. Notable projects include hospitality educational programs through both Keep Pinellas Beautiful and Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, expansion of the City of Largo’s rain barrel program, development of an augmented reality filter for social media by the City of Clearwater, and the creation and distribution of educational materials for Tampa Bay businesses by Tampa Bay Waterkeeper.

See the full list of FY2023 funding recipients.

Visit the Stormwater Outreach & Education Funding page to learn more.