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

Water-Related News

EPA allocates $1M to help USF study harmful algal blooms

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is sending $1 million to the University of South Florida to help study methods to control harmful algal blooms (HAB).

The USF study aims to look at “nutrient treatment technologies” to help manage those blooms inside Lake Okeechobee.

On Thursday, the EPA announced nearly $6.5 million in funding for seven different research institutions across the country to help study mitigation efforts.

“Harmful algal blooms are a serious and persistent problem across all 50 states that can have severe impacts on human health, the environment, and the economy,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a release on the grant funds.

Longboat Key estimates 11 million gallons spilled in June’s sewage break

The estimate is lower than what the town initially reported to the state.

It appears the town of Longboat Key’s June sewage break was not as large as initially expected.

Independent contractor Berkeley Research Group estimated the leak from June 17-30 was about 11 million gallons. BRG’s estimation is lower than the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s estimate of 17 million gallons spilled and lower still than the town’s initial estimate of 25.8 million gallons.

“Estimates of volume through irregular openings is not an exact science,” BRG engineer Donald Olmstead wrote in a five-page report to the town. “Therefore, the flows calculated herein should be considered as a reasonable estimate subject to modification based on unknown or additional information or materials not considered at the time of the estimate.”

A news release from Town Manager Tom Harmer’s office says BRG’s preliminary report is subject to internal and external peer review before it is finalized.

FWC funds grant to study airborne red tide toxins

DAVIE — Two University of Florida scientists are the recipients of a $200,000 grant from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. They will use that money over the next 10 months to develop the methodology leading to a device that detects and measures the amount of toxins in the air from red tides.

Red tide events are a type of harmful algal bloom (HABs) caused by the species Karenia brevis that produces poisons dubbed brevetoxins. These red tide occurrences are progressively impacting the health of humans, marine life, and other wildlife. Research also shows that the frequency of red tide occurrences imposes economic consequences on a variety of markets and industries.

When these brevetoxins begin to mix in the air in an aerosolized form, they cause a range of harmful health symptoms including breathing difficulties, chest pain, nausea, skin and eye irritation when they are present in or near the waters. These brevetoxins can kill fish, shellfish, and marine mammals as well.

Longboat Key receives permits for Canal 1A dredging

Permits in hand to dredge constricted waterway before larger project begins.

Longboat Key has plans to deepen where Canal 1A meets Sarasota Bay on the northern tip of the barrier island.

Sand from nearby beaches facing the Gulf of Mexico has filled the eastern spit of the Greer Island shoreline for years. Longboat Key town projects manager Charlie Mopps said the spit is blocking Canal 1A.

“Even since the time that I started with the town back in April of last year, it seems like it’s growing quicker,” Mopps said. “When I first got here, it wasn’t that bad, but then it just kind of accelerated the growth of the spit on the end of Greer Island, and so we have to do something.”

The town has permits in hand from both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to dredge 1,000 cubic yards at the canal's entrance just east of the Longboat Pass bridge, according to Mopps. A typical dump truck holds about 10-14 cubic yards.

More than 1 million gallons of partially treated sewage released into Manatee River

More than 1 million gallons of partially treated sewage was released into the Manatee River on Tuesday, the state reported.

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, filters at a water treatment plant at 1800 First St. W. became clogged at about 2 p.m. The system was bypassed for cleaning and normal operations resumed at about 6 p.m.

Roughly 1.1 million gallons of partially treated wastewater were released into the Manatee River, the state said. Water samples are being taken.

UCF Researchers Developing Models to Predict Storm Surges

In a study published recently in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, researchers developed models to predict extreme changes in sea level by linking storm surges to large-scale climate variability that is related to changes in atmospheric pressure and the sea surface temperature, such as El Niño.

El Niño is a periodic warming of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean between Asia and South America that can affect weather around the globe.

UF/IFAS wants to hear from those impacted by the red tide of 2017-2019

GAINESVILLE – University of Florida researchers want to hear from marine businesses impacted by the 2018 red tide event that occurred between October of 2017 and January of 2019.

Respondents will have until Sept. 25 to complete the appropriate online questionnaire.

“We will run the surveys statewide with an initial focus of our analyses in Southwest Florida and then a longer, more detailed look at statewide results,” said Christa Court, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of food and resource economics and Florida Sea Grant affiliate faculty member, who is working on the survey with Andrew Ropicki, another UF/IFAS assistant professor of food and resource economics and Florida Sea Grant marine economics specialist.

Called the “Assessment of the Impacts of Florida’s 2018 Red Tide Event,” the survey focuses on the state’s marine industries, Court said.

“Though our initial focus is on Southwest Florida, we recognize there could have been impacts to other regions of Florida, as recreational activity of both tourists and local residents moved to non-affected areas,” she said. “Media coverage and the simultaneous occurrence of a blue-green algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee also could have influenced opinions on which parts of the state were impacted.”

FDACS launches “Florida Wastewater Treatment Plant Energy Program”

Last week, state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) launched the Florida Wastewater Treatment Plant Energy Program, a $2 million grant program to upgrade publicly-owned wastewater treatment plants with energy-efficient technology.

This new grant initiative was developed by the FDACS Office of Energy based on the findings of their study entitled “Mapping the Energy Landscape of Water and Wastewater Treatment Plants in the State of Florida.”

This recently completed study provides a baseline on energy efficiency and renewable energy measures and practices at water and wastewater treatment plants in Florida, and recommendations on how to reduce energy use and operating costs. The study found that Florida’s wastewater treatment plants could save annually 26,763,827 kilowatt-hours of electricity and 6,354 tons of carbon dioxide through energy efficiency improvements.

Public feedback sought on beach renourishment in Manatee County

An architect of the beach renourishment project is looking for public feedback.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, is considering minor design enhancements to increase resiliency for it’s beach renourishment project, which began in July at 76th Street in Holmes Beach and will run through October and end at Longboat Pass.

A “supplemental environmental assessment” will consider public comment on a variety of design modifications, including dune construction, vegetation, sand fencing and pedestrian and vehicle access, adding to the renourishment project, according to an Aug. 24 release from the Corps.

Public comment is sought either by email at SAJ-Dune-Comments@usace.army.mil or by traditional mail to: Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, Attn: Ms. Angie Dunn, 701 San Marco Blvd., Jacksonville, FL 32207.

People can visit www.saj.usace.army.mil/ManateeShoreProtection to review the SEA. Comments must be received by Sept. 23.

For more information about Corps projects, visit www.saj.usace.army.mil.

Discarded gloves and masks pose a threat to Tampa Bay waterways

Litter is already an issue, but now people are tossing used gloves and masks on the ground, too.

TAMPA — Masks are required in schools and businesses across Tampa Bay to stop the spread of COVID-19. Some people go even further to protect themselves, donning plastic gloves to avoid touching anything that may be contaminated.

Now, what's being used as personal protection from the coronavirus is threatening the health of our environment in Tampa Bay. There's been an increase in personal protective equipment pollution, with used gloves and masks scattered in parking lots and dropped in the streets.

"Walking around, it doesn't take much time to see a discarded glove or mask," said Joe Whalen, Communication and Outreach at the Tampa Bay Estuary Program. Whalen says all of this PPE litter is detrimental to the health of Tampa's waterways.

"A lot of these pieces of equipment, depending on what they're made of may contain plastic and that contributes to a growing microplastics issue," said Whalen. Microplastics are already an issue in Tampa Bay. The harm is that microplastics have a negative effect on wildlife and native flora. Those negative effects can travel up the marine food web, in turn affecting humans.

Bradenton City Council joins horse debate

BRADENTON – The horseback riding operations along the Palma Sola Causeway on Manatee Avenue West are again under scrutiny, this time by Bradenton City Council members.

During an Aug. 19 emergency meeting, council members voted unanimously to have City Attorney Scott Rudacille look into what the city can do to help mitigate issues caused by the riding operations. Issues discussed include the damage to seagrass, which could potentially lead to erosion and cause damage to the roadway, pollution from animal excrement and safety hazards from having so many horses on the side of the road in an area where families come to relax on the beach.

The same issues were discussed the week before in a Palma Sola Scenic Highway Corridor Management Entity meeting when two Palma Sola Bay residents, Robert Lombardo and Clif Gaus spoke. The two also appeared at the Bradenton City Council meeting.

Manatee County opens Canopy Zone at Robinson Preserve

MANATEE COUNTY – An exciting new Canopy Zone feature is now open at Manatee County’s Robinson Preserve, allowing visitors to experience nature from a fresh perspective while exploring amidst the treetops.

Situated at the edge of the historic Reasoner Tract at Robinson Preserve South, the Canopy Zone is nestled among century-old botanical giants that once formed the test plot for Royal Palm Nurseries. Follow the boardwalk as it extends past the Mosaic Center for Nature, Exploration, Science and Technology (the NEST) and find yourself climbing among the limbs and leaves

The project was designed by Stantec Engineering and built by Tandem Construction, taking inspiration from the natural elements surrounding it. Thanks to careful planning, the Canopy Zone was built amongst the existing trees, allowing for a densely shaded environment and a cool experience to combat the summer heat. The boardwalk features LED lighting allowing it to be used for staff-guided evening programs for the public and permitted special events.

Longboat Key expects to face penalties following sewage spill

LONGBOAT KEY – Following one month of water sample testing from a third-party consultant, Longboat Key officials were pleased to learn major sewage had little impact on the short-term health of Sarasota Bay.

Following several tests between July 1 and July 30, independent contractor Environmental Science Associates or ESA concluded “there was no evidence of even a short term impact of the sewage leak on bacteria levels in Sarasota Bay.”

“We think it is good news,” said Longboat Key Town Manager Tom Harmer. “Obviously an unfortunate incident that occurred, but the test results indicate that there really was no impact to the bay.”

Following the June spill, the town faced sharp criticism in its response to the mainline break. One of the big questions surrounded the two-week gap between when officials believe the spill started and when the town alerted state officials and local residents of the pipe break.

Consultant: No bacterial impact from LBK sewage spill

Longboat Key’s consultant says it found “no evidence of even a short-term impact of the sewage leak on bacteria levels in Sarasota Bay.”

The spill from Longboat Key’s wastewater pipeline began June 17 on the mainland and continued until June 30, when crews cleared a path through a mangrove forest on undeveloped land at Long Bar Pointe to make repairs. First estimates were that 26-million gallons of raw sewage spilled near the shore, but in August the estimate was revised down to 17-million gallons.

Longboat Key hired Environmental Science Associates to analyze the impact.

In a final report released Aug. 21 on bacterial levels in the bay, ESA said water sampling July 1-30 showed:

Enterococci bacterial levels were never above the relevant regulatory threshold.

Levels of fecal coliform bacteria in the waters nearest the leak exceed regulatory limits on two sampling dates but not the first three dates.

“Sophisticated genetic analyses” did not find evidence human waste was the source of the bacteria nearest the leak.

The town said “forensic evaluations into the cause and extent of the force main leak are ongoing.”

The town provided ESA’s findings to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which as of Aug. 21 had not announced any penalties or ordered mitigation for the spill.

Meanwhile, environmental groups continue to monitor the spill and scrutinize the investigation, as well as warn about water quality in the region.