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Water-Related News

A Piney Point settlement is reached between the state and environmental groups

They filed the federal lawsuit after around 215 million gallons of wastewater was discharged into Tampa Bay in 2021. It said the discharges caused harmful algae blooms and fish kills.

Environmental groups and the state have reached a settlement to end a federal lawsuit over management of a former phosphate plant site that leaked millions of gallons of wastewater into Tampa Bay in 2021.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Tampa Bay Waterkeeper, Suncoast Waterkeeper, Manasota-88 and Our Children’s Earth Foundation and the state Department of Environmental Protection filed a joint notice of settlement Monday involving the Piney Point site in Manatee County.

The environmental groups said in an announcement that the settlement includes the Department of Environmental Protection drafting a Clean Water Act permit “that will require more robust oversight of pollution from the Piney Point phosphate facility.” Also, the state will pay $75,000 for the Tampa Bay Estuary Program to monitor water quality in the area where Piney Point’s discharges enters Tampa Bay.

The lawsuit, filed by the groups in May 2021 in the federal Middle District of Florida, alleged the Department of Environmental Protection and other defendants long mishandled the site.

State of Florida updates stormwater regulations

Governor Ron DeSantis signs updates to Florida stormwater regulations.

Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis signed SB7040 which updates environmental statutes with a number of standards recommended by the Department of Environmental protection.

The signed legislation lays out regulations that developers must comply with. Applicants seeking permits from the state must provide information through designs and plans that meet performance standards as well as meet other requirements under the revised rules.

Applicants must also demonstrate compliance with the rule’s performance standards by providing reasonable assurance through modeling, calculations, and supporting documentation that satisfy the provisions of the revised rules.5

According to an article, the legislation sets new minimum standards for stormwater treatment systems. It requires that they achieve at least an 80% reduction of the average annual post-development total suspended solids load, or a 95% reduction if the proposed project is located within an area with a watershed that contains Outstanding Florida Waters (OWF) or one located upstream.

The bill also clarifies provisions relating to grandfathered projects, or projects that have started before the bill was signed.

The bill also states that entities implementing stormwater best management practices also regulated under different provisions of the law are not subject to duplicate inspections for the same practices, and allows alternative treatment standards for redevelopment projects in areas with impaired waters.

These updated regulations come weeks after DeSantis singed the state budget that cut about $205 million in stormwater, wastewater and sewer projects.

Manatee County funds natural resources and stormwater projects

Manatee County logo

MANATEE COUNTY – The Manatee Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) is continuing their funding of important initiatives across the county, including transportation, natural resources, parks and recreation.

$15,602,024 was appropriated to fund the Emerson Point Land Expansion acquisition project as approved by the BOCC on May 28. An additional $6,668 will go toward funding a new Ranger at Emerson Point. The board also approved $696,500 in funding for improvements at the newly acquired Crooked River Ranch Preserve.

Manatee County has been awarded a grant through the Tampa Bay Environmental Restoration Fund (TBERF) for the Lake Manatee Watershed Improvement Project on Duette Preserve in the amount of $172,709. This will go to match County funds in projects along the north fork of the Manatee River.

Public Works will use $173,500 from reserves in the Stormwater Management fund to engineer a Real-Time Flood Forecasting (RTFF) and Early Warning System for the coastal fringe areas of Manatee County.

For up-to-date information about Manatee County Government, visit mymanatee.org or call (941) 748-4501. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @ManateeGov.

Lake Manatee algal blooms may affect taste, color of drinking water but it is safe

Manatee County logo

MANATEE COUNTY – Customers of Manatee County Utilities may notice a temporary and non-harmful change in their water taste or odor. Algae blooms are regular seasonal occurrences in Lake Manatee but vary in frequency and duration. Current conditions favor a bloom, and tests conducted over the past several days indicate the presence of algae at elevated concentrations in Lake Manatee. This can create an earthy and/or musty taste or odor in the treated drinking water. While the odor or taste may be noticeable, the water remains safe to drink.

“We will continue monitoring and conducting treatment efforts until water quality returns to normal,” said Manatee County Utilities Deputy Director Katie Gilmore. “It is our hope that by informing the public of this algal bloom, we can alleviate any concerns that may arise should a customer experience taste or odor issues in their drinking water.” Since the detection of these compounds in Lake Manatee, the County has implemented¬†a treatment process that involves the addition of powdered-activated carbon. This process is very effective in the removal of taste and odor-causing compounds. However, when the levels reach quantities that exceed the limit of the systems' removal capability, customers may notice a slight earthy/musty taste to their water.

The water remains entirely safe for consumption. If desired, customers can utilize a carbon filter hooked up to the faucet to the water system of the refrigerator or a filter pitcher designed for taste and odor removal to help minimize the off-taste and/or odor.

Additional information or answers to frequently asked questions about this or other water quality issues can be found at this link.

SBEP: Historic rainfall deals Sarasota Bay water quality a setback

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June 20, 2024 – Director's Note from Dave Tomasko

Yesterday, I sent out a Director’s Note about the good news we are seeing, in terms of the bay’s recovery. It is true that our bay’s water quality has improved over the past few years, and that we are likely to see a substantial increase in seagrass coverage when our 2024 maps come out sometime early next year. That is not by chance, it is the result of spending over $300 million on wastewater upgrades and regional stormwater retrofits.

But it’s also true that our watershed holds more people per square mile than Biscayne Bay, and that when we get hit by rainfall amounts like what we received last week, the bay’s response is not going to be good. Below are two photos supplied to me by Rusty Chinnis. On the left is what it looked like at the 10th Street Boat Ramp, in downtown Sarasota, during that rain event. Notice the water pouring over the sidewalks, overwhelming the stormwater collection system. The photo on the right is a close-up of what that urban stormwater runoff looked like. Note the gray, gritty look to the water mass – this is what a big storm will bring.

Over the last few days, I have received comments from many fishing guides – including Rusty Chinnis, Captain Scott Moore, and my neighbor Kyle Eldridge, about bad-smelling and foul-looking water, and also fish kills. Yesterday, Dr. Abbey Tyrna from Suncoast Waterkeepers went out on the bay and found fish kills across the northern mainland shoreline of Sarasota Bay, with the worst conditions centered around the area of New College and the Crossley Estate. It might not help that a large area of uplands had recently been cleared just inshore from New College’s shoreline with the bay – creating a large area of newly exposed and non-stabilized sediment right next to the bay. But that’s not the only active construction site along our shoreline, at all. Abbey found low levels of dissolved oxygen in the water, which is the most likely cause of the dead fish noted across the upper bay - Suncoast WaterKeepers collecting data in Sarasota Bay following fish kill (msn.com).