Water-Related News

Governor Appoints Schleicher and Smith to the SWFWMD’s Governing Board

Governor Rick Scott appointed Joel Schleicher and Rebecca Smith to the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board. Schleicher represents Charlotte and Sarasota Counties and Smith represents Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties.

Schleicher, 65, of Sarasota, is the founder and executive chairman of Focal Point Data Risk, LLC. Schleicher received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota. He is appointed for a term beginning May 12, 2017, and ending March 1, 2019.

Smith, 57, of Tampa, is the president and chief executive officer for the A.D. Morgan Corporation. Smith received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Florida. She is appointed for a term beginning May 12, 2017, and ending March 1, 2021.

Governing Board members are unpaid, citizen volunteers who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Florida Senate. The Governing Board sets policy for the District, whose mission is to manage the water and related resources of west central Florida to meet the needs of current and future water users while protecting the environment.

Haines City commission to deal with restoration of lakes, budget

HAINES CITY — Restoring lakes will be the topic of conversation at tonight’s City Commission meeting.

The City Commission is expected to say yea or nay to a restoration feasibility study that could combine Lake Henry and Lake Eva. “Lake Henry has some flooding issues, but the water quality is substantially better than at Lake Eva,” Public Works Director Addie Javed said. “With trying to connect the two, we want to have some sort of rainwater treatment before it flows into Lake Eva.”

The item is part of the city’s Lakes Management Initiative. Lake Eva is on the state’s list of impaired water bodies.

If the commission elects to go forward with the project, it can vote on whether to contract with national firm Brown and Caldwell, which has offices in Tampa and Maitland. The study is the project’s first phase. The second would be forming a way for the two lakes to flow together.

The study’s cost would be $538,000, but about $250,000 of that would be funded by the Southwest Florida Water Management District. The study is expected to be completed next summer.

Nature is Smith’s passion, lakes are her beat

LAKELAND — Laurie Ann Smith said she was the kid bolting out the back door and disappearing into the woods for the day.

In the summers in her hometown of Guilford, Conn., “a typical New England town,” there was swimming in the nearby lake, in the winters, skiing, and there was always the special spot just to exist and listen to the wind in the trees, or the skittering of animals in the woods.

“There was a certain rock in the woods I liked to go up to and sit. As a kid, 8 or 9 years old, just being out in nature — I loved that,” Smith said.

“I was one of those kids that came back with a pocket full of snakes and frogs,” she said.

Now Smith, 53, is the manager of Lakeland’s Lakes and Stormwater Division, a group responsible for blunting the effects of gravity and urban pollution on water, the topographical treadmill that ends up in Lakeland’s namesake geographic features.

Frostproof plans to shave 11 years off sewer debt

FROSTPROOF — City residents moved 11 years closer to relief from some of the highest sewer rates in Polk County and several months closer to a new city manager.

The City Council on Monday unanimously agreed to pursue refinancing its municipal sewer system debt through a 15-year bank loan that would refinance an existing $1.1 million debt not scheduled to be paid off until 2043.

It also agreed to a plan to search for a new city manager to succeed Tenny Croley, who informed the council earlier this month she intends to retire July 5.

But Mayor Rodney Cannon announced at Monday’s council meeting that Croley had agreed to delay her retirement for a while if the council gets close to selecting her replacement.

Cannon also told the council he spoke last week to Amy Arrington, who was fired last month as Davenport city manager, about becoming Frostproof interim city manager if necessary. Arrington said she would serve in the interim post but was not interested in the permanent job.

Polk County officials: Drought may lead to water restrictions

BARTOW — Polk County officials on Monday urged residents in Southwest Polk County to stick to watering their lawns no more than twice a week after its 3,400 customers used twice as much reclaimed water last week in the drought-stricken area as the previous one.

“If we don’t get rain and don’t get compliance voluntarily, we may have to go to mandatory one-day-per-week watering,” County Manager Jim Freeman said during an agenda study.

Marjorie Craig, director of Polk County Utilities, said she and others can’t remember a time in the Southwest area where the county has been required to issue a warning.

“We’re trying to get rid of this water normally,” Craig said. “But we’re asking customers to please stick to their days so we can catch up on our shortage.”

The reclaimed water area is west of U.S. 98 to County Line Road, and south of County Road 540A. Subdivisions affected include Christina, Hallam Preserve and ImperiaLakes.

Red Tide linked to pelican deaths, but St. Petersburg still denies any link to sewage dumps

Earlier this spring, a city-funded study concluded that dozens of pelicans found dead in January had been exposed to botulism while feasting on tilapia carcasses.

But the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said recently that a toxin from Red Tide was found in some of the birds and may have contributed to their deaths.

Wildlife commission officials would not say if the pelican deaths are part of a criminal inquiry into St. Petersburg's sewage-dumping woes, but Red Tide can be caused by sewage spills.

"As the investigation is ongoing, we are unable to speak of any connection that may exist," spokeswoman Kelly Richmond said. The commission is investigating the city's dumping of 200 million gallons of sewage from an overburdened system since August 2015.

A few months ago, interim Water Resources director John Palenchar said the city-sponsored study proved the city's sewage crisis had nothing to do with the dead pelicans.

Polk County, cities work to ensure enough water to meet future demands

BARTOW — It was 2004 during the height of a building boom in Polk County when county officials saw a disturbing sign in a wetland north of Bartow.

“We were no longer getting wet and dry cycles and the dry season was getting even drier,” said Gene Heath, a consultant for the county for the past 10 years and coordinator for the Polk Regional Water Cooperative. “They (the county) over-committed the amount of water available for development.”

The county was placed on probation and fined $30,000 by the Southwest Florida Management District for over-pumping at the Van Fleet well.

Fast forward a dozen years.

A cooperative of 15 cities and Polk County officially formed in 2016 to work together to help develop an additional 46 million gallons of water per day to meet demand by 2035.

On Thursday, city and county leaders plan to discuss the future of water usage in Polk during a public forum sponsored by The Ledger. The meeting is to begin at 10 a.m. at the Polk State College for Public Safety, 1251 Jim Keene Blvd., Winter Haven.

Department of Environmental Protection warning letter: BS Ranch may have committed 27 violations

LAKELAND — In a new complaint, Florida Department of Environmental Protection officials say BS Ranch & Farm may have committed 27 violations ranging from failing to provide a human waste storage plan to not processing composting material within 48 hours.

In what is described as a warning letter to the East Lakeland recycling facility, Mary Yeargan, district director of the Florida DEP, wrote earlier this month that violations of state statutes may result in “liability for damages and restoration, and the judicial imposition of civil penalties.”

Earlier this year, neighbors and business owners repeatedly complained about odors coming from the business that recycles human waste, out-of-date food and mulch into soil that is sold to growers.

The facility has been cited five previous times by the DEP for odor issues.

“Please note the Department was careful to verify that the odors were not emanating from other surrounding businesses,” Yeargan wrote earlier this year. “Additionally, the Department has received dozens of odor complaints from surrounding businesses and residents near your facility.”

Lake Wales residents to get better water, sewer service

LAKE WALES – Is your water line broken? A new program approved by the Lake Wales City Commission will help fix it and other water and sewer problems faced by city residents.

In a unanimous vote last Tuesday, Lake Wales City Commissioners approved a water utility service program aimed at “offering property owners cost effective service line protection”, according to the agenda item memo.

Pollution notice bill inspired by sinkhole passes Legislature

A bill requiring industry and government to notify the public quickly of any pollution problems has passed both houses of the Legislature and is headed for Gov. Rick Scott. Scott, who called for the change in the law, will definitely sign it.

The bill, SB 532, was inpsired by the sinkhole at Mosaic's Mulberry phosphate plant and St. Petersburg's sewage disaster.

The sinkhole, in particular, drove Scott's desire for the bill. When it opened up in August 2016 and swallowed 215 million gallons of contaminated water, dumping it into the aquifer, neither Mosaic nor Scott's own Department of Environmental Proteciton told the public about it for three weeks. The reason? State law did not require them to do so unless the pollution was detected outside the polluter's property boundaries. Mosaic (but not the DEP) later apologized for the delay.

The delay in St. Petersburg officials reporting the tens of millions of gallons of sewage that the city's aging wastewater system released into Tampa Bay after Hurricane Hermine bothered Scott as well.

Florida drinking water ranks among nation’s worst, study finds

7.5 million: The number of people in Florida served by water treatment plants with safe water violations

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/environment/article148112799.html#storylink=cpyMore Floridians are exposed to unsafe drinking water than just about anywhere in the country, according to a new study of violations.

The state ranked second in the number of people impacted by violations under the Safe Drinking Water Act based on the most recent data available from 2015, the Natural Resources Defense Council said. Nationally, 77 million people were exposed to unsafe water, with violations including high levels or toxic arsenic, lead and other chemicals, as well as failure to test or report contamination.

The study, a follow-up to an examination of the lead crisis in Flint, Mich., comes as the Trump administration considers drastic cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, which enforces the law.

“The problem is two-fold: there’s no cop on the beat enforcing our drinking water laws, and we’re living on borrowed time with our ancient, deteriorating water infrastructure,” Erik Olson, NRDC’s health program director, said in a statement. “We take it for granted that when we turn on our kitchen tap, the water will be safe and healthy, but we have a long way to go before that is reality across our country.”

To compile the data, the nonprofit looked at the most recent, comprehensive data and ranked states based on the number of people exposed to unsafe water. That could skew findings to heavily populated states, but even as a percentage, Florida ranked in the top ten, said NRDC spokesman Alex Frank.

SWFWMD declares Phase I Water Shortage throughout 16-county region

News Image

The Southwest Florida Water Management District’s (District) Governing Board voted today to declare a Phase I Water Shortage for all 16 counties throughout the District’s boundaries. Included in the order are Charlotte, Citrus, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lake, Levy, Manatee, Marion, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota and Sumter counties.

The primary purpose for a Phase I water shortage is to alert the public that watering restrictions could be forthcoming. The order also requires local utilities to review and implement procedures for enforcing year-round water conservation measures and water shortage restrictions, including reporting enforcement activity to the District.

A Phase I water shortage order does not change allowable watering schedules, however it does prohibit “wasteful and unnecessary” water use.

The District considers both natural water resource conditions and the viability of public supply when deciding to declare a water shortage order – that means, restricting the amount of water the public can use. For the past 20 years, the District has worked diligently with our partners to develop alternative water supplies. Even though we are experiencing drought conditions, there is adequate water supply available to the public.

Florida’s dry season runs October through May and April is historically one of the driest months of the year. The District encourages water conservation year-round, and offers many tips to reduce water use and additional information on our website WaterMatters.org/conservation.

New primer to “living shorelines” published

News Image

A synthesis of recent thinking and results from practitioners and researchers of Living Shorelines just hit the stands. “Living Shorelines: The Science and Management of Nature-Based Coastal Protection,” details many aspects of the shoreline stabilization approach, and specifically includes: (1) background: history and evolution; (2) management, policy, and design; (3) synthesis of Living Shoreline science: physical and biological aspects; and (4) summary and future guidance. Researchers from the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science participated in the project.

Carolyn Currin, Jenny Davis, and Amit Malhotra contributed a chapter entitled "Response of Salt Marshes to Wave Energy Provides Guidance for Successful Living Shoreline Implementation". The multi-faceted chapter provides information pertaining to the: energetic determinants of marsh habitat distribution; relationship between shoreline wave energy and marsh erosion rates; and the ability of fringing marshes to attenuate waves and trap sediments. The chapter also describes the results of a case study of natural and stabilized fringing salt marsh from central North Carolina and combines these results with those from the literature review to provide guidance on the physical settings in which fringing marsh and hybrid living shorelines can be considered.

Coastal ecosystem functions have diminished as estuarine and coastal shorelines have been managed mostly to support human infrastructure and economic benefits. Coastal management has evolved to include the use of nature-based shoreline erosion control approaches. Living Shorelines are intended to restore natural shoreline functions in estuarine, marine, and aquatic systems.