Water-Related News

36th Lakeland swan roundup pits man, machine against birds

Government workers with nets, power boats and a fair amount of hand-eye coordination temporarily rid Lake Morton of its swan population Tuesday morning.

The 80 catches were exciting moments for both fowl and human, the expertise of the boat crews was evident in the hot-rod race toward their target followed by a rapid swoop, net outreached. Ideally, it's a catch followed by a short struggle into the cage onboard the skiff.

A few birds managed to slip the net, but not for long, settling down once they realized the jig was up and accepting their fate in cages along the shore with the other jailbirds. Perhaps lost in the interspecies communication, panicked flapping and the din of an outboard motor was the fact that it was for the swans' own good.

This is the 36th year the iconic flock will be given thorough medical examinations before being returned to their lives on the lake. Dr. Patricia Mattson of Companion Animal Hospital donates her time and expertise to perform the examinations.

Lakeland spends about $10,000 a year feeding and caring for the flock through its Parks and Recreation Department. The annual swan roundup started in 1980 and was originally performed by W.G. Gardner.

A likely diagnosis: these birds have a diet that would make Dr. Robert Atkins get the vapors: high in white bread — not a natural source of nutrition for swans — and low on calcium. Too many carbs and too little calcium can mean the swans lay fewer eggs and put on the pounds. And it's not likely the chubby swans have been hitting the Southgate Publix bread aisle. Last year, the city installed swan chow dispensers where a quarter can delight the birds without the humans taking a hit to their eco consciences.

DEP announces Water-Quality Restoration Grant opportunities

Grants available to assist Florida communities with water-quality improvement; Application deadline Nov. 1st

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is currently soliciting applications for the next cycle of funding through its Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Water-Quality Restoration Grant Program. Through this program, DEP awards funding to local communities and water management districts to implement and construct projects designed to reduce pollutant loads to impaired waters from stormwater discharges. The application deadline is Nov. 1, 2016, at 5 p.m. EST for the current round of funding.

"The department is pleased to partner with local communities by providing grant funding to benefit water quality," said Trina Vielhauer, director of the Division of Water Restoration Assistance. "We encourage local governments to apply for funding assistance for eligible projects to improve water quality in their area."

Funded through annual appropriations from the Florida Legislature, TMDL grants focus on projects designed to restore impaired springs, rivers, lakes and estuaries which need help meeting Florida's stringent water-quality standards.

Specifically, the TMDL grant program provides funding assistance for communities to implement projects to better manage or treat stormwater. Stormwater runoff is generated when rain flows over land or impervious surfaces and does not seep into the ground. As the runoff flows over paved streets, parking lots and building rooftops, it accumulates debris, nutrients, sediment or other pollutants that could adversely affect water quality if the runoff is left untreated and runs into nearby surface waters.

Examples of projects that were recently awarded TMDL grants from the July 2016 cycle include:

Leesburg: Awarded $250,000 to construct dry retention swales with underdrains along a 1,200-foot former railroad right-of-way, which will provide stormwater treatment for the Heritage Estates neighborhood. Currently, untreated stormwater flows into Lake Harris, part of the Upper Oklawaha River Basin.

Maitland: Awarded $400,000 to replace discharge pipes to direct stormwater flow into sediment-removing baffle boxes before heading into the 8-acre Lake Gem. Additionally, the accumulated sediment in Lake Gem, which contains phosphorous, will be removed by mechanical dredging. This project is part of the Lake Jesup Basin Management Action Plan and fulfills a portion of Maitland’s required phosphorous reduction allocation.

Winter Haven: Awarded $750,000 for water-quality improvements to Lake Conine by restoring a 33-acre parcel owned by the city, and reducing pollutants in the Upper Peace Creek Watershed area. Future phases of the project will include constructing recreational features such as walking trails, picnic pavilions, boardwalks, fishing piers and playgrounds.

The department ranks projects for funding based on the impaired status of the associated water body, the water-quality improvement benefit (the estimated pollutant load reductions the project is designed to achieve), the cost-effectiveness of the project, and the percentage of local matching funds. Another consideration is whether the applicant has a dedicated revenue source to continue effective stormwater management in the future.

Since 2002, the department has awarded more than $114 million in TMDL grants, including $5.4 million awarded in fiscal year 2015-16 and $1.4 million in fiscal year 2016-17, to date.

Visit the TMDL Water-Quality Restoration Grant Program webpage for more information on the application process and qualification requirements.

Judge refuses to block changes to Florida's water quality standards

An administrative law judge has refused to block the Florida Department of Environmental Protection from moving forward with new water-quality standards as legal battles continue over the controversial plan.

Judge Bram D.E Canter issued an order Monday rejecting a request by the Seminole Tribe of Florida for a stay that would have at least temporarily halted the formal process of adopting the standards. The tribe sought the stay as it pursues an appeal of an earlier ruling that tossed out a series of challenges to the standards.

In Monday's order, Canter sided with attorneys for the Department of Environmental Preservation and the state Environmental Regulation Commission who argued that the tribe was unlikely to be successful in the appeal.

"In order to prevail on a motion for stay, a party must demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits and that it will suffer irreparable harm if the stay is not granted," Canter wrote. "This required demonstration was not made in the (tribe's) motion."

Inventor’s UV treatment eliminates E. coli, fecal matter from Banana Lake sample

LAKELAND — The results are impressive.

That’s what Megan Skeen, lab director at Phoslab Environmental in Lakeland, said about Robert “Bud” Duthie’s Micro HellCat. The Micro HellCat is a small unit that uses UVA and UVB light waves to kill bacteria and other contaminants.

Though they are ultraviolet waves, they’re not the traditional ultraviolet or UVC waves.

“Whatever he did, did a good cleanup on the microbiology and fecal,” Skeen said. “Looking at the decrease, especially in E. coli, that’s pretty impressive.”

Samples from Banana Lake, an impaired water body in South Lakeland, were taken by Duthie and submitted to the lab.

The results showed that Duthie’s Micro HellCat had eliminated E. coli and fecal matter from the sample and reduced nitrogen from 2.9 milligrams per liter to 1.8 milligrams. Reducing nitrogen levels will slow the growth of contaminants like toxic algae, but it’s the bacteria, Duthie said, that is making people sick.

8,000 gallons of sewage spill after ditch collapses in Polk

LAKELAND — Approximately 8,000 gallons of untreated sewage flowed into a Skyview-area drainage ditch east of Lakeland when the dirt embankment surrounding a pressurized line collapsed Sunday morning, Lakeland water utilities reported.

The leak occurred at the northeastern edge of Citrus Woods Estates, near where the drainage ditch enters Anglers Lake.

"This pipe was a new pipe," said Lakeland's water utilities director, Bob Conner. "It was put in within the last year."

But, he said, "when the dirt falls away there's nothing to hold it up."

When the dirt fell away the sewer main fell with it, bending it and causing a pipe joint to leak at about 10:30 a.m. The flow was contained by 2 p.m. and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection was notified of the failure, Conner said.

A water engineer is working with the construction contractor to determine what happened and what needs to be done. A parallel, gravity-fed sewer line was also exposed, but kept enough of its foundation to stay in place.

Results of Sept. 30th conference call with Polk County, DEP, Mosaic

BARTOW – This morning, Board of County Commissioners staff participated in a general update conference call with Mosaic and Florida DEP officials. The following information was shared:

  • The recovery well continues in full operation. Mosaic staff expects plume influence to the recovery well in mid/late October.
  • Perimeter monitoring wells continue to test clear, as expected.
  • FDEP reps are on site at Mosaic almost daily.
  • Approximately 762 private wells are being tested.
  • Approximately 397 homes are receiving bottled water.
  • FDEP/DOH (Department of Health) are assisting Fort Meade with testing of public wells.
  • Mosaic plans to begin mapping dimensions/features of crevice using LIDAR survey technology early next week.

The county’s next scheduled update is Friday, October 8. For the most current information, go to Mosaic’s website at:

DEP continues to monitor Mosaic sinkhole

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued a press release Tuesday regarding the sinkhole at Mosaic’s New Wales Facility in Polk County.

“In an article published today [by the Tampa Bay Times, the paper chose to omit the facts regarding the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) actions to notify homeowners following the discovery of a sinkhole at Mosaic’s New Wales Facility in Polk County. DEP’s priority is always the safety of Floridians and our environment. That’s why DEP has gone above and beyond the requirements of Florida law by working with Mosaic to notify the nearest adjacent homeowners who may want their drinking water wells tested. This information was provided in writing to the Times, but the paper chose to omit this fact and mislead their readers,” the press release said.

Additionally, DEP has been on-site frequently and communicating with Mosaic daily to ensure effective response activities are underway and frequent monitoring continues to ensure the health and safety of nearby Floridians, according to the report.