Water-Related News

Legal Challenges Mount Over New Water Standards

After the Seminole Tribe of Florida launched a legal challenge earlier in the month, the city of Miami and a paper-mill industry group also are taking aim at controversial new state water-quality standards.

The city and the group Florida Pulp and Paper Association Environmental Affairs, Inc., filed separate challenges during the past week in the state Division of Administrative Hearings, records show. The challenges raise substantially different arguments in fighting the standards, which were developed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and approved in July by the state Environmental Regulation Commission.

The standards, which are technically considered a proposed rule, involve new and revised limits on chemicals in waterways. The Department of Environmental Protection said the plan would allow it to regulate more chemicals while updating standards for others.

The Miami challenge, filed Friday, alleged that the “proposed rule is arbitrary and capricious — particularly because the rule loosens restrictions on permissible levels of carcinogens in Florida surface waters with absolutely no justification for the need for the increased levels of the toxins nor the increased health risks to Florida citizens.”

Meanwhile, the industry group, which includes Georgia-Pacific, International Paper Co., WestRock and Packaging Corporation of America, takes issue with scientific calculations and assumptions used in developing the standards.

Brain-eating amoeba common in Florida; researchers race for cure

The deadly brain-eating amoeba that infected a swimmer in Broward County this month typically appears in the press as a rare, freakish germ.

"Brit families BEWARE," warns a headline in The Daily Express. "Fatal amoeba lurking in Florida holiday hotspot."

But while infections are infrequent, the Naegleria fowleri amoeba is common in southern states. If you cup your hands and scoop up water in any lake or stream in Florida during the summer, there's a good chance you've scooped up some of them.

"It's everywhere," said Dennis Kyle, a scientist at the University of South Florida in Tampa, whose laboratory is working on a cure for an illness that had almost invariably been a death sentence.

As a graduate student, Kyle found 20 to 50 of the microscopic creatures in every liter of water taken from South Carolina lakes. He said there was no reason to think Florida would be different since the amoebas live in warm, fresh water.

"Especially at this time of year, when it's warm, you'll find it all over the place," he said.

What makes infections rare is the amoeba's method of piercing the brain's defenses. It travels up the nose and through the openings for the olfactory nerves into the brain, where, true to its name, it starts to consume tissue. Death comes less from the amoeba itself than from the body's defenses, which cause a fatal swelling of the brain.

Polk County offers Open Houses to view proposed flood hazard maps

Two events will allow Polk County residents to view new flood hazard maps before final adoption

BARTOW – New digital flood hazard maps for portions of Polk County will become effective on December 22, 2016. The maps, known as Flood Insurance Rate Maps, show areas throughout the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) portion of Polk County are at risk for flooding. These maps are used to help determine flood insurance and building requirements.

The maps were developed by SWFWMD, in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Polk County.

Residents and business owners can use the maps to obtain reliable information about their flood risk on a property-by-property basis. The maps also provide flood zone and elevation data to help community planners, engineers, builders and others decide where and how new structures, developments, and remodeling projects should be built.

The maps can be viewed online at this link or in person at the Neil Combee Administration Building, 330 W. Church Street, Bartow.

The Polk County Board of County Commissioners is also hosting two Flood Risk Open Houses for residents to look up their property and talk to local officials and mapping and insurance specialists. There will be no presentation; property owners are welcome to come at their convenience during the open house times:

  • 3:30–6:30 p.m., Aug. 24th at Chain of Lakes Complex, 210 Cypress Gardens Blvd, Winter Haven, FL 33880
  • 3:30–6:30 p.m., Aug. 25th at Bartow Civic Center, 2250 S Floral Ave, Bartow, FL 33830

SWFWMD schedules prescribed fires for Polk County

The Land Management Section of the Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) will be conducting prescribed burns now through the month of September on the Upper Hillsborough property in Polk County. The Upper Hillsborough property is located in the area of Chancy Rd. and S.R. 54 near Zephyrhills. Approximately 200 acres will be burned in small, manageable units.

According to Will VanGelder, the District’s land management supervisor, burns are implemented to mimic natural fire cycles under a controlled situation. The objective is to avert uncontrolled wildfires and enhance the area’s natural conditions by maintaining the ecological and wildlife habitat values. Prescribed burns are only conducted when weather conditions are optimal to meet the desired objectives and to minimize impacts to the public.

Although every effort will be made to assure that smoke does not affect homes or highways, vehicle operators should exercise caution if smoke reduces visibility on the area’s roads or highways.

SWFWMD to hold Aug. 23rd MFL workshop for Lake Eva in Haines City

The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) invites the public to a workshop on Tuesday, August 23, at 5:30 p.m. at the Lake Eva Community Center located at 555 Ledwith Ave. in Haines City. The purpose of the workshop is to allow for public comment on the proposed minimum and guidance levels for Lake Eva in Haines City.

The Florida Legislature requires the District to set minimum flows and levels (MFLs) for priority water bodies within the District. A minimum flow or level is the limit at which further water withdrawals will cause significant harm to the water resources and/or environment. Minimum flows are established to protect streams and rivers from impacts associated with ground water and surface water withdrawals. Minimum flows serve as guidelines for the District’s permitting programs and for development of water resource projects.

During the workshop, District staff will present the technical basis for the proposed minimum levels for Lake Eva.

The workshop will also provide an opportunity for local government, citizens, and others to be part of the development of the proposed minimum levels for Lake Eva. Information obtained at the workshop will be summarized and made available to the District’s Governing Board. District staff anticipates presenting the proposed minimum levels for Lake Eva at the September Governing Board meeting, where the Governing Board may choose to recommend adoption of the minimum levels into District rules. Governing Board meetings are open to the public, and brief oral comments are permitted on meeting agenda items.

Draft reports summarizing the proposed minimum levels are available for review and are posted on the District’s Internet site at WaterMatters.org under the Proposed Minimum and Guidance Lake Levels tab in the Documents and Reports section. In addition, digital copies of the draft report will be made available at the workshop. For more information regarding the proposed minimum levels, please contact Mark Hurst at 1-800-423-1476, ext. 4721.

Written comments regarding the minimum levels are also welcome. They can be submitted via mail or email to Mark Hurst, Senior Environmental Scientist, Water Resources Bureau, at 2379 Broad Street, Brooksville, FL 34604-6899 or mark.hurst@watermatters.org.

Mulberry's Lake Jonathan reappears as vegetation killed off

MULBERRY — Four months after Mulberry began spraying weed-choked Lake Jonathan to kill the vegetation that was swallowing it, Charles Mossholder is ready to dust off his fishing pole.

“I haven't been able to fish out here for seven or eight years because I couldn't get my boat out in the water,” said Mossholder, 71, who lives along the lake's eastern shoreline. “There wasn't any water left. But now, this is great. This lake looks better than it has for at least 30 years.”

Wade Pharis of Applied Aquatic Management in Eagle Lake said his crews have treated the lake four times and it will take about that many more treatments to finish the job.

“We're treading lightly, trying to do this gradually,” he said. “If we did it all at once, we would have risked having a fish kill because it would have taken the oxygen from the water.”

When the city initiated the project in April, Mossholder could see only a sliver of the lake's northern edge outside his back door. Now, the glistening water stretches to the south of his yard as well.

New Polk County flood maps out; meetings planned

Interactive flood zone map »

BARTOW — The fact that Polk County is crisscrossed by streams that are part of seven river systems and dotted with more than 500 lakes means that some parts of the county contain substantial flood plains.

These low areas are depicted on the latest digital flood insurance rate maps for the portion of Polk within the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which includes all of Polk County except the eastern areas of Polk within the Kissimmee River Basin. The maps were developed in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Polk County.

The maps are important because they are used to determine flood insurance rates and to determine whether building at a certain location is advisable.

County water planning will require work, board told

AUBURNDALE — If Polk County’s public utilities hope to develop the 46 million gallons per day of additional water they’ll need to meet demand by 2035, a lot of work lies ahead of them, a team of consultants told the Polk County Water Cooperative board Monday [Aug. 15].

The cooperative, which was officially formed earlier this year, is a countywide effort to work together to qualify for state and water management district funding to help pay for projects that will be developed over the next decade and will cost more than $600 million.

This will involve more than the significant challenges of selecting projects and finding the money to pay for them. It also will involve efforts to help to shape regulations that will affect the rules for getting permits for additional water, said consultant David MacIntyre.

Lakeland Water offers free landscape, irrigation audits

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LAKELAND – The city has received funding to provide free landscape and irrigation audits to Lakeland Water customers who are using at least 20,000 gallons per month of metered drinking water and who have an operable in-ground sprinkler system on a timer.

The audit includes:

  • A sprinkler system evaluation with site-specific recommendations.
  • Landscaping evaluation with planting recommendations.
  • Help with irrigation timer.
  • A water conservation kit.
  • A free rain sensor if needed.

To participate, contact Daphne McCann at 863-834-6193 or Daphne.McCann@lakelandgov.net.

DEP Report: Half of Florida lakes’ surface have “elevated” algae levels

Florida waters are growing greener, saltier and more toxic in some parts, according to a new report on the state’s waters.

The report from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection shows a mixed bag for the state’s waters, with many trending toward more-frequent toxic algae blooms, fueled by rising nitrates from farm and residential fertilizers, sewage, pet waste and other human-related sources.

DEP’s new report, called the 2016 Integrated Water Quality Assessment for Florida, spells out why these kinds of toxic algae blooms keep happening, and why some Florida well water is turning saltier and less healthy to drink. The report outlines the overall condition of Florida’s surface and ground water from 2012 to 2014. The Clean Water Act requires states submit the reports to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency every two years, including which waters don’t meet pollution limits.

Key findings of Florida’s 2016 integrated report include:

  • One hallmark of algae is elevated in 50 percent of the state’s lake area.
  • Nitrates remain the biggest issue in surface waters that get significant inputs of groundwater, especially springs.
  • Increasing trends in salt-water intrusion and nitrate and nitrite in groundwater.
  • Almost 70 percent of the 2.9 million acres Florida’s lakes and estuaries DEP assessed were “impaired.”

“As far as water quality, much of it looks the same as it has in previous years,” said Julie Espy, program administrator for DEP’s water quality assessment program.

But the rise in nitrogen and phosphorus continues to worsen in many Florida waters, DEP’s report found, especially some of the smaller lakes that get less attention than Lake Okeechobee and other larger waterbodies.

Median levels of nitrate in Florida’s groundwater have increased to more than 1 milligram per liter, 5 times the levels prior to the 1970s, causing many to clog up with plants. As late as the 1980s, median nitrate levels in the state’s groundwater were only .05 milligrams per liter.

Farm and residential fertilizers, sewage and population growth have fed those increases.