Water-Related News

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.

USDA describes $328M oil spill restoration plan for Gulf of Mexico

The U.S. Department of Agriculture says it's focusing conservation programs along the Gulf of Mexico in a $328 million plan to help recovery from the 2010 oil spill.

Undersecretary Robert Bonnie says the agency will use that focus through 2018 as it helps coastal producers plan improvements to improve water quality and improve coastal ecosystems under several Farm Bill programs.

The oil spill tie-in is a new twist to existing programs and will bring in a broader audience, Louisiana State University AgCenter Associate Vice President Rogers Leonard said in an email. Gulf Coast farmers will be interested in the amount of money available, he said.

Bonnie described the plan Monday at a Mississippi timber plot where the owner has worked with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service to help improve downstream water quality.

The money covers five programs: $129 million under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, $102.9 million through the Conservation Stewardship Program, $57.1 million from the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, $29.6 million as Targeted Funding in Priority Watersheds and Landscapes, and $9.3 million under the Regional Conservation Partnership Program.

It includes $11.3 million to restore longleaf pine forests, $3.8 million to improve water quality and enhance habitat in Florida's Everglades, $3.2 million to reduce runoff in nine watersheds around the Gulf, and $460,000 to plant wildflowers and native grasses that would attract bees, monarch butterflies and other pollinators in Alabama, Florida and Texas.

After sinkhole, Mosaic postpones hearing on mine expansion

MANATEE COUNTY – Mosaic Fertilizer LLC's request to begin mining nearly 3,600-acre Mosaic Wingate East mine in East Manatee will not be considered by the county commission until January.

On Friday afternoon, Hugh McGuire, attorney for Mosaic, sent an email to Manatee County requesting the hearing scheduled for Sept. 29 for the rezoning request and Mining Master Plan to be rescheduled to January.

“At the request of the applicant, the September 29, 2016, Mosaic application meeting has been canceled,” stated an email sent Monday morning from John Barnott, the county's building and development services director, to commissioners. “This application will need to be advertised for the new date of January 26, 2017, by the applicant.”

Mosaic spokeswoman Jackie Barron said the decision to change the hearing date has nothing to do with a sinkhole that opened up at the Mosaic Co.'s Mulberry, Fla., facility last week. The sinkhole at the Polk County phosphate mine dumped nearly 200 million gallons of slightly radioactive water into the ground.

Water standards fight heads to appeals court

TALLAHASSEE — Moving quickly after a judge tossed out challenges to controversial new state water-quality standards, the city of Miami has signaled it will continue battling in an appeals court.

The city has given notice that it will appeal a ruling last week by Administrative Law Judge Bram D.E. Canter, who rejected the challenges by Miami, Martin County, the Seminole Tribe of Florida and Florida Pulp and Paper Association Environmental Affairs, Inc.

Canter sided with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which argued that the challengers had missed a legal deadline in the cases.

Miami filed a notice of appeal Thursday in the 3rd District Court of Appeal, two days after Canter's ruling, court records show.

The water standards, which were developed by the Department of Environmental Protection and approved July 26 by the state Environmental Regulation Commission, have been highly controversial. They involve new and revised limits on chemicals in waterways, with the department saying the plan would allow it to regulate more chemicals while updating standards for others.

Polk County DOH shuts down lab before sinkhole opens on Mosaic property

WINTER HAVEN – Florida's Department of Health in Polk County no longer offers residential water tests because they shut down their Winter Haven lab in February because of third party companies offering services in the area to test water supplies.

A spokeswoman for Polk County's department of health said that decision came because of the resources available for homeowners around the county to have water tested.

As far as questions dealing with Mosaic, we are told Florida Department of Environmental Protection is taking the lead on response efforts.

DEP continues to perform site visits at Mosaic property to ensure timely responses for public health and the environment.

That's according to a spokeswoman for the state department, "monitoring to date continues to indicate that the process water is being successfully contained, and that there is no evidence of offsite movement or threat to offsite groundwater supplies," said Dee Ann Miller, by email Monday afternoon.

With any indication of offsite migration of contaminated groundwater, affected parties would be notified.

Mosaic plant sinkhole dumps 215 million gallons of reprocessed water into Floridan Aquifer

A massive sinkhole that opened underneath a gypsum stack at a Mosaic phosphate fertilizer plant in Mulberry may have dumped at least 215 million gallons of contaminated water into the Floridan Aquifer over the past three weeks, company officials say.

And it could be months before the hole is plugged, the officials acknowledge.

The 45-foot-wide sinkhole opened at the New Wales plant, where phosphate rock mined elsewhere is converted into fertilizer.

It drained millions of gallons of acidic water laced with sulfate and sodium from a pool atop a 120-foot gypsum stack. An unknown amount of gypsum, a fertilizer byproduct with low levels of radiation, also fell into the sinkhole, which is believed be at least 300 feet deep.

The pond is now drained, but aerial video taken Friday shows polluted water is still seeping from the gypsum stack and plunging like a waterfall into the sinkhole. More contaminated water will leak with every new rainfall until the sinkhole is filled. The acidic level of the water is roughly equivalent to vinegar or lemon juice.

Mosaic workers became aware of the leak when water levels in the pond dropped 2 feet between readings on Aug. 27. They began diverting water from the pond, which can hold up to about 250 million gallons.

Wells were used to monitor groundwater around the sinkhole. No off-site contamination has been detected, Mosaic officials said.

New method detects low-dose impacts of human-made chemicals in water

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A new study led by UF/IFAS agricultural and biological engineering professor Rafael Munoz-Carpena, has found a method that better detects low doses of pharmaceuticals and personal care products in waterways. “The end effect could be degradation of aquatic life,” said Muñoz-Carpena. Some pharmaceuticals that individually are typically not toxic at even high doses, can damage aquatic life at very low doses when present in complex mixtures often found in natural waters after wastewater finds its way there.

Such products -- known to scientists as PPCPs -- are widely released into the world's freshwaters and oceans, where they mix at low concentrations over long time periods and seep into diverse environmental pathways such as surface water, groundwater, drinking water or soil.

"The end effect could be degradation of aquatic life," said Rafael Muñoz-Carpena, a UF/IFAS professor of agricultural and biological engineering and a lead author of a new UF/IFAS-led study. "Some pharmaceuticals that individually are typically not toxic at even high doses, can damage aquatic life at very low doses when present in complex mixtures often found in natural waters after wastewater finds its way there."

Most PPCPs have been found and analyzed in high concentrations individually, but a new test developed by the UF/IFAS-led team detects the effects of the chemicals in low-dose mixtures.

In the study, the team tested their method in a freshwater environment that they created in their lab. They selected PPCPs including antibiotics, caffeine, analgesics and psychiatric drugs. Researchers then mixed those 16 chemicals with blue algae engineered to produce light. They used changes in the light signal to gauge the toxicity of the different mixtures of chemicals in the bacteria.

Scientists found that a handful of the PPCPs in the mixtures, particularly antibiotics and other commonly used medicines, may impede processes such as growth, assimilation of nutrients, photosynthesis, reproduction and more, Muñoz-Carpena said.

Results from the study confirm that less-than-lethal effects from PPCPs mixtures make freshwater ecosystems more susceptible to later stresses such as light, temperature, nutrient availability and competition with other organisms, Muñoz-Carpena said.

"Our new method can be used not only to study impacts to aquatic systems of emerging chemicals, but also with human cells, biosensors and more," Muñoz-Carpena said. Despite the abundance of these chemicals, scientists still don't know the full effects of PPCPs on the environment, partly because they haven't found the right testing method. "This opens exciting opportunities for many life sciences, like medicine or cell biology, facing real world complex problems."

The new UF/IFAS-led study is published in the journal Science Advances.

Senate advances water bill with $1.9B for Everglades, Florida algae bloom projects

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate voted to move forward Monday on a $10 billion water projects bill that includes about $1.9 billion for projects to restore Florida's Everglades and combat algae blooms that have fouled the state's beaches and rivers.

Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a newspaper column last week that fellow Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida had convinced him to back the project after years of opposition.

Rubio's Democratic opponent, Rep. Patrick Murphy, has accused Rubio and Republican Gov. Rick Scott of not doing enough to find a long-term solution for algae blooms caused by polluted water flowing from Lake Okeechobee.

The bill, which also includes $220 million in emergency funding for Flint, Mich., and other communities beset by lead-contaminated water, advanced the bill 90-1 on a procedural vote, with approval expected later this week. If approved by the Senate, the bill would go to the House.

The bipartisan measure would authorize 29 projects in 18 states for dredging, flood control and other projects overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Florida’s losses from a big hurricane could reach a mind-blowing $200 billion

Note: This article appeared on Sept. 1st, just before Hurricane Hermine made landfall in the Florida Panhandle

Florida has had a remarkable run of gambler’s luck over the past decade. It’s been that long since a hurricane struck the state that usually gets them every two years.

Since Hurricane Wilma made landfall at Cape Romano near the pointy end of the state in 2005, about 20 hurricanes have formed in the Atlantic Ocean and hit other states, and more than 60 wobbled off to deep waters without harming the U.S. coast. But Florida’s string of good fortune might be at an end.

A storm is on the horizon, projected to hit the Florida Panhandle late Thursday or early Friday. Forecasters predicted that Tropical Storm Hermine would only gush rain, but they recently elevated it to hurricane status. Floridians have many reasons to worry. The sea level is rising faster than first predicted, and analysts who assess potential property damage say that contributes to Florida being more vulnerable to massive losses than any other state.

Hermine lacks the power to cause a worst-case scenario like hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, but even as a Category 1 storm, it will serve as a reminder of what could be. Mere nuisance flooding already causes drainage systems to bubble over in the Miami area, and strong winds can roil Tampa Bay until it’s level with sea walls that guard roads and homes.

Register by Sept. 27th for “Nonformal Environmental Education” workshop

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The Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program (CHNEP) is hosting the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) workshop Building Environmental Literacy Through Nonformal Environmental Education Programs. Since its beginning in 1971, NAAEE has served as the professional association, champion and backbone organization for the field of environmental education, working with a diverse group of educators.

The workshop will be held Friday, November 4, 2016, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Polk Nature Discovery Center at Circle B Bar Reserve (4399 Winter Lake Rd, Lakeland). Thanks to Polk County Parks and Natural Resources Division, an optional guided tram tour will be offered at 8:30 a.m.

Participants will be introduced to the nonformal environmental education program development cycle, including needs assessment, program design and delivery and evaluation. This workshop was designed for nonformal educators, rangers, interpreters and guides, education designers as well as those who work with schools and school districts.

This workshop introduces participants to Nonformal Environmental Education Programs: Guidelines for Excellence. These guidelines comprise a set of recommendations for developing and administering high quality nonformal environmental education programs. These recommendations provide a tool that can be used to ensure a firm foundation for new programs or to trigger improvements in existing ones. The overall goal of these guidelines is to facilitate a superior educational process leading to the environmental quality that people desire. Each participant will receive a copy of these guidelines.

The term "environmental education program" is used in these guidelines to mean an integrated sequence of planned educational experiences and materials intended to reach a particular set of objectives. Programs, taken together, are the methods by which an organization's education goals are accomplished. The program can be small or large and can range from short-term, one-time events to long-term, community capacity-building efforts.

Workshop Objectives:

  • Participants identify the key characteristics of high quality environmental education programs.
  • Participants will use the K-12 environmental education framework to map environmental literacy in their programs.
  • Participants discuss the relationship between program design and program evaluation.
  • Participants will begin the process of developing a CHNEP literacy plan.
  • The CHNEP and the Friends of Charlotte Harbor Estuary, Inc. (aka CHNEP Friends) are underwriting the cost of this course. NAAEE will facilitate this workshop. Polk County Parks and Natural Resources Division is providing the facility and tram tour. Lunch will be provided but your time, travel and any other expenses incurred will not be covered.

    This is a two-step registration process. The first step is to complete the registration form for this event at https://chnep-naaee.eventbrite.com. The CHNEP will review requests received by Sept. 27 and then again on Oct. 27. Space is limited for this facilitated workshop and the CHNEP has a desire to update its plan and develop a literacy plan so the CHNEP will review details of those who register. Those accepted will receive an email message from maran@chnep.org (after Sept. 27 and Oct. 27) with guidance to confirm their participation. It is CHNEP's hope that the 40 places available will be taken by those who will commit to participating in the update of the CCMP and who will help develop an environmental literacy plan for the CHNEP.

    Remember, by completing the first step you are letting CHNEP know of your interest in attending this training. If accepted, you will be required to follow guidance received from CHNEP for step 2. Requests will be reviewed within a few days of Sept. 27 and Oct. 27.

    Contact Information

    Maran Hilgendorf

    Communications Manager,, Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program

    326 West Marion Avenue
    Punta Gorda, FL - 33950

    (941) 575-3374

    SWFWMD public meeting on MFL priority list Sept. 1st

    District to Hold Public Meeting on Priority List and Schedule for the Establishment of Minimum Flows and Levels

    The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) is soliciting stakeholder input on the annual update of the Priority List and Schedule for the Establishment of Minimum Flows and Levels. A public meeting will be held at the District’s Tampa Service Office, located at 7601 U.S. Highway 301 North on Thursday, Sept. 1 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

    Minimum flows and levels (MFLs) are limits set by the District Governing Board for surface waters and groundwater. MFLs are intended to prevent significant harm to the water resources or ecology of an area that may be impacted by water withdrawals. Reservations set aside water from withdrawals for the protection of fish and wildlife or public health and safety. The Priority List identifies water bodies for which the District plans to establish minimum flows and levels and reservations.

    Written comments on the draft Priority List and Schedule may be submitted to Doug Leeper, MFLs Program Lead with the District’s Natural Systems and Restoration Bureau via email at doug.leeper@watermatters.org or by U.S. mail at 2379 Broad Street, Brooksville, Florida, 34604-6899 no later than Oct. 7, 2016.

    The current Priority List and Schedule is posted on the District’s Minimum Flows and Levels (Environmental Flows) Documents and Reports web page (link below). The draft FY2016 Priority List and Schedule will be made available at the same web page on Aug. 31, 2016.

    Source: SWFWMD News Release

    Lake Hollingsworth seawall construction to start Sept. 12th

    LAKELAND – The City of Lakeland will be starting a shoreline stabilization and restoration project with construction beginning September 12th on the south side of Lake Hollingsworth in the vicinity of the public access boat ramp. The project is expected to be completed by January 31, 2017. The public access boat ramp and parking lot will remain open during the project.

    The shoreline in this location has experienced significant erosion and destabilization over recent years contributing to the measurable loss of shoreline area, exposure of tree root systems and subsequent loss of several trees.

    Laurie Smith, Manager of Lakes & Stormwater said, “If left unabated, additional erosion and loss of shoreline would continue. We will be installing a low profile sea wall constructed of Truline brand hybrid recycled materials specially designed to stabilize the shoreline and prevent additional erosion.”

    Three sets of concrete steps will be set into the seawall for access to the lake. The City of Lakeland Lakes & Stormwater Division met with several user groups in researching shoreline stabilization solutions. Custom Built Marine of Port St. Lucie, FL was awarded the contract for the seawall installation project at a cost of $192,000.