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Biosolids closes in Fort Meade after 3-year battle with city

FORT MEADE — After battling the city for nearly three years over odors and utility charges, Biosolids Distribution Services has shut down rather than pay Fort Meade the $105,675 it owes for utility services, including wastewater.

“We tried to work with the city,” Tom Anderson, president of Sebring-based Biosolids, said Thursday, “but it's just gone too far. You can only fight City Hall so long.”

But City Manager Fred Hilliard said after sparring with Biosolids since 2013, he isn't disappointed to see the company at 1491 N.W. 14th St. close.

“Our friends have packed up their business and are moving on,” he said Thursday.

Clayton Frazier, whose Badcock & More store is barely a stone's throw from Biosolids, celebrated the company's closure.

“That is probably as good a news as I have heard in a while,” he said upon learning of Wednesday night's closure. “Just last week, someone came in and asked if we had a sewer problem.

“I'm ecstatic,” said Frazier, who's complained about odors from the plant for three years. “Wait until I tell my employees. They are going to be just as ecstatic as I am.”

Biosolids extracts liquid from treated wastewater sludge and sells the remaining product for use in fertilizer and other soil additives. But on many days, Frazier said, the trucks rolling by his store smelled more like they were transporting raw sewage than treated sludge.

Odor complaints brought city inspectors to Biosolids' door three years ago, Hilliard said, but issues with the company quickly escalated.

Continued in The Ledger »


Polk Regional Water Cooperative proposes new water supply projects

AUBURNDALE — Polk Regional Water Cooperative board members voted unanimously Wednesday to seek state funding for three projects proposed to take care of public supply needs here for the next 20 years.

Estimated cost of the projects, which would likely be developed in phases over several years, is $619.8 million. They would produce at least 42 million gallons per day.

Two would supply water by tapping a relatively unexplored, brackish section of the aquifer in wellfields east of Frostproof and in northwest Lakeland and a third would try to increase aquifer storage by damming sections of the Peace Creek drainage canal to create a series of reservoirs.

Any water derived from these projects would be shipped via an extensive pipeline system to local utilities that needed additional water.

It is unclear how these projects would affect local water rates.

The costs of developing these new alternative water sources are estimated to be between $2.02 and $3.03 per 1,000 gallons. Conventional water sources in use now typically cost between 80 cents and $1 per 1,000 gallons.

The plan is to blend the current and future water supplies to keep costs as low as possible.

Continued in The Ledger »


Lake Morton shoreline stabilization project includes aquatic and upland plants

LAKELAND – The City of Lakeland will be planting aquatic plants and grasses along an area of shoreline on Lake Morton as part of an ongoing shoreline stabilization plan. Approximately 160 feet of shoreline on the southwest side of Lake Morton (across from E. Palmetto Street) is in need of immediate repair.

A low-profile fence that currently encloses a planting zone on the north shore of the lake is being dismantled and erected at the new planting area. Due to an abundance of waterfowl on Lake Morton and the extremely high pressure on new plants, a green vinyl chain link perimeter fence will be installed for approximately one year. This perimeter fence is needed to ensure successful plant growth.

Native aquatic and upland species of plants will be used as a natural shoreline stabilizer very similar to other areas around Lake Morton that have already been established. A portion of the geofabric that is in place now will be removed so visitors around Lake Morton may see a piece of heavy equipment in the area for a few hours before the fence is installed. The project will start in July and be completed by August 2016. The approximate cost of the project is $3,000 and is being funded out of the City of Lakeland Stormwater Utility Fund.


Nature and time refill Lakeland's Scott Lake

Residents had hoped for quicker recovery from 2006 sinkhole

LAKELAND — Water has returned to the lake bottom beneath the pier at Scott Lake's Casa Loma neighborhood for the first time in a decade.

"It's only in the past month that we've had water all the way under the pier,'' said Don Luckie, president of the Casa Loma Association, one of the residential areas that circle the lake. "We were hoping it wouldn't take this long."

Scott Lake's water disappeared into the aquifer after a sinkhole opened beneath the 291-acre private lake 10 years ago this month, turning lakefront properties into lakeview properties and to hear some residents tell it, it wasn't much of a view.

Linda Jezard, who lives near the lake, said there were dead fish everywhere and for several days the smell was overwhelming.

She's happier now, explaining the lake was the main reason she and her husband, Michael, bought a home here in 2000.

Continued in The Ledger »


Solving disinfection byproducts led to unintended consequences

Controlling chlorine-based carcinogens in drinking water may have helped set the stage for lead issues now surfacing nationwide, water experts say.

The recent lead crisis in Flint, Michigan, and in Washington, D.C. in the early 2000s was, in part, the unintended consequence of federal rules that kicked in during the late 1990s and strengthened in the mid 2000s to lessen the byproducts of chlorine and other disinfectants linked with increased lifetime cancer risk.

Some methods used to control the byproducts of disinfection can result in more corrosive water. To save money, many systems just added ammonia to the mix, to create chloramines — a group of chemicals with its own host of potentially irritating problems.

“It was these warring regulations,” said Sheldon Masters, senior environmental engineer at Corona Environmental Consulting in Philadelphia. “By meeting the disinfection byproduct rule, you created a problem meeting the lead and copper rule.”

The lead issues emerging nationwide underscore the complex trade offs water operators often make between short-term and long-term health risks. Sometimes, solving a long-term risk can create a more acute risk, environmental engineers say, and as communities tap lower quality water supplies to meet demand, getting the chemistry right at the treatment plant is crucial in avoiding unhealthy pitfalls.

"I think the big issue is how the water's treated," Thomas Waite, an environmental engineer at Florida Institute of Technology, said of how to prevent lead contamination from corrosion. "It really falls on the treatment plants themselves to try to keep a handle on it. By that, I mean regulating the pH of the water. Treatment plants have really got to be serious about the corrosion concept, meaning pH going outside of the plant."

Continued in Florida Today »


Winter Haven Commission approves money to treat Lake Conine, approves development on Lake Eloise

WINTER HAVEN — City commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved paying its part of a redesign project with Polk County to treat Lake Conine.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District, or Swiftmud, has the 236-acre lake designated as a surface water improvement and management priority. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has it designated as impaired.

In partnership with the county, the city will work to redesign a project originally designed in 2011 to treat the lake.

The redesign will cost $89,701; with $44,850 coming from the city.

Construction would start early next year and is estimated to cost $2 million. The city and county plan to pay half of that and have requested the other half from Swiftmud.

Continued in The Ledger »


Experts: Water rates 'significant' in lowering usage

WINTER HAVEN — Water is the topic not only of the season, but of the year and decade.

And in the last decade or so, utilities departments have transitioned from flat rates to tiered structures — charging heavier water users more per gallon in an effort to decrease their usage. Data collected from Polk County, Lakeland, Winter Haven and Lake Wales show the tiered structures have done just that.

"Of course, there are other programs and initiatives that have contributed to lowering water usage," Polk County Utilities Director Marjorie Craig said, "but the tiered water rates provide the clearest reduction."

In Polk County, the average amount of water used per day per resident went from a peak of 128 gallons before 2003 — when its tiered structure was established — to 75 gallons last year.

In Lakeland, those numbers went from 87 gallons to 73 gallons those years. Lakeland's tiered structure has been in place for at least 20 years, Utilities Director Robert Conner said.

Continued in The Ledger »

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