Water-Related News

SWFWMD seeks public input on annual MFL prioritization

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The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) is seeking public input to determine the priority of minimum flows and levels (MFLs) establishment for lakes, wetlands, rivers, streams and aquifers in the District as well as the establishment of water reservations. Legislation requires the District to review and, if necessary, revise this schedule each year.

The District will hold a virtual public meeting Aug. 24 at 5 p.m. Members of the public can join the meeting via Microsoft Teams. To join the meeting via Teams, please use this link. Use of the Chrome browser is recommended for best compatibility with Teams.

To join the meeting by telephone only, dial (786) 749-6127 and when prompted enter the conference ID: 875-792-902#.

A minimum flow or level is the limit at which further water withdrawals will cause significant harm to the water resources or environment. A water reservation defines a quantity of water set aside from the water use permitting process for the protection of fish and wildlife or public health and safety. The District’s Governing Board establishes MFLs and reservations as part of achieving the balance between meeting water needs and sustaining Florida’s natural systems.

The adopted minimum flows and levels priority list and schedule for 2021 is available on the District’s website here. The draft 2022 list will be published on the site following the Governing Board’s Aug. 23 meeting. The revised schedule will be considered for approval at the Board’s October meeting.

Written comments on the draft priority list and schedule may be submitted to Doug Leeper, MFLs Program Lead, at doug.leeper@watermatters.org or to 2379 Broad Street, Brooksville, FL, 34604 no later than Sept. 7.

For more information, please contact Doug Leeper at (352) 269-5863.

NOAA and Saildrone launch seven hurricane-tracking surface drones

Part of an array of marine and air uncrewed tools NOAA is using to improve forecast models

In partnership with NOAA, Saildrone Inc. is deploying seven ocean drones to collect data from hurricanes during the 2022 hurricane season with the goal of improving hurricane forecasting. For the first year, two saildrones will track hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico.

This week, Saildrone launched two saildrones into the Gulf of Mexico, one from St. Petersburg, Florida, and another from Port Aransas, Texas. Five other saildrones were successfully launched this summer from the coast of Jacksonville, Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands to survey the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

NOAA will use several autonomous instruments this hurricane season to collect ocean and atmospheric data during during hurricanes. Credit: NOAA PMEL

One of the biggest challenges to hurricane forecasting is predicting rapid intensification, when hurricane wind speeds increase at least 35 mph over a 24 hour period. To fully understand how storms intensify, scientists collect data on the exchange of energy between the ocean and atmosphere in the forms of heat and momentum. However, gathering data in this dangerous environment is best accomplished by uncrewed systems.

Florida’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force meets after half-year hiatus

It was a day of sharp questions and soul-searching as Florida’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force met Thursday [Aug. 4] for the first time since February.

The official theme was a mouthful (stay with us): “Prioritization of restoration projects within Basin Management Action Plans, Reasonable Assurance Plans, or alternative restoration plans (and) policy and funding program framework for the prioritization of restoration projects.”

Unofficially, it was broader: Why, after three years of task force effort, is Florida’s water still so troubled?

The question was top-of-mind because the day before, a coalition of 12 environmental groups released a stinging progress report. Since the five-member task force issued a set of recommendations in 2019, “Ecological conditions in Florida have not improved and, in many cases, they have worsened. Lack of meaningful water quality protections have resulted in persistent harmful algal blooms, a record number of manatee deaths, and an overall decline in water quality statewide.”

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Friends of the Everglades executive director Eve Samples noted “Among the 32 metrics we tracked, only four have been implemented.” She heads one of the dozen nonprofits that compiled the report. ”So there’s a lot of progress to be made.”

Samples went through a list of the task force’s priorities, each followed by “not implemented.”

Neither Samples nor others commenting blamed the group members; rather their frustration was with government, the Legislature and the agencies charged with carrying out the mandates of each.

Florida’s algae bloom response called too limited, too slow

'I don’t think legislators are going to really endorse bigger sticks in this situation.'

When it comes to environmental protection and conservation, Florida government can end up on the side that posits it’s better to allow pollution, and try to do something about it on the back end, than prevent that pollution in the first place.

And that’s causing a serious problem getting a handle on the state’s algae bloom affliction.

“I don’t think legislators are going to really endorse bigger sticks in this situation,” said Mike Parsons, a Florida Gulf Coast University professor and state Blue-Green Algae Task Force member, during the Task Force’s latest meeting.

Without political will to hold polluters accountable, people and organizations collaborating on dealing with blue-green algae proliferation — especially and including the state government — have to run through a series of next-best-thing ideas to put into effect.

Task Force members met with experts and the larger public to reframe the conversation on their challenges, and discuss project prioritization policies, at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.

Video of August 4th Blue-Green Task Force Meeting »

Study: Most rainwater on Earth contains PFAS exceeding safe levels

New research from Stockholm University shows that PFAS in rainwater around the world are exceeding safe levels. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are chemical pollutants, often called “forever chemicals” present in many everyday items, like food packaging and clothing. The chemicals leach into the environment, affecting everything from the air we breathe to even rainfall.

The study, published in Environmental Science & Technology, tested four selected perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs): perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS), and perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) in rainwater, soil, and surface waters in different locations globally.

The researchers concluded that PFOA and PFOS levels in rainwater “greatly exceed” the Lifetime Drinking Water Health Advisory levels from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The study also noted that all four of the tested PFAAs in rainwater were often above the Danish drinking water limits, and PFOS levels were usually higher than the Environmental Quality Standard for Inland European Union Surface Water.

Rainwater wasn’t the only problem, either. “Atmospheric deposition also leads to global soils being ubiquitously contaminated and to be often above proposed Dutch guideline values,” the study said.

As such, the authors said there is really no way to avoid these chemicals on Earth anymore.

Shoreline restoration project begins on Lake Morton

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LAKELAND – The City of Lakeland Public Works Department and Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Arts Department have begun work on a stabilization project on the south side of Lake Morton adjacent to the swan pens.

The Construction and Maintenance and Lakes and Stormwater Divisions of Public Works and the Parks Division have teamed up on this project to address lakeshore erosion and stabilize and restore the area around the swan pens. The swan pens will be disassembled during the project, and a stabilization mat will be installed before they are reassembled at completion.

From Assistant Parks Superintendant James McHenry: "The result will leave the shoreline protected for years to come from erosion and give our swans a much safer space while raising their young."

The project is expected to take 3 weeks to complete.

New law requires the state to hit certain cleanup levels of toxic ‘forever chemicals’

Lawmakers warn that “these are forever chemicals that are within our environment now, and are going to create a major environmental disaster."

The use of PFAS, short for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances that are a possible carcinogen, has spread to a variety of products that touch daily life: non-stick coatings, food products, air particles and foams.

Researchers continue to discover new ways that PFAS enter our environment and bodies.

HB 1475 and companion bill SB 7012 now legally require the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to set state rules for target cleanup levels of PFAS. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law on June 20. It took effect immediately.

There are currently over 12,000 known variants, with PFOA and PHOS being the two most commonly tested chemicals by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Rep. Toby Overdorf, R-Stuart, cosponsored this bill alongside Rep. Lawrence McClure, R-Plant City, and said that a set of mandated rules from the state’s DEP would ensure municipalities cooperated with, at least, state regulations in managing levels of PFAS.

“These are forever chemicals that are within our environment now, and are going to create a major environmental disaster … If we do not deal with those things now, then we really face some big issues in the future,” Overdorf said.

He stated that while the bill was waiting for the governor’s signature, the federal government came out with temporary, updated advisories of PFAS in drinking water, which he said came in great timing for HB 1475.

Florida restaurants now facing stronger regulations for grease disposal

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New law prohibits use of ?"pump and return" by grease haulers statewide

Florida’s food service businesses are now facing stronger regulations regarding grease disposal, in an effort to prevent clogs, blockages and significant damage to sewer systems. Starting today, restaurants and commercial kitchens across the City of Tampa will begin receiving mailers explaining the change in state law.

Effective July 1, 2022, Senate Bill 1110 is a state law forbidding the use of "pump and return" by grease waste haulers. This bill created Section 403.742, Florida Statutes, making it illegal to return grease waste and graywater to grease interceptors or grease traps. Additionally, the law prohibits disposing of grease waste at locations other than disposal facilities.

Blockages caused by grease can obstruct the flow of water, leading to costly repairs for the City of Tampa. These blockages can cause fatbergs, which are masses made of materials like oil, grease, or "flushable" wipes that collect, grow and eventually block a sewage system or septic tank system.

“Fatbergs pose a big risk to sewers and the people who work in them,” said Eric Weiss, director of the City of Tampa’s Wastewater Department. “When we have a blockage, waste can back up through pipes, causing major flooding in businesses and homes. That’s why the changes in the state law are so important to maintaining our infrastructure and keeping wastewater services running smoothly.”

This new law also requires grease waste haulers to maintain a service manifest, documenting that the grease waste they collect is disposed of at a permitted or certified waste management facility that is authorized to receive grease waste.

Health officials issue Blue-Green Algae Bloom Caution for Lake Hancock (Center)

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UPDATE: On 7/14/2022 the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection resampled the lake and did not find toxins. However, blue-green algal bloom conditions were observed or cyanobacteria was found to be the dominant species of algae in the sample. Not all blue-green algae contains toxins. However, adults, children and pets should avoid swimming in or drinking water from these waters while blue-green algal blooms are present.


WINTER HAVEN – The Florida Department of Health in Polk County has issued a Health Caution for the presence of blue-green algae in Lake Hancock (Center). This is in response to a site visit and water sample taken by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on 6/13/2022. The public should exercise caution in and around Lake Hancock (Center).

Blooms have the potential to produce toxins, what triggers them to begin producing toxins remains poorly understood. For this reason, it is important to exercise caution, as bloom conditions are dynamic and could change at any time. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) collects algae samples from reported bloom locations for toxin analysis. Once completed, the results will be posted on the DEP Algal Bloom Dashboard and can also be viewed on the Protecting Florida Together website. On this website, you can also sign up to be notified of the latest conditions.

Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:

  • You should not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski, or boat in waters where there is a visible bloom.
  • Avoid getting water in your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • You should keep pets and livestock away from the waters in this location.
  • Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe. Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts, and cook fish well.
  • You should not eat shellfish from this location.

For more information about blue-green algae, visit the Florida Dept. of Health website.

Health officials issue Blue-Green Algae Bloom Health Caution for Lake Reedy (Ramp)

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FROSTPROOF – The Florida Department of Health in Polk County has issued a Health Caution for the presence of blue-green algae in Lake Reedy (Ramp). This is in response to a site visit and water sample taken by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on 6/20/2022. The public should exercise caution in and around Lake Reedy (Ramp).

Blooms have the potential to produce toxins, what triggers them to begin producing toxins remains poorly understood. For this reason, it is important to exercise caution, as bloom conditions are dynamic and could change at any time. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) collects algae samples from reported bloom locations for toxin analysis. Once completed, the results will be posted on the DEP Algal Bloom Dashboard and can also be viewed on the Protecting Florida Together website. On this website, you can also sign up to be notified of the latest conditions.

Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:

  • You should not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski, or boat in waters where there is a visible bloom.
  • Avoid getting water in your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • You should keep pets and livestock away from the waters in this location.
  • Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe. Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts, and cook fish well.
  • You should not eat shellfish from this location.

For more information about blue-green algae, visit the Florida Dept. of Health website.

Health officials issue Blue-Green Algae Bloom Health Caution for Lake Pierce (NW)

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DUNDEE – The Florida Department of Health in Polk County has issued a Health Caution for the presence of blue-green algae in Lake Pierce (NW). This is in response to a site visit and water sample taken by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on 6/20/2022. The public should exercise caution in and around Lake Pierce (NW).

Blooms have the potential to produce toxins, what triggers them to begin producing toxins remains poorly understood. For this reason, it is important to exercise caution, as bloom conditions are dynamic and could change at any time. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) collects algae samples from reported bloom locations for toxin analysis. Once completed, the results will be posted on the DEP Algal Bloom Dashboard and can also be viewed on the Protecting Florida Together website. On this website, you can also sign up to be notified of the latest conditions.

Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:

  • You should not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski, or boat in waters where there is a visible bloom.
  • Avoid getting water in your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • You should keep pets and livestock away from the waters in this location.
  • Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe. Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts, and cook fish well.
  • You should not eat shellfish from this location.

For more information about blue-green algae, visit the Florida Dept. of Health website.

Health alert issued for blue-green algae found in Tiger Lake

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UPDATE: The Florida Dept. of Environmental resampled Tiger Lake on 7/11/2022 and renewed the health alert:

Cyanotoxins associated with Blue-Green Algae were detected in these waters. If ingested, water contaminated with toxic cyanobacteria can cause nausea, vomiting and, in severe cases, acute liver failure. Avoid swimming in or drinking water from these waters while blue-green algal blooms are present.


LAKE WALES – The Florida Department of Health in Polk County has issued a Health Alert for the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins in Tiger Lake (East Shore). This is in response to a water sample taken on 05/09/2022. The public should exercise caution in and around Tiger Lake (East Shore).

Blooms have the potential to produce toxins, what triggers them to begin producing toxins remains poorly understood. For this reason, it is important to exercise caution, as bloom conditions are dynamic and could change at any time. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) collects algae samples from reported bloom locations for toxin analysis. Once completed, the results will be posted on the DEP Algal Bloom Dashboard and can also be viewed on the Protecting Florida Together website. On this website, you can also sign up to be notified of the latest conditions.

Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:

  • You should not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski, or boat in waters where there is a visible bloom.
  • Avoid getting water in your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • You should keep pets and livestock away from the waters in this location.
  • Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe. Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts, and cook fish well.
  • You should not eat shellfish from this location.

For more information about blue-green algae, visit the Florida Dept. of Health website.

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