Water-Related News

CHNEP gets $75K grant from Florida DEP

After last year’s red tide and blue-green algae epidemic in Southwest Florida, the need to protect Florida waterways couldn’t be more urgent.

One program in the business of saving and restoring these habitats is the Charlotte Harbor Natural Estuary program.

Last week, the Punta Gorda Council, representing the organization as a local host agency, approved a $75,000 grant agreement with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for funding to be received by CHNEP.

“The FDEP has, for the past couple of years, provided that amount of funding,” said Jennifer Hecker, CHNEP executive director. “We are happy and grateful to continue to receive funding support from them.”

In their efforts, CHNEP oversees a 4,700-square-mile service area that stretches from Charlotte, Bonita Springs and Venice, up to Winter Haven.

The program’s existence is primarily based on public and privately donated funds. They also received $600,000 from the United States Environmental Protection Agency as part of the federal clean water act.

“We do a lot of work on water quality, sea grass and oyster reef restoration and preservation to protect and restore our water resources,” said Hecker. “That’s our primary objective. We also work to protect our native wildlife populations including fisheries and to engage and power the public to protect these resources through public education.”

An estuary is a tidal mouth of a large river, where the tide meets the stream. Estuaries and their watersheds that the CHNEP protects include:

  • Dona and Roberts Bays
  • Lemon Bay
  • Charlotte Harbor
  • Tidal Caloosahatchee
  • Pine Island Sound
  • Estero Bay

“We just finished a sea grass planting in the Caloosahatchee River and that has taken hold and we have first signs of (growth) in that river in a decade. Endangered manatees use that sea grass.”

Hecker said they get a variety of different state contributions as well as funds from local governments. All the cities and counties are asked to contribute in varying amounts. They also receive contributions from private citizens to help their cause.

“All these contributions help us fund different types of restoration and education initiative we are protecting,” said Hecker.

Harmful algae blooms continue to plague waters throughout the CHNEP area, according to CHNEP’s website. Nutrient pollution has been entering the area’s waterways for decades. There is no easy quick fix, but with further investments, CHNEP is determined to reduce harmful algae blooms that are fueled by that pollution.

To support CHNEP and their water preservation efforts, go online to www.chnep.org

Calusa Waterkeeper discusses causes, possible solutions for water woes

Having experienced a summer wrought with blue-green algae and red tide, residents across Southwest Florida are keeping their fingers crossed that another historic season of horrific harmful algal blooms is not looming.

The Calusa Waterkeeper, John Cassani, gave a PowerPoint presentation at the Cape Coral Library Monday afternoon, hosted by the League of Women Voters of Lee County Environmental Committee, to address what causes these events and how experts and residents alike can hope to present change in an area combating climate change and population growth.

One of, if not the biggest contributor to the deterioration of Florida waterbodies, are nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus that enter waterways via runoff.

Venice receives $100K for urban forest along Intracoastal Waterway

The Gulf Coast Community Foundation awarded a $100,000 matching grant to Venice Area Beautification Inc. (VABI) to support the creation of an Urban Forest along the Intracoastal Waterway in Venice.

Conservation Foundation is partnering with VABI to reforest a disused section of the old CSX railroad adjacent to the Venetian Waterway Park. Once completed, the Urban Forest will extend about 1.75 miles and provide a sanctuary for many insects, birds, and animals, and a natural-area park for all to enjoy.

The Urban Forest is integral to the City of Venice's urban design introduced by noted American landscape architect John Nolen in 1926. This greenbelt corridor complements Nolen's design principles based on "nature leading the way." The Urban Forest will stretch from the Venice Train Depot to Center Road and will provide a beautiful woodland trail for pedestrians parallel to the Venetian Waterway Park. All native trees and shrubs are being planted so that the forest provides habitat specifically for migratory songbirds and native wildlife.

LA-MSID to file for state appropriations on flood mitigation projects

The Lehigh Acres Municipal Services Improvement District agreed last Monday to seek a pair of grants to address flooding concerns.

We are asking the state for two grants; one is for $675,000 with a $75,000 max from the district. This grant would go towards the design of the Section 10 Project here in Lehigh Acres. The county has until March 5, 2019 to close on the property and then we would have to enter an agreement on the project," explained District Manager David Lindsay. 

The other grant would go towards the district's CREST (Caloosahatchee River and Estuary Storage Treatment) project. 

"We are asking legislators for $157,000, with a $17,500 max from us. This will fund the storage treatment project that sits on a 105 acres parcel of land purchased in Hendry County. Both of these projects will be listed under Lee County's Flood Mitigation plan," said Lindsay.

Under the district's action agenda were the approval of Tetra Tech's contract and an agreement with Casto Southwest Realty Services.

Water district presses ahead for end of federal oversight of Everglades water quality

The South Florida Water Management District says sugar farming is no longer a threat to Everglades water in its latest motion calling for an end to federal oversight of restoration, but other organizations disagree.

The district motion is the latest in some 30 years of litigation that began when the federal government sued the state for allowing sugar farming to pollute the Everglades.

A settlement in the early 1990s led to the construction of the world’s largest treatment wetlands aimed at cleansing Everglades water of sugar farming pollution, among other remedies.

Port Charlotte beach renourishment

Public Works will begin the Sunrise Waterway dredge project near Port Charlotte Beach on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019. Dredge material will be placed on the beach for approximately four weeks to renourish erosion caused by Hurricane Irma. Beach access will be restricted in posted areas from 7 - 9 a.m. daily. Park visitors should exercise caution in and around the construction area.Public Works will begin the Sunrise Waterway dredge project near Port Charlotte Beach on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019. Dredge material will be placed on the beach for approximately four weeks to renourish erosion caused by Hurricane Irma. Beach access will be restricted in posted areas from 7 - 9 a.m. daily. Park visitors should exercise caution in and around the construction area.

Florida red tide levels are the lowest in more than a year

After more than a year, lab tests showed red tide concentrations across Florida were rated at “not present” to “background” concentrations.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission tested more than 100 water samples offshore and in bay areas from Northwest, Southwest and the east coast of Florida, where red tide peaked in August and September. Those tests showed levels of the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, were under 1,000 cells per liter for the first time since the outbreak began in late October 2017.

Red tide levels began to dip around Christmastime, but there was a resurgence at the beginning of January off the coast of Sarasota and Charlotte counties. Manatee has background concentrations (between 0 and 1,000 cells per liter) and Sarasota did not appear on the report Monday.

Charlotte County observed medium concentrations near Placida Harbor during tests performed from Jan. 17 to 24, but samples taken in the region on Monday showed levels dipped to trace amounts.

It is unknown whether more toxic algae lurks offshore, but conditions have shown notable improvement.

More than 16K fish to be released in Florida after red tide devastates marine life

PORT RICHEY, Fla. — More than 16,000 young and adult redfish are slated for release into the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay after one of the worst outbreaks of red tide killed hundreds of thousands of tons of marine life.

It's an effort to rejuvenate fisheries and their surrounding environments.

The Coastal Conservation Association Florida, partnering with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Duke Energy, plan to begin the process Tuesday.

They'll meet at 11 a.m. at Brasher Park.

"We’re extremely excited to begin releasing these fish now that the waters are determined to be safe," Brian Gorski, CCA Florida's executive director, said in a news release.

CCA Florida says each of its releases includes about 2,000 juvenile redfish and 25-30 adult fish. All were hatchery-reared at the Duke Energy Mariculture Center in Crystal River.

After working in Pasco County, crews plan to meet again Feb. 7 at Hillsborough County's Cockroach Bay Ramp in Ruskin and Pinellas County's Fort De Soto Park.

Release dates for Charlotte, Collier, Lee, Manatee and Sarasota counties still are to be determined.

Red tide: Sarasota County considers water quality summit

Commissioners agree it’s a priority to come up with solutions to problems plaguing the area.

SARASOTA COUNTY — Top Sarasota County officials are considering organizing a water quality summit amid the longest local red tide outbreak in recorded history.

The Sarasota County Commission this week agreed that a summit addressing water quality issues to generate solutions to problems plaguing the area should happen as soon as possible. The discussion about a potential summit — at the urging of Commissioner Christian Ziegler — comes as the area faces the lengthiest documented toxic red tide event since the 1940s, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials.

“Everyone can agree red tide happens naturally, but there are things we can do to better our water quality and mitigate red tide,” Ziegler said.

According to the FWC’s most recent red tide report released on Thursday, samples taken offshore near Sarasota and Manatee counties show virtually no traces of the toxic algae organism, Karenia brevis, which has plagued the area for about 16 months and experienced a resurgence in early January. While the latest report is good news for the area, it gives no definitive indication that the end of the bloom is near. The bloom once spanned 150 miles from St. Petersburg to Key West and killed nearly 600 tons of marine life in Sarasota and Manatee counties and the City of Sarasota, according to debris-removal figures from the three jurisdictions.

Florida red tide levels are the lowest in more than a year

It is unknown whether more toxic algae lurks offshore, but conditions have shown notable improvement.

After more than a year, lab tests showed red tide concentrations across Florida were rated at “not present” to “background” concentrations.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission tested more than 100 water samples offshore and in bay areas from Northwest, Southwest and the east coast of Florida, where red tide peaked in August and September. Those tests showed levels of the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, were under 1,000 cells per liter for the first time since the outbreak began in late October 2017.

Red tide levels began to dip around Christmastime, but there was a resurgence at the beginning of January off the coast of Sarasota and Charlotte counties. Manatee has background concentrations (between 0 and 1,000 cells per liter) and Sarasota did not appear on the report Monday.

Charlotte County observed medium concentrations near Placida Harbor during tests performed from Jan. 17 to 24, but samples taken in the region on Monday showed levels dipped to trace amounts.

It is unknown whether more red tide lurks offshore, but conditions have shown notable improvement.

Sewage Spills: Hurricane Irma highlighted deficiencies in wastewater treatment

In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma 88 million gallons of wastewater spilled into state waters, according to the Department of Environmental Protection.

A million gallons of it came from the city of Arcadia where debris clogged a pump and pressurized pipes led to sewage spilling out of a manhole and into the Peace River.

Julie Karleskint, an environmental engineer contracted by the city, said what happened in Arcadia is one example of the statewide problem with aging infrastructure.

“These are old clay sewers so when they became pressurized they basically collapsed,” said Karleskint describing what happened in the days after Hurricane Irma.

Arcadia is one of 42 utilities around the state to enter that’s entered into a consent agreement with the DEP in the last year to upgrade problems that were exacerbated by the storm.

The DEP also assessed more than $400,000 in penalties.

Water Quality: Cape Coral residents want voices to be heard

Blue-green algae has polluted local waterways in the past, and the state’s U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said its working to make sure this stuff doesn’t come back. This water-quality issue was at its worst in Cape Coral, but the army corps is holding a listening session in Lehigh Acres instead.

People in Cape Coral want to know why their voices don’t get to be heard by the army corps of engineers Thursday.

“We’ve been up there on two occasions looking,” Mark Richey said. “We’ve been looking up north, near Tampa at a place near Mayo.”

It was only six months ago that Richey’s canal was filled with blue-green bacteria. It’s back to normal now, but the memory lingers. He said his family has been looking at moving away since the nuisance invaded his home. He, along with neighbors, are bracing for more problems, as the engineers get ready to make water releases at Lake Okeechobee Friday, which will flow into our waterways.

“There’s always a concern,” Richey said. “But we knew eventually is was going to happen.”

This time, the army corps wants to listen to people like Richey. The army corps will hold numerous sessions around South Florida, but the only meeting taking place near Cape and Fort Myers is at the Lehigh meeting.

“It’s doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, considering that Lehigh is actually landlocked,” Richey said.

The Army Corps told WINK News the size of the venue location was the deciding factor for the event.

However, enough locally raised concern in the past 24 hours has the army corps looking to hold a session closer to the coast.

Ft. Myers Beach Council votes yes on improvements to stormwater ordinance, sidewalks

A pleasing stormwater ordinance, a new sidewalk plan, and more mini-reefs. Last week's council meeting was full of good news for the Town of Fort Myers Beach.

The first hearing on a long-contested stormwater ordinance was met with great support from the community.

Residents from Bay Beach Lane turned out in droves to celebrate the new ordinance - many forced to sit in the hallway outside council chambers.

"I believe the majority of people are here today to celebrate the ordinance's moving along and passage," said Pete Yateman.

The residents, most of whom live in a condo building on Bay Beach Lane that paid for its own stormwater system, were pleased to be exempt from paying stormwater fees to the town in the new ordinance.

Gov. DeSantis unveils environmental budget proposal, SFWMD appointments

Conservationist Ron Bergeron and Sanibel City Councilman Chauncey Goss are Gov. Ron DeSantis’ first appointments to the South Florida Water Management District.

The appointments come after the governor called for resignations earlier this month from the district’s entire governing board.

Ron “Alligator” Bergeron is an eighth-generation Floridian. He is a South Florida developer and former member of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Chauncey Goss is a policy consultant in southwest Florida. He ran for Congress in 2016 as a Republican but lost in the primary to Representative Francis Rooney.

“This board really plays an important role in our water quality and making sure things I’m trying to do can be put into fruition,” DeSantis said.

Three district board members already have resigned. The terms of two more expire in March. The district oversees Everglades restoration and water resources in Central and South Florida.

DeSantis also unveiled a state budget proposal on the environment aimed at putting into action a sweeping executive order he signed earlier this month.

Army Corp of Engineers scheduling public meetings on Lake Okeechobee

The US Army Corps of Engineers will kick off public meetings to comment on development of the next Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS). The LORS is critically important because it establishes when, where and how much water is released through all different outlets from Lake Okeechobee for both flood control and water supply demands from competing users.

The first meetings are scheduled in Lee County next Tuesday, February 5th. Two meetings are scheduled at 1 pm and 6 pm at the Lee County Mosquito Control District Training Center in Lehigh Acres, address listed below. These first meetings are "scoping" meetings for the public to share concerns about how water is managed, concerns you have over water management and changes or recommendations you'd like to make to the Corps to inform their modelling and development of the next LORS.

It's a great chance to come and hear from the Corps and others to become informed for other future meetings.

The Corps will prepare a NEPA assessment for the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM), which is required by Section 1106 of the 2018 Water Resource Development Act.

The purpose of this effort is to reevaluate and define operations for the Lake Okeechobee regulation schedule that take into account additional infrastructure that will soon be operational. The additional infrastructure that will be taken into consideration includes the Herbert Hoover Dike rehabilitation, Kissimmee River Restoration Project, as well as the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) C-43 West Basin Storage Reservoir and C-44 Reservoir and Stormwater Treatment Area.

Information will be available at the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) web page: www.saj.usace.army.mil/LOSOM on social media on the Jacksonville District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Facebook page: https://www.fa

Nearly a third of state's waters are polluted, experts say

FORT MYERS – "Not a single resident in Florida lives more than 20 miles from an impaired waterway," said John Cassani, Calusa Waterkeeper, at the first Florida Water Policy Summit last Monday.

Organized around the idea that "clean water is a basic human right," the event on Martin Luther King Jr. Day featured six speakers from local conservation groups who spoke about actionable water policy that can improve Florida's impaired waters.

And Florida has a lot of impaired waters - currently 12 million acres under Best Management Action Plans, or BMAPs, which are 15-year restoration plans required by the federal government when a waterbody is not meeting quality standards.

The Federal Clean Water Act requires each state to compile a list of waterbodies that aren't up to snuff.

Then, the Department of Environmental Protection conducts watershed assessments.

Any waterbody that doesn't meet standards for pollution is scheduled for a Total Maximum Daily Load, which is a limit for the amount of a particular pollutant that a waterbody can handle.

The state of Florida currently has 416 TMDLs, with 80 waterbodies on a waiting list to receive one, according to Maria Carrozzo, senior environmental policy specialist at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

Water shutdowns set for water main replacement on the island of Venice

Potable Water Outage - 700 block Guild and 108 Pine Grove (01/29/19)

There will be a water outage on Tuesday, January 29, 2019 from 9:00 AM until 4:00 PM that will affect the following areas:

  • 705-753 Guild Dr
  • 108 Pine Grove Rd

This project is part of the City of Venice Utilities Department continued renovation of the City's 90-year-old utility system. The City is spending about $10 million annually to update water and sewer systems, specifically part of the Watermain Replacement Program - Phase 5.

Once service is restored, you will be required to boil your water for consumption purposes only for the next 72 hours AND until you receive a boil water rescind notice from the City of Venice.

You can still use your water for washing dishes, laundry, showering, etc. The advisory is for consumption purposes only.

Should you have any questions, please call the City of Venice Utilities Department at (941) 480-3333.

Researchers, students meet to promote solutions to Florida water quality problems

LEE COUNTY — It was a packed house at Florida Gulf Coast University on Friday (Jan. 25th) at the 28th Annual Southwest Florida Water Resource Conference. Around a hundred students met with some of the leading experts in water quality to share ideas and increase awareness of the state's water issues, such as red tide and blue-green algae.

"This type of event is so important in cultivating these leaders of the future to solve our water crisis," said Jennifer Hecker, executive director of the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program. "This is something that's going to likely go on for a generation or two. We're not going to solve this problem overnight."

2018 was a particularly tough year for red tide in Southwest Florida waters, resulting in massive fish kills along the beaches. Blue-green algae also choked many canals in Cape Coral and elsewhere, likely a result of nutrients in water released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee River.

Red tide blamed for worst Sarasota tourism decline since 9/11

Sarasota County's legislative delegation is asked to prioritize fighting the toxic algae.

Sarasota leaders heard more details Monday about how devastating red tide has been, with the county's top tourism promoter telling the Sarasota County Legislative Delegation that the region has experienced the worst tourism decline in more than a decade.

Visit Sarasota County Executive Director Virginia Haley told the delegation that the drop in tourism at the end of last year was the worst the county has seen since the Sept. 11 terrorist attack in 2001.

And Haley said bookings are still off as the region enters peak tourism season.

“It’s having a real massive lingering effect,” Haley said.

Haley noted that this is the first time there has been a severe red tide in the era of cellphone cameras. The images of dead fish have ricocheted across the Internet, giving tourism promoters tremendous challenges.

Red tide often has intermittent impacts. A bad stretch of red tide can quickly give way to good beach conditions for an extended period.

FWC to pause aquatic plant herbicide treatment while collecting public comment

Beginning Jan. 28, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will temporarily pause its aquatic herbicide treatment program throughout the state. During this pause, staff will work to collect public comments regarding the FWC’s aquatic plant management program.

The FWC will hold several public meetings to gather community input about the program. Specific dates and locations of these meetings will be announced shortly. Comments can also be sent to Invasiveplants@MyFWC.com.

Invasive plants degrade and diminish Florida's waterways by displacing native plant communities. Some invasive aquatic plants pose a significant threat to human welfare and cause economic problems by impeding flood control and affecting recreational use of waterways.

Go to MyFWC.com/WildlifeHabitats and click on Invasive Plants to find out more about invasive plant management, including Frequently Asked Questions.

Dredging project may ease flooding concerns but won't help Billy's Creek water quality

The City of Fort Myers will soon move forward with a dredging project in Billy's Creek that's expected to ease flooding but may not improve water quality in the ailing Caloosahatchee River tributary.

Last year the Florida Department of Environment Protection gave the city $775,000 for the project, which is expected to cost nearly $1 million.

The city was set to award the contract for the project Tuesday but pulled the item "so the city can add more environmental improvements," said city spokeswoman Stephanie Schaffer.

Schaffer said the city wanted to extend the project from Veronica Shoemaker Boulevard to Marsh Avenue.

The goal of the project is to provide more flood relief on lands within the basin while also providing better wildlife habitat, according to city records.

Jordan Marsh Water Quality Treatment Park project close to completion

The Sanibel City Council received a progress update on the Jordan Marsh Water Quality Treatment Park at its recent meeting, as well as filled two vacancies on the Sanibel Planning Commission. On Jan. 15, Natural Resources Department Environmental Biologist Holly Milbrandt reported that construction is nearly complete on the project, located at Periwinkle Way and Casa Ybel Road. "We're getting close here to wrapping up," she said.

The goals of the project are to improve water quality in the Sanibel Slough, meet the Total Maximum Daily Load requirements, enhance existing wildlife habitat on the site and educate the park's visitors on the Best Management Practices used in the Total Maximum Daily Load reduction.

"We'll be both monitoring the flow coming into the system and the water going out of the system, so we can track actual water nutrient levels," Milbrandt said.

The project's design, engineering and permitting cost about $165,000 and the construction cost about $645,000. It is being funded through the South Florida Water Management District Cooperating Funding Program, along with monies from the Lee County Community Park impact fees and the city.

In the park, over 20,000 littoral plants from 15 different species were planted as a filter marsh.

Venice City Council favors statewide stormwater rule

VENICE — The Venice City Council voted to support several statewide efforts to improve the environment Tuesday, including consideration of a resolution to support implementation of the statewide stormwater treatment rule that was abandoned in 2011, septic tank inspections and a proposed ban on smoking at the beach.

The city must still craft and adopt a resolution to support the stormwater rule which, in part, would require stormwater treatment systems to be at least 80 percent effective in reducing phosphorus and nutrients in stormwater, compared with the currently typical effectiveness of 40 to 45 percent.

That would mirror a resolution of support adopted by the city of North Port on Dec. 11 and transmitted to the governor for consideration.

North Port City Manager Peter Lear asked Venice to follow his city’s action in a Dec. 18 letter to Venice Mayor John Holic, but discussion of the item was pushed back until Tuesday, because of other quasi-judicial hearings.

Earlier in the meeting, several members of Hands Along the Water, made a similar plea during public comment.

They were joined by North Port City Commissioner Jill Luke, who made that same appeal.

Luke called enforcement of the statewide stormwater treatment rule, “the lowest hanging fruit that we have, in order to do something for red tide, algae blooms and everything else.”

Members of Hands Along the Water, the grassroots environmental group that formed in August in response to the persistent red tide bloom, delivered variations of the same message.

Florida Gulf Coast University trying to secure more than $9 million to study red tide

FORT MYERS – Florida Gulf Coast University is hoping to secure more than $9 million from the state so it can launch a multidisciplinary research initiative that will focus on red tide.

"We want red tide to be the first in a series of commitments on water issues, but we know there is a certain economic, ecological and political urgency to red tide," FGCU President Mike Martin said. "We have got ... people of means and influences attention, so we are going to jump on that one first."

Red tide and blue-green algae infected waterways in Southwest Florida and other parts of the state last year, killing marine life and deterring tourists from visiting beaches. The crisis is one of the reasons why FGCU wants the funding for its proposed project.

Algal blooms cost Florida $17.3 million in emergency funding last year

Officials from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission say efforts to put down pollution in Lake Okeechobee will help lessen algae blooms.

But it’s unlikely, they warn, the natural nuisance will ever go away.

“We will not get rid of red tide,” said Gil McRae, director of FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute

State officials provided an update on algae to the House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee.

The toxic trouble created political turmoil in 2018 as blue-green algae blooms prompted then-Gov. Rick Scott to call a state of emergency in July. Then red tide prompted another emergency declaration in August.

The crisis prompted the state to budget an extra $19 million to research and response efforts. The bulk of the funding, $14.6 million went to cleaning up areas plagued by red tide, mostly removing redfish piled on shores. Millions more went to sampling and sucking blue-green algae that took over the Caloosahatchee and St Lucie rivers and connected water systems.

In total, about $17.3 million was spent in 12 counties from the now-expired executive orders.

One option for disposal of biosolids: recycling them to make sustainable bricks

How can you recycle the world’s stockpiles of treated sewage sludge and boost sustainability in the construction industry, all at the same time? Turn those biosolids into bricks.

Biosolids are a by-product of the wastewater treatment process that can be used as fertiliser, in land rehabilitation or as a construction material.

Around 30% of the world’s biosolids are stockpiled or sent to landfill, using up valuable land and potentially emitting greenhouse gases, creating an environmental challenge.

Now a team at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, has demonstrated that fired-clay bricks incorporating biosolids could be a sustainable solution for both the wastewater treatment and brickmaking industries.

Published this month in the journal Buildings, the research showed how making biosolids bricks only required around half the energy of conventional bricks.

As well as being cheaper to produce, the biosolids bricks also had a lower thermal conductivity, transferring less heat to potentially give buildings higher environmental performance.

The EU produces over 9 million tonnes of biosolids a year, while the United States produces about 7.1 million tonnes. In Australia, 327,000 tonnes of biosolids are produced annually.

The study found there was a significant opportunity to create a new beneficial reuse market - bricks.

Fertilize wisely to help improve water quality

Most of the discussion about the pollutants in the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge waters focuses on the role of big agricultural companies and ranches. Whereas they are major contributors to the pollution of our waters, they are not the only ones - we all contribute and need to increase our focus on reducing that impact.

Adhere to the practices that the city of Sanibel established in its 2007 fertilizer ordinance. Make sure that you, your landscaper, and your home or condo owners association's service follow city recommendations. A number of local communities have similar ordinances in effect. If you live somewhere that does not have a fertilizer ordinance, you can also work with your community to create one.

In December, a bill was filed with the Florida legislature to fund environmental restoration projects and fine wastewater treatment facilities that spill raw or partially treated sewage into our water. The bill also cracks down on the residential use of fertilizers. We will be following this bill closely and will keep you apprised of its progress.

Sarah Ashton is co-chair for the Advocacy Committee for the "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge. For more information, visit www.dingdarlingsociety.org.

Lee Health to discuss water quality at its next board meeting

Lee Health's board will discuss Southwest Florida's toxic algae crisis at its Thursday (Jan. 17th) meeting.

A water quality workshop is the fourth agenda item of the board's regular meeting. Scheduled to speak first is Rae Ann Wessel, natural resource policy director of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. Following her are physicians Mary Beth Saunders, director of epidemiology, and Marilyn Kole, vice president of clinical transformation.

As the region works to come to grips with the ongoing consequences of a lingering red tide coupled with a blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) outbreak that began in June, such discussions are critically important, Wessel said. Lee Health is Florida's largest public health system, with more than 1 million patient visits annually.

She characterized her role in the meeting as teeing up the conversation. "Nothing political — just a fact-based overview to explain what has happened, where we are and where we go; this is not going to swept away."

Exposure to blue-green algae has been linked to neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's and ALS, also called Lou Gehrig's disease, and Dr. Walter Bradley, a neurologist and chairman emeritus of the University of Miami School of Medicine’s department of neurology, has said there is also a strong link between the kind of toxins produced by the algae that fouled the Caloosahatchee River and nonalcoholic cirrhosis of the liver. The toxins can become airborne, Bradley said, and have been identified a mile from water sources.

Cape Coral, Fort Myers seek funds in the name of saving our water

Worried about environmental threats to the region's water resources and its impact on the economy and Southwest Florida lifestyle, local leaders pressed members of Lee County's legislative delegation Tuesday for state help with safeguards.

In a couple of cases, the lawmakers heard requests for state help paying for water projects that local governments have already earmarked for funding. If successful in getting state help for water initiatives, local governments would have more cash available for undertakings lacking the popular appeal of water quality.

Six members of the region's delegation to the state Legislature held their annual public meeting at Florida SouthWestern State College to listen to representatives of governmental bodies, public service organizations and individuals make pitches for legislation and more state funding.

Money for water projects led most local government requests. Lee County delivered its pitch in a brief but pointed presentation.

Assistant County Manager Glen Salyer called for state help with work to improve flood control in the East Mulloch Water Control District. The region was hard-hit by flooding after the heavy rains of August 2017 followed by Hurricane Irma. The county has spent $4 million on water projects in the Mulloch district since the hurricane, with more work needed.