Water-Related News

CCP gets updates on wastewater, iguanas and more

The Captiva Community Panel was provided an update on the near-completion of the supplemental wastewater research project, plus received information about the island's iguana control service.

At the Oct. 8 meeting, Panel Member and Wastewater Committee Chair Jay Brown reported that consultant David Tomasko, of Environmental Science Associates, is expected to have his final report completed by Nov. 1 for review and presentation. He was hired to identify the benefits and risks of Captiva maintaining its septic reliance and practices versus some form of a central sewer system.

A preliminary draft of his findings was reviewed by the Wastewater Committee, members of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation and Sanibel Natural Resource Director James Evans. The group in turn provided Tomasko with some comments to consider when drafting the final report.

Blue-Green Algae Task Force approves 1st recommendations

Task Force comes to consensus on first set of water quality improvement recommendations

TALLAHASSEE – This week, the Blue-Green Algae Task Force met and approved its first set of recommendations to address water quality and harmful algal blooms.

The Blue-Green Algae Task Force is an advisory body, appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis, to aid the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in fulfilling its mission to protect, conserve and manage the state’s natural resources and enforce its environmental laws. The task force, through its discussion and deliberations, provides guidance and specific, science-based recommendations with the goal of expediting improvements and restoration of Florida’s water bodies that have been adversely affected by blue-green algae blooms.

“I appreciate the time the task force members and the public have invested in these important discussions. This commitment is a testament to the passion these leading scientists and residents of our state have for the protection of our natural resources,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. ”I look forward to utilizing these recommendations to identify regulatory and management strategies to expedite water quality improvements.”

“The recommendations released by the task force are the result of a deliberative and transparent process and reflect DEP’s commitment as a state agency to science-based decision making. These recommendations will undoubtedly be used to inform viable and effective policy,” said Chief Science Officer Dr. Thomas Frazer. “The task force will continue to meet and will delve even more deeply into a broader suite of issues related to water quality and algal blooms moving forward.”

A copy of the consensus document can be found on the Blue-Green Algae Task Force website.

Completed coastal vulnerability study presented to Sanibel City Council

The Sanibel City Council recently heard a presentation and received the final report on a coastal resiliency study of the islands, conducted in partnership with Florida Gulf Coast University.

Dr. Michael Savarese, a professor of marine science and environmental studies with FGCU's Department of Marine and Ecological Sciences, provided an overview of the "An Assessment of Coastal Vulnerability Due to Sea-level Rise and Increased Storminess" at the Oct. 2 meeting.

The six-month project, which concluded in June and was funded through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Florida Resilient Coastline Programs, aims to help Sanibel and Captiva understand their vulnerabilities to sea-level rise and storminess, plus identify the most relevant effects for them.

"We employed a community-engaged approach," Savarese said of conducting the study.

"This is just a first step," he added. "There are many other steps to follow."

In his presentation, Savarese explained that climate change vulnerability is predicting or anticipating future effects across the landscape and protecting community assets. It is key to preserving or improving quality of life and economic vitality and to maintain urban, cultural and natural resources.

Counties discuss potential partnership to protect SWFL’s coast

Monday, Cape Coral is discussing a new partnership to help prepare our coast for strong storms.

Florida Gulf Coast University professor Dr. Savarese says there is power in numbers, and if all of our SWFL counties work together, we can get more done when it comes to protecting our communities.

Right now, Dr. Savarese is looking for all cities within Lee, Charlotte, and Collier to sign this compact.

The goal is to better our communities for storms, sea level rise, and other damaging effects of climate change.

He told WINK News the Southeast Florida compact that covers Key West up to the West Palm Beach area has been successful over the past 10 years, and he would like to model ours after that.

Climate-focused initiative appoints regional director to address climate issues

A community partnership aimed at educating the Southwest Florida region on climate change solutions has appointed a regional director.

A slew of local organizations: from the Community Foundation of Collier County and Florida Gulf Coast University to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida teamed up to form Growing Climate Solutions – Path to Positive Southwest Florida.

The initiative’s goals are to “empower community members and leaders to initiate change, ensure a prosperous and healthy community, build climate literacy and protect natural assets,” according to its website.

The consortium of groups named Ana Puszkin-Chevlin as the regional director for the new initiative.

North Port Joins Fifth Annual “Imagine a Day Without Water”

The City of North Port has joined elected officials, water utilities, community leaders, educators, and businesses from across the country as part of the fifth annual Imagine a Day Without Water vent, a nationwide day of education and advocacy about the value of water. Led by the Value of Water Campaign, a thousand organizations across the country will raise awareness about not taking water for granted and the crucial need for investment in our nation’s water systems.

The City joined Imagine a Day Without Water to draw attention the increasing demands put upon our area resources as well as options that are available to decrease the usage of potable water. The City of North Port offers reclaimed water service to specific areas within the community which can offset the demand for potable water. At a significant cost savings, reclaimed water can be utilized to water lawns and landscaping, as well as be used for washing vehicles, or used in decorative fountains.

Red tide, fish kills return to Southwest Florida

Red tide has returned to Collier County beaches while a low-density patch of red tide has lingered offshore of Lee County for about a week.

The latest test results for Collier County show red tide is present at four of the five test sites.

Test results for water samples collected Monday showed Tuesday that the Florida red tide organism, Karenia brevis, was detected at medium concentrations at Barefoot Beach and Vanderbilt Beach.

Low concentrations were found at Seagate Beach and the Naples Pier. Only South Marco Beach did not have red tide present.

Medium concentrations of red tide can lead to respiratory irritation and make fish kills "probable," according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Low concentrations also can lead to respiratory irritation and "possible" fish kills. 

Seasonal ban ends, scientists still warn against fertilizer use

The law about how you can take care of your own lawn is changing, and the seasonal fertilizer band is coming to an end.

But just because the ban is being lifted doesn’t mean there still aren’t restrictions to using the fertilizer, as there are still “fertilizer free zones.”

That means the fertilizer has to stay 10 feet away from things like canals, ponds, or lakes to prevent any runoff.

WINK News spoke with one Florida Gulf Coast University professor who says, while it is good that the city takes these precautions during wet season, the mentality shouldn’t change during the dry season.

Professor James Douglass says the ideal amount of fertilizer to be using is zero. He says there is always a chance the nutrients from fertilizer can get into the waterways, which could cause algae blooms.

He stressed using fertilizer isn’t worth the risk of damaging our waters.

Report: Florida’s water supplies under extreme pressure

State, water management districts and local utilities promote conservation, reclaimed water and new sources in response and preparation of the state’s expanding population.

Given its birth and death rates and constant influx of newcomers, Florida’s population is increasing by more than 900 people daily.

That expanding population requires water — water to drink, cook, bathe, grow food, even operate power plants.

The Florida Office of Economic & Demographic Research says the statewide daily demand for water, 6.4 billion gallons as of 2015, is projected to increase by 17% in the next 20 years to more than 7.5 billion gallons as the population climbs to 25.2 million. That demand could be higher and the availability of that water lessened if climate change increases the frequency of droughts.

Not one of Florida’s five water management districts, which oversee permits for water supplies, “can meet its future demand solely with existing source capacity,” the agency stated in a recent report.

Congressional committee presses EPA over WOTUS rollback

A congressional subcommittee questioned the Trump administration on Wednesday over its rollback of Obama-era Clean Water Act protections.

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency repealed a 2015 rule that expanded the definition of "waters of the United States," or WOTUS, a definition intended to clarify which waterways and wetlands are federally regulated.

In prepared testimony delivered Wednesday, David Ross, an administrator in the EPA's water office, said the Obama-era rules "failed to adequately recognize, preserve, and protect the primary responsibilities and rights of states to manage their own land and water resources."

Congressional Democrats criticized the repeal, contending it will lead to more pollution and threaten drinking water. Oregon Rep. Peter DeFazio said industry "can dump whatever they want in [the water] because it's an economic value to them. And then it just flows over the border to another state. If their people want to drink it, that's their problem."

Septic tanks eyed in efforts to combat algae

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection should be teamed with health officials who permit septic tanks as the state tries to ensure cleaner waterways, members of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force agreed Wednesday.

Expanding oversight of the state’s millions of septic tanks was among a list of general recommendations that received some support Wednesday from the five-member task force as part of a draft report.

The report, based on topics reviewed so far, is expected to provide guidance for lawmakers as they approach the 2020 legislative session.

But task force members, who met this week in Naples, made clear they still intend to tackle issues about wastewater reuse or recycled water and agriculture and urban uses of herbicides and fertilizers, topics they have not fully addressed.

Water Management District board vacancies concern some conservationists

The Southwest Florida Water Management Board met this week. At last.

The board had to cancel a meeting recently because it lacked enough members present to have a quorum. Only seven of its 13 seats were filled at the time, and one member did not attend. The other vacant seats were awaiting appointments from Gov. Ron DeSantis.

And while the water management district has now approved its $202 million budget and its tax rate for homeowners in the 16 counties it covers, some conservationists are looking at water district board vacancies with concern. Is DeSantis living up to his environmental agenda announced in January, or is he dragging his feet?

“He has made some bold promises to improving water quality, and we're going to continue to advocate for that and hold them accountable for those promises,” said Jaclyn Lopez, the Florida director for the Center for Biological Diversity.

“And we know that there are a lot of things going on that should be concluding, you know, right around now at the end of summer, beginning of fall,” Lopez said. “So we'll start to see if the administration is able to put his money where his mouth is and really deliver on some of the promises of improving Florida's water quality.”

Lopez added it is crucial that the water districts address red tide and blue-green algae blooms statewide. A task force on blue-green algae held its last meeting Wednesday, but its recommendations have not yet been sent to the water districts to be implemented.

Other water districts have received speedier attention. In South Florida, where the sugar industry and Everglades restoration are high-profile issues, DeSantis quickly moved to replace the entire South Florida Water Management District Board in January after it refused to put off a November 2018 vote on a new sugar farming lease that he wanted to review.

EPA considering first fish farm in Gulf of Mexico

Environmental & fishing groups oppose the Hawaii-based company’s plan.

A Hawaii-based company wants to open the first offshore fish farm in the Gulf of Mexico about 45 miles west of Sarasota. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which approved a draft permit in August, is seeking public comment on issuing a final permit on the project through Sunday.

Fishing and environmental groups have already raised objections to the proposal by Kampachi Farms to anchor a chain-link mesh pen offshore to raise 20,000 Almaco jack fish – a relative of the popular amberjack – for human consumption. The company plans to hatch the fish from eggs in tanks on shore, then when they become fingerlings move them to the open ocean pen.

The farm, a pilot project, would not only be a first for the gulf, but would also be the first in the federal waters of the continental United States. If it works, then look for others to follow, both here and elsewhere, said Kampachi co-founder Neil Anthony Sims.

“We think the gulf coast of Florida around Tampa offers the most advantageous location, given the criteria we’re looking at,” Sims said. Other companies are eyeing potential fish farm locations off of California and Long Island, he said.

That’s the main reason the Kampachi proposal is drawing opposition from environmental groups and commercial fishing operations: They don’t want offshore fish farms to start popping up all around the country, because they view them as a threat to clean water and a thriving fishing industry.

Questions remain over long-term health effects of blue-green algae

Coughing, wheezing, and rashes. Those are just some of the health problems readers are telling us about when it comes to previous bouts of blue-green algae in Southwest Florida. “It’s hurting our tourism. It’s killing dogs and livestock and fish,” said David Spiers, who works for a company that’s working to kill blue-green algae blooms as we saw in 2018. The state’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force is talking about the issue in Naples. And it’s so serious, Florida’s surgeon general Scott Rivkees made an appearance.

He says, “Health effects for blue-green algae toxins have been recognized for almost 1,000 years.”

The big question remains: What are the long-term health effects of the algae?

Florida’s state toxicologist Dr. Kendra Goff says, “We still don’t have a lot of information about what is going on with the longer-term impacts.”

Which also makes it hard to predict when harmful algae will show up.

Florida's Blue-Green Algae Task Force focuses on DOH response, future actions

The state needs a better way to tell the public whether there's a blue-green algae bloom on popular waterways during the summer.

Those were some of the sentiments from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Blue-Green Algae Task Force, which met Wednesday in Naples.

"In the short term we have some real shortcomings," said task force chair and Florida's top scientist Tom Frazer. "We’re limited by technology to quickly assess the toxins."

The task force was formed earlier this year as part of an executive order by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Aimed at addressing growing blue-green algae blooms in fresh water systems, the task force met for the fourth time and focused on the Florida Department of Health and how the agency can better inform the public about blue-green blooms.

DOH's public perception took a hit last summer as the agency was slow to respond to media, the public and conditions at the time.

DEP announces opportunities to expand water quality restoration efforts

The Florida Department of Environmental protection announces new opportunities for all public and private parties to help expand the state's water quality restoration efforts.

Similar to the previous Request for Information (RFI) that DEP issued for innovative technologies to mitigate algal blooms, the department has released a RFI to identify additional nutrient reduction projects within the Lake Okeechobee basin. This is the first time this process has been utilized for project identification for Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs).

The RFI is open to all parties including local land owners and technology companies, which goes beyond the typical, local government focus of past BMAPs

RFIs for projects for the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie BMAP areas will also be issued in the coming days. Governor DeSantis’ executive order called for all three South Florida BMAPs to be updated within a year, and projects submitted will be considered for inclusion in the updated BMAPs. There is no specific funding for projects submitted in response to these RFIs as the RFI is for informational purposes only; however, projects listed in the updated BMAPs will be targeted for future funding.

Satellite image shows red tide offshore near Bonita Springs

Red tide reports look clear for the most part, but a patch toxic enough to kill fish and other marine life is lurking offshore of the Bonita Springs area, some researchers say.

A recent satellite image from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, shows a patch of chlorophyll several miles offshore, and tests taken by the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation last week confirmed the presence of red tide in that same area.

"We've been seeing red tide in our offshore samples and at about that same distance (as the NOAA image) from shore," said SCCF water quality scientist Rick Bartleson. "One spot had 20,000 cells per liter, so that is a high enough concentration to cause toxic problems, fish kills or sick birds."