Water-Related News

Local leaders rally for water quality solutions on July 10th

Water-quality experts at the Sanibel and Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce meeting emphasized the economic ramifications of harmful algal blooms (HAB) and the urgent need for legislative action. Held on July 10 at Pink Shell Beach Resort, the business luncheon featured a panel discussion titled “Economics of our Ecology: How Blue = Green.”

The panel comprised representatives from the four partner organizations that commissioned a study on the economic impact of poor water quality: Matt DePaolis, Environmental Policy Director at Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation (SCCF); James Evan, CEO of SCCF; Daniel Andrews, Co-founder and Executive Director of Captains For Clean Water; Bill Robinson, Chief Executive Director of Sanibel & Captiva Islands Association of REALTORS; and Michele Arquette-Palermo, Chief Programs Officer for Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

DePaolis highlighted the significance of presenting data-driven arguments to legislators, noting that emotional appeals often fall short. The study revealed alarming figures, including a projected $5.2 billion loss in the coastal economy from future HAB events similar to those in 2005 and 2018. Lee County alone stands to lose $3 billion. The research also underscored impacts on jobs, fishing-related revenue, property values, and tax revenue. Detailed results of the study are available at sccf.org.

The panelists discussed past recovery efforts, current measures, and future strategies to combat HABs. Stopping discharges from Lake Okeechobee was identified as a top priority. The region’s ability to withstand individual events like those in 2018 was noted, but the potential for consecutive events poses a significant threat to resilience.

As pollution plagues Florida lakes, state spends millions to manage invasive plants

Florida’s new state budget includes millions for invasive aquatic plant management, like a collective $3.2 million to reduce unwanted vegetation in Lake Tohopekaliga and East Lake Toho in Osceola County. Both those lakes, like most in Central Florida, are polluted enough to fail state and federal water quality standards, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

In fact, Florida ranks first for how many acres of its lakes are classified as “impaired” for swimming and aquatic life: 80%, according to the Environmental Integrity Project.

At Lakes Toho, mercury and high concentrations of the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus are polluting the water. At Lake Apopka in Orange County, nitrogen and phosphorus are also a problem, along with pesticides found in fish tissue.

New technology is cleaning waterways in Southwest Florida

NORTH FORT MYERS – Michael Arens created Clean Earth Rovers while attending Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. “I had heard about the ocean plastics crisis for the first time in 2017. That really kickstarted a passion for me about healthy waterways and keeping our waterways clean,” said Arens.

Today, he has taken his water-cleaning robots coast to coast to clean up fish kills, red tide, oil spills, and algal blooms.

“What it is, is essentially a ‘Roomba’ for the waterways,” said Arens.

The vessels, thanks to a GPS and LIDAR system, can drive themselves. The robots are also equipped with 20- to 40-foot bags that can carry up to 300 pounds. Chief Technology Officer Robert Chavart says it makes cleanup much faster.

“You’re talking about deployment and recovery times when you have a spill event that used to be 4 to 6 hours. Now, you’re doing it in 40 minutes,” said Chavart.

Arens says it’s also a lot safer to use the robots to clean up red tide and blue-green algae.

Satellite imagery shows Lake Okeechobee is about half covered with algae bloom

Summer is blue-green algae season, and the potentially toxic mess is starting to show up in various places around south Florida and in the Lake Okeechobee system.

From the heart of the Everglades to Cape Coral canals, blue-green algae is being reported in typical locations and at moderate levels, but water advocates are concerned the bloom could grow into a damaging event.

Blue-green algae can turn toxic and take over the Fort Myers-Cape Coral region, as it did in the summer of 2018.

Water from Lake Okeechobee flows through the W.P. Franklin Lock in Alva during lake releases in 2020. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers started releasing water from the lake to the Caloosahatchee River recently.

"There are both freshwater and brackish blooms to be found, but most of what I've seen popping up are in the tidal canals in Southeast Cape (Coral)," said Calusa Waterkeeper volunteer Jason Pim, who lives in Cape Coral. "Is it local rainfall and stormwater runoff or just the hot, long, still days triggering all the nutrients?"

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection said on July 2 that approximately 50% of Lake Okeechobee's surface showed bloom conditions.

That DEP report is typically issued weekly, but no report was available for July 9 as of Friday afternoon.

DOH-Polk issues Blue-Green Algae Health Alerts for Lake Hancock - South Central and Scott Lake - Wes

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July 12, 2024

POLK COUNTY – The Florida Department of Health in Polk County (DOH-Polk) has issued health alerts for the presence of harmful blue-green algae toxins in Lake Hancock - South Central and Scott Lake - West. The alerts are in response to water samples taken on July 2, 2024. The public should exercise caution in and around Lake Hancock - South Central and Scott Lake - West.

DOH-Polk advises residents and visitors to take the following precautions:

  • Do not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercrafts, or come into contact with waters where there is a visible bloom.
  • Wash your skin and clothing with soap and water if you have any contact with algae, or discolored or water that smells unpleasant.
  • Keep pets and livestock away from the area to avoid any contact with water. Waters where algae blooms are present are not safe for animals. Pets and livestock should use an alternative source of water when algae blooms are present.
  • Do not cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms. Boiling the water will not eliminate toxins.
  • 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 thoroughly.
  • Do not eat shellfish from waters with algae blooms.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and partners collect algae samples (link opens in new window) from reported bloom locations. After samples are analyzed at their laboratory, the toxin results can be viewed on Protecting Florida Together (link opens in new window) or on DEP’s Algal Bloom Dashboard (link opens in new w

Estero Island Beach Renourishment project begins this month

It’s summer, the perfect time to hit the beach and soak up the sun, and it’s about to get even nicer with the Estero Island beach nourishment and hurricane recovery project.

“We went walking on the beach and looked for shells,” said a group of kids. “I had a good beach day. I think it was pretty nice.”

Don’t worry; the beach will stay open since the work starts in the Gulf. About 950 thousand cubic yards of sand will be dredged out onto Fort Myers Beach.

“I think the storm protection it offers to both the town’s critical infrastructure,” said Chadd Chustz, an environmental project manager at Fort Myers Beach. “Estero Boulevard and all that stormwater infrastructure that’s there, as well as the upland properties that are beachside, giving them some resilience against the storms that are coming our way and giving them protection against the storm surge and wave action.”

Construction will start on North Estero Island, and they plan to start pumping sand on July 21.

This project costs 22 million dollars, but the town has received grants to cover most of it.

Lake Okeechobee once again covered with Blue-Green Algae

According to NOAA, algae blooms cover nearly 460 square miles of Lake Okeechobee.

LAKE OKEECHOBEE, Fla. — Another summer, another blue-green algae bloom. Lake Okeechobee is once again covered with hundreds of square miles of blue-green algae.

Look at this video shot by Ralph Arwood over the Lake this past Sunday. Everywhere you look you see the slimy green algae floating on the surface of the lake.

The bloom is so dense that its green hue can even be seen from space in satellite images. According to NOAA’s National Center for Coastal Ocean Science, the bloom covers 460 square miles of the lake or nearly half.

Venice reassures residents about PFAS compounds in drinking water

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The City’s Drinking Water and PFAS

What are PFAS? Per-and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS), also commonly known as “forever chemicals,” are byproducts of the manufacturing processes used to make non-stick items, waterproofing, and stain-resistant products. They are also found in firefighting foam. The major concern is that these compounds are being found in water sources near manufacturing plants and firefighter academies. Medically, exposure to PFAS over long periods of time can increase the risk of thyroid cancer, weaken childhood immunity, and other ailments.

What does this mean for public drinking water systems?

Public water systems will have three years to complete the initial monitoring requirements. They must inform the public of the level of PFAS measured in their drinking water and they must implement solutions to reduce PFAS in their drinking water to levels below the standards within five years. Currently, there are readily available solutions on the market now – granulated activated carbon, ion-exchange, and reverse-osmosis. The City Currently uses Reverse Osmosis to treat your drinking water.

What is the Utilities Department doing regarding PFAS?

The City of Venice is committed to providing meaningful information to address potential concerns to its customers related to PFAS, the forever chemicals. The information provided below is intended to explain some of the important background information needed to understand specific actions the Utilities Department has been taking to address PFAS and other recent news related to PFAS.

In 2013, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) began to consider regulating these compounds in drinking water as part of their required Unregulated Contaminant Testing program. In this program, utilities are required to test their water for groups of contaminants that the EPA is considering creating rules and monitoring levels for. Recently the EPA has passed directives for all municipalities to begin testing cycles for 6 PFAS compounds and have set maximum contaminant levels (MCL) for each. States have the option to accept these levels or to set ones for themselves that are lower and thus more restrictive.

The Venice Utilities Department has been closely monitoring all of these coming changes for years. We tested our drinking water as required during EPA’s Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR)-3 testing cycle in 2013. We again tested our drinking water going to our customers and the raw water coming into the Water Treatment Plant in 2020 to have updated results to share with customers. During both testing events the levels of PFAS in our drinking and raw water were found to be below detectable limits (BDL). BDL means that the levels of PFAS were below the outside laboratories’ ability to detect any contaminants in the water with currently available technology.

DOH-Polk cautions about Blue-Green Algae at multiple lakes

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July 1, 2024

POLK COUNTY – The Florida Department of Health in Polk County (DOH-Polk) is cautioning the public of the presence of blue-green algae in Lake Conine - at Lucerne Park Road Boat Ramp and in Lake Van - end of Lake Van Road on June 26, 2024. Water sample testing is underway. Blue-green algae have the potential to produce toxins. Since environmental conditions can change at any time, it is important to exercise caution, even if presence of toxins has not yet been confirmed.

DOH-Polk advises residents and visitors to take the following precautions:

  • Do not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercrafts, or come into contact with waters where there is a visible bloom.
  • Wash your skin and clothing with soap and water if you have any contact with algae, or discolored or water that smells unpleasant.
  • Keep pets and livestock away from the area to avoid any contact with water. Waters where algae blooms are present are not safe for animals. Pets and livestock should use an alternative source of water when algae blooms are present.
  • Do not cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms. Boiling the water will not eliminate toxins.
  • 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 thoroughly.
  • Do not eat shellfish from waters with algae blooms.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and partners collect algae samples (link opens in new window) from reported bloom locations. After samples are analyzed at their laboratory, the toxin results can be viewed on Protecting Florida Together (link opens in new window) or on DEP’s Algal Bloom Dashboard (link opens in new window).

Sarasota County to host public meeting on climate-related flood, storm surge study

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SARASOTA COUNTY – Sarasota County residents are invited to a July 23 public meeting to learn the findings of a study focused on the threat flooding and sea level rise could pose to county assets.

The meeting will showcase highlights from the county’s Vulnerability Assessment and Resilience analysis, a state-funded project to look at public infrastructure and identify possible projects aimed at reducing risks and potential funding avenues.

“By planning for these vulnerabilities, we aim to enhance the resilience of our coastal systems and infrastructure, to safeguard our economy and reduce future costs,” said Sara Kane, sustainability and resilience manager with Sarasota County UF/IFAS Extension and Sustainability.

Sarasota County features miles of coastline and waterways that attract and benefit residents, visitors and businesses alike. Officials here, as in many other coastal areas, are working to safeguard these social and economic benefits against the risks posed by flooding, sea level rise, storm surges and other climate-related stressors.

Part of that effort has included completing the vulnerability study, launched in 2023 and funded through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Resilient Florida grant program.

Attendees can join the 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. meeting in person or online to learn key study findings, including focus area priorities—such as locations where flooding or storm surge threaten a wide range of buildings and other infrastructure—and explore adaptation strategies. The meeting also will offer information about the Resilient Florida program.

The in-person meeting is set for the Sarasota County Extension office at Twin Lakes Park, 6700 Clark Road, Sarasota, with light refreshments available. Learn more and register to attend—in person or online—at www.eventbrite.com/e/916573133917.

For more information, visit Source: Sarasota County »

‘Ding’ Darling acquires 21.5 acres to preserve more wildlife habitat

Wildlife on Sanibel now have a few more acres to romp around on safely thanks to the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge.

The Society recently closed on a 21.5-acre parcel of land adjacent to Bay Drive thanks to a donation from the family Pine Rock Foundation of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The land will become part of the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

The parcel was originally part of a 75-acre historic property along bay shores owned by the Symroski pioneer family. Through the generations, the family sold off parcels of the homesteaded property, much of which became neighborhood communities.

Ann-Marie Wildman, DDWS executive director, described how the property will be handled:

"The majority of the property (around 21 acres) will be donated to U.S. Fish and Wildlife ( for the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge) however the federal government cannot accept buildings so the one small house that is on the property will remain as part of the "Ding" Darling Wildlife Society Land LLC (the non profit friends group for the Refuge) and will be used for either intern housing or affordable housing for a young professional with "Ding" Darling."

Wildman said the small amount that is kept by the friends group would be approximately a half acre and no other homes will ever be built on this property.

“Continuing the 42-year legacy of the ‘Ding’ Darling Wildlife Society in conservation, protection, and education is what this is all about, and we are so thrilled to help preserve this important stretch of island green space, which is vital habitat, in perpetuity.,” said DDWS Board of Directors president Bill Harkey. He added that it will also enhance efforts for storm resilience and benefit island residents for generations.

"That property will be preserved forever," Wildman said. "We wanted to maintain it for wildlife, or a nice corridor. That property is bookended by other preservation properties, and therefore will create a habitat for wildlife."

The conservation plots that bookend the Bay Drive property will complete a critical wildlife corridor through mostly undeveloped land planted with mangroves and other native vegetation and frequented by gopher tortoises, bobcats, screech owls, and myriad other varieties of birds and reptiles.

State of Florida updates stormwater regulations

Governor Ron DeSantis signs updates to Florida stormwater regulations.

Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis signed SB7040 which updates environmental statutes with a number of standards recommended by the Department of Environmental protection.

The signed legislation lays out regulations that developers must comply with. Applicants seeking permits from the state must provide information through designs and plans that meet performance standards as well as meet other requirements under the revised rules.

Applicants must also demonstrate compliance with the rule’s performance standards by providing reasonable assurance through modeling, calculations, and supporting documentation that satisfy the provisions of the revised rules.5

According to an article, the legislation sets new minimum standards for stormwater treatment systems. It requires that they achieve at least an 80% reduction of the average annual post-development total suspended solids load, or a 95% reduction if the proposed project is located within an area with a watershed that contains Outstanding Florida Waters (OWF) or one located upstream.

The bill also clarifies provisions relating to grandfathered projects, or projects that have started before the bill was signed.

The bill also states that entities implementing stormwater best management practices also regulated under different provisions of the law are not subject to duplicate inspections for the same practices, and allows alternative treatment standards for redevelopment projects in areas with impaired waters.

These updated regulations come weeks after DeSantis singed the state budget that cut about $205 million in stormwater, wastewater and sewer projects.

DOH-Polk issues Blue-Green Algae Health Alert for Lake Gibson - West

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June 25, 2024

POLK COUNTY – The Florida Department of Health in Polk County (DOH-Polk) has issued a health alert for the presence of harmful blue-green algae toxins in Lake Gibson – West. The alert is in response to a water sample taken on June 18, 2024. The public should exercise caution in and around Lake Gibson – West.

DOH-Polk advises residents and visitors to take the following precautions:

  • Do not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercrafts, or come into contact with waters where there is a visible bloom.
  • Wash your skin and clothing with soap and water if you have any contact with algae, or discolored or water that smells unpleasant.
  • Keep pets and livestock away from the area to avoid any contact with water. Waters where algae blooms are present are not safe for animals. Pets and livestock should use an alternative source of water when algae blooms are present.
  • Do not cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms. Boiling the water will not eliminate toxins.
  • 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 thoroughly.
  • Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and partners collect algae samples from reported bloom locations. After samples are analyzed at their laboratory, the toxin results can be viewed on Protecting Florida Together or on DEP’s Algal Bloom Dashboard.

DOH-Lee cautions about Blue-Green Algae at Caloosahatchee River - Rivers Condo

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June 21, 2024

LEE COUNTY – The Florida Department of Health in Lee County (DOH-Lee) is cautioning the public of the presence of blue-green algae at Caloosahatchee River — Rivers Condo. This is in response to water samples taken on June 19, 2024. The public should exercise caution in and around Caloosahatchee River — Rivers Condo. Water sample testing is underway. Blue-green algae have the potential to produce toxins. Since environmental conditions can change at any time, it is important to exercise caution, even if presence of toxins has not yet been confirmed.

DOH-Lee advises residents and visitors to take the following precautions:

  • Do not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercrafts, or come into contact with waters where there is a visible bloom.
  • Wash your skin and clothing with soap and water if you have any contact with algae, or discolored or water that smells unpleasant.
  • Keep pets and livestock away from the area to avoid any contact with water. Waters where algae blooms are present are not safe for animals. Pets and livestock should use an alternative source of water when algae blooms are present.
  • Do not cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms. Boiling the water will not eliminate toxins.
  • 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 thoroughly.
  • Do not eat shellfish harvested from waters with algae blooms.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and partners collect algae samples from reported bloom locations. After samples are analyzed at their laboratory, the toxin results can be viewed on Protecting Florida Together or on DEP’s Algal Bloom Dashboard.