Water-Related News

Extension of Comment Period for the Definition of "Waters of the United States"

EPA and the Army have extended the comment period by 30 days for the proposed first step of the review of the definition of "waters of the United States" to provide additional time for stakeholders to weigh in.

The comment period, as now extended, will close on September 27, 2017. The proposed rule was signed by the Administrator and Mr. Douglas Lamont, senior official performing the duties of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, and posted to EPA’s website on June 27th and published in the Federal Register on July 27th. When finalized, the proposed rule would replace the 2015 Clean Water Rule with the regulations that were in effect immediately preceding the 2015 rule. The public can submit comments, identified by Docket Id. EPA-HQ-2017-0203, at regulations.gov.

Federal Register Notice
On August 16, 2017, the EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Water, Michael Shapiro, along with Mr. Douglas Lamont, senior official performing the duties of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, signed the Federal Register notice extending the public comment period, which published on August 22, 2017.

Utility crews work to avoid sewer spills, ask for water conservation

Utility crews in places without power are working around the clock to avoid sewage spills as residents continue to feel the effects of Hurricane Irma.

“If the resident doesn’t have power at home, it’s safe to say that their lift station doesn’t have power,” said David Bayhan, utility services director in Winter Haven. “What we want our residents to do is conserve water. Don’t flush the toilet unless you have to. Don’t do five loads of laundry just because you’re bored. That water is creating sewer and going downstream.”

Haines City is having problems with its lift stations because of power outages there.

As of Tuesday, 90 of Winter Haven’s 198 lift stations were without commercial power, and of those, 67 were without permanent generators.

By Thursday afternoon, 26 were without commercial power and five were running on a permanent generator, Bayhan said. Six others have a generator or bypass pump while the city rotates generators to service the other 15.

“We have a crew working through the night rotating generators at lift stations,” Bayhan said. “We’re doing everything in our power to keep up with these lift stations. We just ask that you bear with us until we get through this.”

In Haines City, which still did not have power restored to major parts of the city Thursday, the situation is similar. Utilities Director Mike Stripling said the city has about 50 lift stations it is servicing and only 13 have permanent generators.

Polk Environmental Lands Opens Limited Sites

While Polk County Environmental Lands sites received damage due to Hurricane Irma, the following sites are now open:
• Lakeland Highlands Scrub
• Marshall Hampton Reserve
• Crooked Lake Prairie
• Crooked Lake Sandhill
• Hickory Lake Scrub
• North Walk-in-Water Creek

Large debris has been cleared from the trails and public use areas and there are portions of these sites and trails that may be wet or completely underwater. Visitors are strongly encouraged to use good judgement and not walk through areas underwater. Water levels will continue to fluctuate over the next several days and visitors should use caution when hiking. Circle B Bar Reserve, Polk's Nature Discovery Center, Panther Point Trail and Gator Creek Reserve remain closed due to flooding.

Sewage Spills Add To Misery In Hurricane-Battered Florida

As if loss of air conditioning and refrigeration weren't bad enough, widespread power outages in hurricane-battered Florida are teaming with structural failures to cause another headache: sewage overflows.

Local governments have submitted well over 100 "notices of pollution" to the state Department of Environmental Protection since Hurricane Irma struck, some involving multiple spills and releases of millions of gallons of wastewater in various stages of treatment.

Officials in many cities were still scrambling Thursday to determine how much sewage had escaped, while the state warned people to steer clear of standing water.

"Floodwaters may contain not only bacteria from sanitary sewer overflows but other potential contaminants from agricultural or industrial waste," environmental protection department spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller said.

About 6 million gallons of wastewater was released from a plant on Virginia Key near Miami during a seven-hour power outage overnight Sunday that disabled its pumps — one of seven spills reported by the Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer Department. The water had gone through most of the treatment process but hadn't been chlorinated, spokeswoman Jennifer Messemer-Skold said.

Officials advised people not to swim at Miami-area beaches until waters could be tested for a variety of pollutants.

Irma's gone, rivers still rising

River flooding is the latest consequence of Hurricane Irma blowing through Florida earlier this week.

The National Weather Service in Ruskin said significant river flooding will continue over the next several days as rain from the storm drains into West Central Florida rivers.

On Tuesday evening, Hillsborough County Fire Rescue issued an urgent warning to people living on the Alafia River floodplain.

"If water is approaching your home, we strongly recommend you evacuate immediately. If you are unable to evacuate safely on your own, call 911 for assistance," they said in a statement.

Many are cresting near or at historic levels, and are risking homes, campgrounds and other locations along the rivers, according to the advisory.

As of Tuesday afternoon, warnings had been extended for the following area rivers until further notice:
· Hillsborough River Near Hillsborough River State Park
· Alafia River at Riverview
· Little Manatee River at Wimauma
· Manatee River near Myakka Head
· Anclote River at Elfers

Flood warnings also continue for the following:
· Withlacoochee at Trilby
· Withlacoochee River at Croom
· Withlacoochee at Holder
· Hillsborough River at Morris Bridge
· Cypress Creek at Worthington Gardens
· Alafia River at Lithia
· Myakka River at Myakka River State Park
· Peace River at Bartow
· Peace River at Arcadia
· Horse Creek near Arcadia

To see the most updated advisories from the Weather Service, visit http://www.weather.gov/tbw/ and select the “Rivers and Lakes” tab.

Pinellas County: What to do after a hurricane

You survived hurricane Irma. What should you do now?

SWFWMD to Hold Public Workshop on Ranking Water Bodies

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The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) is seeking public input about the order in which minimum flows and levels (MFLs) for lakes, wetlands, rivers, streams and aquifers in the District will be determined. Legislation requires the District to review and, if necessary, revise the schedule each year.

A public workshop will be held from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on Aug. 30 at the District’s Tampa Service Office, located at 7601 U.S. Highway 301.The workshop will provide an important opportunity for local governments, residents and others to be part of the scheduling of minimum flows and levels for priority water bodies.

A minimum flow or level is the limit at which further water withdrawals will cause significant harm to the water resources or environment. The District Governing Board sets these limits 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 2017 is available on the District’s website here. The draft 2017/2018 list will be published on the site following the Governing Board’s August meeting. The revised schedule will be considered for adoption at the Board’s meeting in October.

Written comments on the draft Priority List and Schedule may be submitted to Doug Leeper, chief environmental scientist, at doug.leeper@watermatters.org or to 2379 Broad Street, Brooksville, Florida, 34604 no later than Oct. 6.

For more information, please contact Doug Leeper at 1-800-423-1476, ext. 4272.

State bill requests $125 million to help springs, St. Johns River

A bill to increase money for the preservation of North Florida springs and the St. Johns River has been filed by state Sen. Rob Bradley, who is trying to build on funding that is in the current budget.

Senate Bill 204 requests that $75 million from the state’s Land Acquisition Trust Fund be spent annually for the restoration of springs. It also requests that $50 million be given annually to the St. Johns River Water Management District for restoration of the river and its tributaries in the Keystone Heights lake region.

“The St. Johns River and our springs define the character of North Florida,” Bradley said in a news release. “In addition to providing scenic beauty and recreational opportunities to local residents, our river and springs attract visitors from across the state and nation.”

The Land Acquisition Trust Fund is primarily supported by Amendment 1, a referendum approved by Florida voters in 2014. The law sets aside one-third of the tax revenue from real estate transactions to buy land for preservation and for environmental restoration projects.

After its overwhelming passage, the Legislature drew criticism from the public over the way some of the money was being spent, contending some of the appropriations were not consistent with the requirements of the Land Acquisition Trust Fund.

The current budget includes $50 million for springs restoration and $13.3 million for St. Johns River projects, which Bradley worked to get in the budget, the release states.