Water-Related News

The sea level did, in fact, rise faster in Florida and the southeast U.S.

For people in the southeastern United States, and especially in Florida, who feel that annoying tidal flooding has sneaked up on them in recent years, it turns out to be true. And scientists have a new explanation.

In a paper published online Wednesday, University of Florida researchers calculated that from 2011 to 2015, the sea level along the American coastline south of Cape Hatteras, N.C., rose six times faster than the long-term rate of global increase.

"I said, 'That's crazy!' " Andrea Dutton, one of the researchers, recalled saying when a colleague first showed her the figures. " 'You must have done something wrong!' "

But it was correct. During that period of rapid increase, many people in Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale and other coastal communities started to notice unusual "sunny-day flooding," a foot or two of salt water inundating their streets at high tide for no apparent reason.

In the paper, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the scientists proposed a mechanism to explain the rapid increase: Two large-scale atmospheric patterns had intersected to push up the water off the Southeast coast, causing a "hot spot" of sea-level rise.

This new mechanism, if it holds up to scientific scrutiny, might ultimately give researchers the ability to predict tidal flooding more accurately and warn communities what to expect months in advance.

Be mindful of summertime algal blooms, report them to FDEP

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Department of Health are encouraging residents and visitors to be mindful during summertime recreational activities as the season’s high temperatures, abundant sunlight and frequent rainstorms annually increase the presence of algal blooms in certain Florida waterbodies. Individuals should avoid contact with algae and can report algal blooms using DEP’s toll-free hotline (855-305-3903) and online at (www.reportalgalbloom.com). Currently there are no health advisories or any reason to believe the health of residents has been impacted.

State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. Celeste Philip said “The health and safety of Florida families is DOH’s number one priority. It is important to avoid coming into contact with any algae and we do not recommend swimming or fishing in areas where algae is seen. We will continue to work with DEP to keep residents, visitors and local officials updated.”

DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein said “DEP encourages residents and visitors to immediately report algal blooms to help us respond as quickly and efficiently as possible. Florida is a national leader in responding to and managing algal blooms. We are committed to working with state and local agencies to ensure the health of Floridians, visitors and our natural resources."

DEP and Florida’s water management districts frequently monitor Florida’s water quality and routinely collect algal bloom samples as soon as they are observed to identify algal type and test for toxicity. In addition, staff are deployed to take additional samples in response to reported blooms – whether from a citizen, other response team agencies or other sources. To keep residents and visitors informed of the latest algal bloom monitoring results and activities, DEP has a website where it posts the dates and locations of samples collected. Test results are added as they become available. Persistent blooms are routinely monitored and retested.

Businesses bucked Gov. Rick Scott's rule to notify public about pollution

In April, workers cleaned up 341,000 gallons of raw sewage released because of a pipe break near neighborhoods south of Clermont.

Another 2,000 gallons containing water-purifying chemicals were spilled in June on county property near SeaWorld’s new Aquatica water park.

The two events were among more than two dozen pollution incidents in Central Florida in the first half of the year. None were reported to local media after complaints from industry associations led to a new 24-hour public notice requirement for pollution spills — sparked by a Polk County spill — to be overturned.

But the judge’s decision led to a new law that open-government advocate Barbara Petersen said is an improvement over the situation that existed before the short-lived requirement on polluters. The law allows the media and anyone else to sign up for alerts about pollution incidents, a process that didn’t previously exist.

Controversial Haines City composting facility to stay closed

Resident Katrina Dowdy wishes someone with a camera had been standing outside City Hall following the City Commission’s vote to close a composting facility so that the smile on her father’s face could have been recorded for history.

The controversial BCR Environmental composting plant will not reopen.

Dowdy, her father, Norman Mathews, and other residents have gone before the commission numerous times to complain about the stench and other problems emanating from the composting facility that is near their homes in eastern Haines City.

“I know our commissioners fought like hell to help us out,” Dowdy said. “I appreciate everything they’ve done, and I respect what they’ve done.”

The commission voted 3-0 Thursday night for a settlement agreement that will shutter for good the facility on East Park Road that processes human waste and other material into soil.

Need for water prompts investigation deep underground

The District is conducting exploratory well research more than a half mile below the surface. It’s happening at the Crooked Lake well site, located in southeastern Polk County. Central Florida has used the Upper Floridan aquifer as it’s predominant water source for decades. Now, with continued population growth, finding future water sources is more important than ever before.

George Schluttermann, a senior hydrogeologist with the District, said the data coming from the Crooked Lake site will assist the Central Florida Water Initiative or CFWI to make good decisions for future water needs.

“We know that Polk County needs answers,” he said. “What is the productivity of the aquifer? What are the confinements of the aquifer to prevent saltwater intrusion? But, we also want to determine the water quality. This allows us to determine how much blending we may have to do with fresher sources to be able to use it.”

Limestone core samples, from up to 3,000 ft. deep, taken from the Lower Floridan aquifer are being studied to determine the aquifer’s permeability. Water levels will be monitored over the long term to see how the aquifers change as they become more utilized.

Tropical Storm Emily flooded Lakeland sewer system

Tropical Storm Emily caused Lakeland Water Utilities’ cups to runneth over as a rapid influx of water swamped the sewer system Monday, causing an estimated 35,000 to 40,000 gallons of wastewater to escape containment.

Lakeland reported three spills Tuesday to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The largest spill, between 25,000 and 30,000 gallons, was contained within the Glendale Wastewater Treatment Facility.

“That is not typical. We got a lot of rain, we got it real fast, we got it on already wet soils,” Lakeland Water Utilities Director Bob Conner said. Each spill was contained as the storm continued.

“They didn’t just run until the rain quit,” he said.

Sewage issues concern Polk County residents

Hundreds of thousands of gallons of wastewater have come up from Polk County’s sewage system so far this year, including about 12,000 gallons from two separate incidents Monday.

10News first told you Monday about a power outage at a lift station in Lakeland during Tropical Storm Emily. It resulted in 10,000 gallons of sewage spewing out of it and possibly making its way into a nearby creek.

We’ve since learned about another incident Monday. About 1,800 gallons of wastewater bubbled up from a manhole on Paddington Lane in north Lakeland. It might’ve ended up in a pond in the neighborhood. The county could not say whether the storm was to blame.

“I’m bummed that that happened,” Damaris Randolph, who lives there, said. “I had no idea.”

The county has reported at least three other incidents to the DEP this year, in which more than 250,000 gallons of sewage spilled. Jake Rohrich, the utilities operations and maintenance manager, insisted there’s no widespread issue with the county’s sewage system.

For one Lakeland community, flooding is common problem

Residents in one of Lakeland’s flood zones experienced Tropical Storm Emily more viscerally than most inlanders.

May Manor, a mobile-home community directly west of Lake Bonnet, is bisected by a canal that sits at the bottom of a topographical bowl. On either side of the canal is the largest inhabited high-risk flood zone in the city, according to FEMA maps.

City stormwater and public-works employees responded to the community Monday as the floodwaters crested the canal walls. The crews deployed large vacuum trucks that can clear out blockages in the storm-sewer system. There were no blockages, Lakes and Stormwater Manager Laurie Smith said. “It’s just basically a tremendous amount of runoff.”

The canal flows through the community and eventually to Lone Palm Golf Club. Though it is sometimes used as a relief valve to keep Lake Bonnet’s levels safe, the control gates have been closed, Smith said.

State delegation asks Corps of Engineers to stay neutral in water wars

Florida's two senators and its entire congressional delegation are asking the president to ensure that a federal agency remains neutral in the ongoing court battle between Florida and Georgia over water use from the Apalachicola River system.

Gov. Rick Scott in 2013 filed a lawsuit in the U. S. Supreme Court against Georgia claiming that the upstream state's water use caused the collapse of Apalachicola Bay's oyster population. In February, special master Ralph Lancaster recommended that the court throw out the case because the Army Corps of Engineers, which operates reservoirs upstream from Florida on the Chattahoochee River, was not a party to lawsuit.

Dundee to revisit sewer agreement with Lake Hamilton

The joint sewer agreement with Lake Hamilton is again scheduled to be discussed at Tueday night’s Town Commission meeting.

The item was pulled from the July 11 meeting because officials from Lake Hamilton did not have all the information prepared for Dundee commissioners. The project would expand sewer lines from Frederick Avenue in Dundee to the west side of U.S. 27 in Lake Hamilton.

The goal is to encourage businesses to come to Lake Hamilton while broadening Dundee’s wastewater customer base. The town currently has a system that is operating at less than one-third of its 620,000 gallon daily capacity.

One notable change is that Lake Hamilton has requested that the impact-fee rate for commercial businesses be cut in half from about $2,400 to about $1,200. If the Town Commission declines, it can pull that and vote at a later date while accepting the rest of the contract tonight.

“That other 50 percent would have to come from somewhere else,” Interim Town Manager Deena Ware said about the proposed changes. “How we do that hasn’t been determined.”

The town of Lake Hamilton has already spent more than $256,000 for contract work on the estimated $1.45 million project, which is expected to be paid for primarily through a grant attained by Lake Hamilton. The initial start-up costs of $320,000 would be split between the two towns if the contract is approved.

Water clean-up

The Town Commission is set to consider whether to use the state’s revolving fund to contract with Envisors for a clean-water project. The staff has proposed moving about 100 homes in the Lake Ruth area from septic to sewer.

The cost of the project has yet to be determined. The town would be seeking an 80 percent grant and a 20 percent low-interest loan for the project.