Water-Related News

SWFWMD to hold virtual public meeting on Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve Land Management Plan

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The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) will hold a virtual public meeting at 4 p.m., Thursday, July 25, to discuss updates to the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve Land Management Plan.

The preserve lies within the larger Green Swamp region, which is approximately 560,000 acres and includes portions of Polk, Lake, Sumter, Hernando and Pasco counties. This region contains significant water resources as it is the source of four major rivers in Central Florida and is also known as the heart of the Floridan aquifer.

Members of the public may participate in the meeting via Microsoft Teams at https://bit.ly/GreenSwampLMP. A draft of the management plan update and a virtual comment submission form are available at WaterMatters.org/LMPUpdates. The public comment period will be available from July 15-29.

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.

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

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).

DOH-Polk issues Blue-Green Algae Health Alert for Lake Van - End of Lake Van Road

FDOH logo

July 1, 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 Van - end of Lake Van Road. The alert is in response to a water sample taken on June 26, 2024. The public should exercise caution in and around Lake Van - end of Lake Van Road.

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).

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.

Lakeland will pay nearly $1 million for wastewater cleanup near Carillon Lakes

LAKELAND – The City of Lakeland will spend nearly a million dollars to clean up a wetland contaminated by a wastewater spill.

In April, Lakeland leaders discovered a wastewater force main break happened in a remote wetland north of the Carillon Lakes neighborhood. The 12” wastewater force main primarily serves industrial businesses along County Line Road and west of the Polk Parkway.

At this time, the City does not have an exact estimate of how much wastewater has been released, but officials believe it is well over a million gallons.

Monday, Lakeland City Commissioners approved a $947,192 contract, with Bartow-based American Compliance Technologies, Inc. to cleanup soil where the sewage spill happened.

For the first phase of clean up, the company will remove the top two feet of contaminated soil from a roughly 75,000-square-foot area. That is bigger than the size of a professional football field.

“Then we are going to start sampling the groundwater. We’ve sampled the soil last week. We're waiting for the results. Depending on the results and the groundwater results, that will determine the next steps and how much more we need to do,” said David Bayhan, City of Lakeland Director of Water Utilities.

Polk County begins development on new Lake Buffum boat ramp

Polk County logo

Lake Buffum in Fort Meade is receiving a new boat ramp, opening the way to significantly safer, year-round access for boating and fishing with more parking for visitors to stop and enjoy.

Along with offering more reliable access, the new boat ramp will include a walled channel to provide entry to the lake no matter the water level. While the new boat ramp is under construction, the old boat ramp is open for public use. Visitors can access the boat ramp on Doc Lindsey Road in Fort Meade.

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

FDOH logo

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.

Bellini Preserve now open to the public

Polk County logo

BARTOW – The Bellini Preserve, a parcel of conservation land located on the eastern shore of Lake Marion, adjacent to Poinciana, is now open to the public. The public entrance can be found at the intersection of Pine Street and Lake Marion Creek Drive.

While the Bellini Preserve is largely comprised of undeveloped scrubland, it’s seven miles of trails lead visitors through a variety of terrain and habitats, culminating in a lakeside view.

“The Bellini Preserve is an excellent example of a partnership conservation project,” said Gaye Sharpe, Parks and Natural Resources Division director. “It brought together non-profit, local, state and federal funding to acquire approximately 640 acres of land along the eastern shore of Lake Marion.”

Polk County purchased the land for $7.5 million in September 2023 to protect it from development. The purchase was part of an agreement between the county, Conservation Florida and the Department of Defense, with funding assistance from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Resilient Florida grant program.

The county’s purchase of the Bellini Preserve will protect more than three miles of Lake Marion’s shoreline from development, reducing pollution and improving water quality. The property is home to sand skinks, a federally threatened species, and gopher tortoises, a regionally and state-designated threatened species.

“This project highlights the success of Polk County’s commitment to caring for our water and natural resources,” Sharpe said. “It protects the native lake shoreline, providing nature-based water quality improvement solutions for our lakes, rivers and natural areas while building more resilient communities. Safeguarding our water resources was a priority for this project.”