Water-Related News

Sandbag Sites to Open Sunday in Polk

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BARTOW (September 24, 2022) – In preparation for what will be Hurricane Ian, and a high potential for more flooding, Polk County is making sandbags available throughout the county at Roadway Maintenance Units beginning Sunday, September 25. Locations below will be open from 7 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. each day, until weather conditions make it unsafe to be outside.

Sandbag site locations are:

  • Mulberry – 900 NE 5th St., Mulberry, (863) 519-4734
  • Lakeland – 8970 N. Campbell Road, Lakeland (863) 815-6701
  • Fort Meade – 1061 NE 9th St., Fort Meade (863) 285-6588
  • Frostproof – 350 County Road 630A, Frostproof (863) 635-7879
  • Auburndale – 1701 Holt Road, Auburndale (863) 965-5524
  • Dundee – 805 Dr. Martin Luther King St. SW, Dundee, (863) 421-3367
  • Poinciana Park - corner of Lake Hatchineha Road and Marigold Ave.

A maximum of 10 sandbags will be provided to each household to help prevent water intrusion into the home.

Residents living in flood prone areas are encouraged to sandbag their homes. To protect against water damage, follow these simple sandbagging techniques. At the area where water can enter a structure:

  • If not working on concrete, dig a small ditch just deep enough to go below ground level. The ditch should be back far enough from the entrance to allow room to place optional submersible (sump) pumps into the protected area. The edge of the visqueen should be placed in the ditch as a bottom layer.
  • Place the first row of sandbags in ditch, fold visqueen over the top of first row, place a second row of bags on top, fold visqueen back over, place a third row of bags on top, and so on. This creates an "S" pattern with the visqueen.

Depending on the size of the barrier, submersible (sump) pumps can be used. The barrier will not completely stop water from entering the protected area; however, with the by properly placing bags, visqueen and sump pumps, water, in most cases, can be removed quickly.

Health officials issue Blue-Green Algae Bloom Alert for Lake Henry-NW

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WINTER HAVEN – The Florida Department of Health in Polk County has issued a Health Alert for the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins in Lake Henry. This is in response to a water sample taken on 09/15/2022. The public should exercise caution in and around Lake Henry-NW.

Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:

  • Do not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski or boat in waters where there is a visible bloom.
  • Wash your skin and clothing with soap and water if you have contact with algae or discolored or smelly water.
  • Keep pets away from the area. Water, where there are algae blooms, is not safe for animals. Pets and livestock should have a different 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 the 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 well.
  • Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.
More information about blue-green algae »

42nd Annual Swan Roundup to take place on October 18th

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The City of Lakeland Parks Division will be on Lake Morton at 7:00 a.m. on Tuesday, October 18th for the 42nd Annual Swan Roundup. Parks & Recreation employees will be carefully gathering the swans to get them ready for their annual veterinary check-up. The swans will be confined in large holding pens on the south side of the lake for their annual wellness examinations with My Pet’s Animal Hospital that will start the morning of October 19th at 8:00 a.m. The Annual Swan Round-Up allows the City’s Parks, Recreation & Cultural Arts Department to closely monitor the health and vitality of Lakeland’s swan population.

The original swans on Lake Morton were donated by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom in 1957. As Lakeland’s swan flock grew, it became paramount to give the regal birds an annual health check, so the Swan Roundup began in 1980 and has continued every year since then. The swans were first cared for by veterinarian (emeritus) and original "Swanvet" W.G. Gardner, Dr. Patricia Mattson oversaw the birds for several years and now My Pet’s Animal Hospital contributes their expertise to care for Lakeland’s swan flock.

Florida scientists will study how homeowners affect the water quality of stormwater ponds

When residents purchase "waterfront properties," many don't realize the function of their nearby stormwater ponds and actually cause them harm by removing plants and mowing the grass too close to the edge.

Florida researchers are tasked with identifying the benefits of stormwater ponds, and how homeowners are interacting with them.

A team of scientists with the University of Florida have been granted $1.6 million from the National Science Foundation to study stormwater ponds and the people living around them for the next four years or so across the state. They’ll document environmental, social and economic benefits, collectively called ecosystem services.

“We want to have an ecosystem in there that can function and … reduce that nitrogen and phosphorus from heading out into these natural bodies of water,” Michelle Atkinson, an extension agent in Manatee County for the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, said. “Are aesthetic preferences impacting those environmental functions? That's what we don't know for sure. We have suspicions. We have our hypothesis, but we want to prove it.”

According to the UF press release, the researchers will conduct field work, focus groups, surveys and data collection both at the state level and in two communities in Manatee and St. Lucie counties that have a large number of stormwater ponds and where algae blooms have been a recent problem. The results could apply to other parts of the country.

Atkinson said she wants people to view these ponds as amenities and put some value to them.

“That’s what we're going to try to do is quantify some of those ecosystem services that our ponds do. By adding plants or managing a different way, can we put a value on those services, something that homeowners will feel important enough to want to protect? And say, ‘yes, let's do this in our community, because it's the right thing to do.’”

She said she hopes management changes come as a result of this study — whether it's voluntary from homeowners, or enforced by government.

Study shows fertilizer ordinances improve water quality (but timing matters)

GAINESVILLE – A new University of Florida study has found that local residential fertilizer ordinances help improve water quality in nearby lakes, but the timing of fertilizer restrictions influences how effective they are.

Using 30 years of water quality data gathered by the UF/IFAS LAKEWATCH program from 1987 to 2018, scientists found that lakes in areas with winter fertilizer bans had the most improvement over time in levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, the main nutrients found in fertilizers.

These lakes also showed larger increases in water clarity and decreases in chlorophyll since the implementation of fertilizer bans. These measurements can also indicate lower nutrient levels, as excess nutrients can feed algae blooms that lead to turbid waters with higher levels of chlorophyll.

“To date, this is the most comprehensive study of fertilizer ordinances’ impact on water quality, not just in Florida but also nationally, and it would not have been possible without the efforts of our LAKEWATCH community scientists,” said Sam Smidt, an assistant professor in the UF/IFAS department of soil, water and ecosystem sciences and the senior author of the study.

Haines City must fix pipes responsible for wastewater leak or pay fine

HAINES CITY – Haines City may have to pay a hefty fine to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection after more than 1 million gallons of wastewater leaked into the ground and nearby lake.

Of the 1.3 million gallons of wastewater spilled, about 850,000 gallons of the sewage was dumped into Haines City’s Lake Eva back in May.

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"Any wastewater spill is serious no matter how many gallons it is," said Haines City's public infrastructure director James Keene.

It took the city nine days to determine it was a burst in the nearly century-old underground pipework that caused the wastewater leak.