Water-Related News

Pilot project aims to address future water shortage

Increased population growth and drought conditions have stressed Polk’s traditional water sources. In short, we are using more water than our surface and groundwater resources can supply.

To help address the potential problem, the Board recently approved a funding agreement with the Southwest Florida Water Management District for a direct potable reuse (DPR) facility study and pilot project at the Cherry Hill Water Production Facility in the Northwest Regional Utility Service Area.

The agreement provides up to 50 percent reimbursement for the design, permitting, construction, evaluation, demonstration testing and reporting associated with the pilot project. The project is a feasibility study to develop a reclaimed water project concept to use up to 1.5 million gallons per day of reclaimed water for innovative methods to supplement ground water supplies in Polk’s Northwest Regional Utility Service Area.

The total anticipated cost of the project is about $1.5 million.

Potable reuse is a process that purifies water from wastewater treatment plants through advanced treatment methods to meet drinking water standards. The potable reuse study in Polk County will feature a Direct Potable Reuse (DPR) process. DPR is a process where purified wastewater is introduced into a drinking water treatment facility.

There are currently DPR pilot projects in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Florida, Texas, Oregon and Virginia.

The bar for potable reuse treatment practices is higher than that of other water sources. This stricter set of demands has created leading-edge advances in the treatments and technology used to ensure that contaminants are properly managed.

The goal of this potable reuse study in Polk County includes verifying that contaminants specific to Polk’s wastewater can be removed to meet strict guidelines.

If this pilot project finds it possible, potable reuse may provide an option for a locally controlled, drought-proof water supply alternative.

Proposed Florida constitutional amendment aims to give waterways legal rights

Floridians and organizations within the state could take legal action on behalf of waterways under the amendment.

Florida environmentalists have begun collecting signatures to introduce an amendment to the state's constitution that would recognize a person's legal right to clean water.

The amendment aims to do this by recognizing a waterway's legal right to "exist, flow, be free from pollution, and maintain a healthy ecosystem." Meaning, Floridians and organizations within the state could take legal action on behalf of waterways, according to the proposed amendment.

If the waterway's rights were violated, then the amendment requires the penalty to be paying whatever the cost is to restore the water to its "pre-damaged state."

The petition would need to reach nearly 900,000 signatures by February 1, 2022, in order to be placed on Florida's ballots.

Biden administration initiates legal action to repeal WOTUS

Clean-water safeguards ended by Trump would be restored

The Biden administration began legal action Wednesday to repeal a Trump-era rule that ended federal protections for hundreds of thousands of small streams, wetlands and other waterways, leaving them more vulnerable to pollution from development, industry and farms.

The rule — sometimes referred to as “waters of the United States” or WOTUS — narrowed the types of waterways that qualify for federal protection under the Clean Water Act. It was one of hundreds of rollbacks of environmental and public health regulations under former President Donald Trump, who said the rules imposed unnecessary burdens on business.

The Trump-era rule, finalized last year, was long sought by builders, oil and gas developers, farmers and others who complained about federal overreach that they said stretched into gullies, creeks and ravines on farmland and other private property.

Environmental groups and public-health advocates said the rollback approved under Trump would allow businesses to dump pollutants into unprotected waterways and fill in some wetlands, threatening public water supplies downstream and harming wildlife and habitat.

The water rule has been a point of contention for decades. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Michael Regan has pledged to issue a new rule that protects water quality while not overly burdening small farmers.,

Poll: Floridians want federal infrastructure plan to deal with climate change

A new poll shows a majority of Floridians think infrastructure improvements in the $2 trillion dollar infrastructure plan Democrats are calling the "American Jobs Plan" should include measures to deal with the effects of climate change or natural infrastructure investments to build resiliency and lower the costs of climate-driven extreme weather events.

EDF Action, the advocacy partner of the Environmental Defense Fund, commissioned Morning Consult to conduct the survey.

Three-quarters of respondents support funding natural infrastructure as part of the American Jobs Plan, with 66% of independents and 53% of Republicans in favor, as well as 75% of coastal respondents and 76% of inland respondents.

Restoring urban streams benefits habitat, water quality

Urban stream: Not always an oxymoron

The concept of an “urban stream” might seem like an oxymoron, but restoration efforts across the state are proving that naturalized streams provide significant benefits even in densely populated settings.

For example, at Joe’s Creek in St. Petersburg and Phillipe Creek in Sarasota steep ditches are being restored to recreate meandering streams that improve both habitat and water quality, says John Kiefer, a water resources engineer at Wood Environment & Infrastructure Solutions.

“The trick is finding sufficient rights-of-way to allow the stream to spread out,” he said. “In many cases, even in urban cores, there is enough room.”

And those narrow ditches with steep sides aren’t just bad for fish and water quality, they’re expensive to maintain, Kiefer said. Rather than allowing rainwater to slowly flow through a more natural system, they cause flashes of freshwater that erode shorelines, move pollution quickly, destroy critical low-salinity habitat and require high levels of maintenance.

Restoring those deep channels to naturalized streams – typically within existing rights of way – allows the systems to process nutrients before they reach larger bodies of water like rivers, lakes and bays. Sediment has time to settle rather than increasing as soil washes away from eroding stream banks. Fish, including juvenile snook that need low-salinity habitat to thrive, respond quickly to the restored streams.

State tightens rules for sewage sludge used as fertilizer but leaves a loophole in place

As damaging algae blooms continue to afflict Florida, the state is taking steps to crack down on and track pollution from biosolids, the waste from sewage plants loaded with nutrients that can fuel blooms.

But the new rules, conservationists warn, continue to ignore a loophole for about 40% of the state’s waste.

At a final hearing last week, state environmental regulators said the new rules address two classes of sludge largely used in agriculture. Class AA, a third class, gets more highly treated to remove pathogens and heavy metals and is classified as a fertilizer not covered by the rules.

But environmentalists warn Class AA still contains phosphorus and nitrogen that feed blooms. Not including the class, they say, creates a gap in tackling worsening blooms that have increasingly fouled Florida waters and fueled saltwater blooms moving inshore.

Polk Fire Rescue issues burn ban

BARTOW — Due to lack of rain, Polk County has experienced dry weather conditions for an extensive period of time, therefore Polk County Fire Rescue has issued a burn ban.

The increase in risk of brush fires and uncontrolled fires are a threat to the public health, safety and general welfare of Polk County. There are also no signs of abatement of these dangerous fire conditions anytime soon.

The burn ban includes, but is not limited to:

  • Campfires
  • Bonfires
  • Unpermitted controlled burns
  • Burning of yard and household trash
  • Burning of construction debris
  • Burning of organic debris
  • Igniting of fireworks

Noncommercial burning of material other than for religious or ceremonial purposes which is not contained in a barbecue grill or barbecue pit and the total fuel area does not exceed 3 feet in diameter and 2 feet in height.

“We have held off as long as we possibly can on issuing this burn ban,” said Fire Chief Rob Weech. “But conditions are favorable for the rapid development and spread of brush fires and we need to take every step necessary to ensure the safety of everyone. We also don’t want anyone to lose property or investments due to fire.”

Currently the average on the Keetch-Byram Drought Index (KBDI) for Polk County is at 508 with a minimum of 420 and a maximum of 597. The KBDI index is used as an indicator to determine the likelihood and severity of brush fires. While high KBDI values are an indication that conditions are favorable for the occurrence and spread of wildfires, drought is not by itself a prerequisite for such fires. Other weather factors, such as wind, temperature, relative humidity and atmospheric stability, play a major role in determining the actual fire danger.

The burn ban applies to all unincorporated Polk and all municipalities except Lake Wales.

Anyone who refuses to comply or violates this burn ban shall be in violation of County Ordinance 08-015 and can be punished by a fine not to exceed $500 or by imprisonment by a term not to exceed 60 days in the county jail or both.

Hurricane season begins June 1st. Be flood-ready.

June is Flood Control Awareness Month, and your local Water Management District encourages you to learn more about flood control.

Did you know? Flood control is a shared responsibility between Water Management Districts, local governments, drainage districts, homeowner associations and you.

Five things you can do to prepare for the wet season:

  1. Make sure drainage grates, ditches and swales in your neighborhood are clear of debris.
  2. Trim your trees and remove dead vegetation in your yard. DO NOT trim trees if a major storm is in the forecast.
  3. Check your community retention pond or lake for obstructed pipes and contact the appropriate authority for removal (could be your HOA, city, county, or local drainage district). ?
  4. Find out who is responsible for drainage in your community at www.sfwmd.gov/stormupdate.
  5. Make a personal plan for hurricane preparedness. Learn more at www.floridadisaster.org.

For more information, make sure to check out these resources:

Drainage construction to close Bridgers Avenue in Auburndale for 60 days

Bartow — Polk County will close Bridgers Avenue from Pearl Street to Eaker Street in Auburndale for 60 days to construct a new $2.8 million drainage system. Traffic will be detoured along Virginia Avenue, Lake Lena Boulevard and Bridgers Avenue to bypass work zone. Commuters are advised to drive with caution, be alert to pedestrians, and to add extra time to trips through this area.

For more details, contact Bill Skelton with the Polk County Roads & Drainage Division at (863) 535-2200.