Water-Related News

Fertilizer improvement bill emerges from committee smelling like a rose

Florida House Bill 1405 creates a biosolids grant program within the Department of Environmental Protection.

When treating wastewater, you’re left with solids and treated liquid. Call those solids what you like, but legislation passing a House subcommittee this week would encourage wastewater treatment entities to refine these solids into a better-quality fertilizer.

There are Class AA, A and B biosolids, with the bill laid out to encourage more facilities to generate Class AA.

“Florida’s Clean Waterways Act states that the Legislature finds that it is in the best interest of the state to minimize the migration of nutrients that impair water bodies,” Lake Placid Republican Rep. Kaylee Tuck said of HB 1405 to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee.

“While this act has substantially strengthened permitting requirements for Class B biosolids, it did not specifically provide targeted protections for Florida’s already impaired waterways.”

Class B biosolids have a significant amount of toxic metals and can attract “rodents, flies, mosquitoes or other organisms capable of transporting infectious agents.”

FDEP fines Haines City $157K for wastewater spills

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has issued Haines City a $157,000 fine for a series of unauthorized wastewater spills, including millions of gallons released during hurricanes Ian and Nicole.

FDEP officials have found Haines City discharged more than 65 million gallons of reclaimed or untreated wastewater from July 2022 to December 2022 without state authorization. Of the total, approximately 884,000 was untreated wastewater.

Two major spills were a direct result of heavy rain received during hurricanes Ian and Nicole. Haines City reported that during Hurricane Ian more than 15.7 million gallons of reclaimed water was released from the city's containment site and allowed to flow into a drainage ditch that empties into wetlands that filter into Lake Marion. The city released another 9.4 million of the reclaimed water during four days of heavy rain from Hurricane Nicole in November 2022. The state levied a $15,000 fine on the city for each of these storm-related events.

Many new homes in Polk County are saving water for the future

Twelve cities in Polk County now mandate the Florida Water Star program for new homes, making it the epicenter of the program statewide.

More than 1,000 people a day are moving into Florida. Having enough water to slake their thirst — as well as that of their lawns — can be a challenge.

We go to Polk County, where rampant growth is persuading some cities to take up that challenge.

Tony Campano opens the door to a model home in the latest subdivision cropping up in central Polk County. It's perched on undulating hills that used to be citrus groves. Now, the major cash crop for this area just south of busy I-4 is new homes.

"So we are in Lake Alfred Pines in Polk County, a beautiful community of 79 home sites," says Campano, vice president of procurement for Pulte Homes.

He points to what look likes like an ordinary washing machine.

But there's a difference with it and the dishwasher, showers — and toilets — in these homes. They all are part of a program called Florida Water Star, which aims to lower the thirst of the nation's fastest growing state.

"So we've got some low-flow faucets, lower-flow shower heads," he says. "We put a lot of time and effort into making sure we pick the right fixtures that are visually attractive but perform the way Water Star needs them to perform."

The program started 15 years ago in Jacksonville, trying to encourage water efficiency in new and existing homes. It's now a voluntary statewide program. But some cities are now mandating these water-efficient features be built into new homes.

Polk County DOH issues Blue-Green Algae Bloom Alert for Tiger Lake – Center


LAKE WALES – The Florida Department of Health in Polk County has issued a Health Alert for the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins in Tiger Lake – Center.

This is in response to a water sample taken on 03/21/2023. The public should exercise caution in and around Tiger Lake – Center. 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. Waters where there are algae blooms are 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.

City of Lakeland expanding stormwater treatment pond system

Lakeland logo

LAKELAND – Construction is currently underway on the expansion of an existing stormwater treatment facility located at the intersection of North Vermont Avenue and Plum Street. The $299,000 project is funded through appropriated monies earmarked for stormwater management and treatment within the Lake Parker drainage basin. The project is designed to expand the existing stormwater management system with the addition of a supplemental interconnected treatment and storage pond. Laurie Smith, Manager Lakes & Stormwater said, “Stormwater ponds are a great tool designed to capture and retain runoff, which may contain various types of pollution including sediments, oils, greases, trash, nutrients, pesticides, herbicides, and heavy metals.”

The project is located on a parcel slightly less than one acre that adjoins the north side of the existing stormwater treatment pond. The expansion will provide expanded volume management of stormwater from the surrounding drainage basin, as well as nutrient and sediment removal from stormwater flows prior to discharging into Lake Parker. During the project, heavy construction traffic is likely around North Vermont Avenue, with trucks entering and leaving the site periodically. The project is moving quickly and is expected to be completed by late April 2023.

Health alert still in effect for Scott Lake as water sample finds trace level of toxins

A health alert remains in effect for Scott Lake, just south of Lakeland.

The Florida Department of Health in Polk County issued an alert last month, based on a sample taken Feb. 7 that found the presence of blue-green algae. The agency warned that the public should be cautious about exposure to water near the Fitzgerald Road boat ramp.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection inspected Scott Lake on March 7 and reported no visible blooms, but a water sample found cyanotoxins present, according to a report on the DEP’s website. The agency reported a trace level of microcystins.

Toxins can remain in water after a bloom, the report said. Sunny days, warm water temperatures, still conditions and excess nutrients, such as runoff from fertilizer, can contribute to algae blooms.

EPA to limit toxic ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday proposed the first federal limits on harmful “forever chemicals” in drinking water, a long-awaited protection the agency said will save thousands of lives and prevent serious illnesses, including cancer.

The plan would limit toxic PFAS chemicals to the lowest level that tests can detect. PFAS, or per- and polyfluorinated substances, are a group of compounds that are widespread, dangerous and expensive to remove from water. They don’t degrade in the environment and are linked to a broad range of health issues, including low birthweight and kidney cancer.

“The science is clear that long-term exposure to PFAS is linked to significant health risks,” Radhika Fox, assistant EPA administrator for water, said in an interview.

Fox called the federal proposal a “transformational change” for improving the safety of drinking water in the United States. The agency estimates the rule could reduce PFAS exposure for nearly 100 million Americans, decreasing rates of cancer, heart attacks and birth complications.

Florida’s love-hate relationship with phosphorus

The state has mined and abused the Devil’s Element for decades, and now it is increasingly fouling precious coastal waters

In the summer of 2018, in Stuart, a small beach community on the Atlantic Coast of Florida, some hundred panicked homeowners showed up at City Hall in the middle of the business day to demand something be done about the green goo plaguing their coastal waters. It was a sweltering July day, the kind towns like Stuart are built for, but signs on the boardwalk outside City Hall warned visitors:

As people at the meeting introduced themselves and stated their affiliations, it became clear this was not a typical gathering of environmentalists. They weren’t strategizing about how to protect some beleaguered species and the far?away lands or waters upon which it depends. These people, who represented businesses as well as homeowners’ associations and fishing and yachting clubs, spoke as though they were the threatened species.

“I need help,” said Will Embrey, a scraggly commercial fisherman whose business had collapsed right along with the region’s schools of mackerel not long after the green slime arrived. “There are a lot of people like me that need help.” The 45-?year-?old was suffering chronic stomach pain that was initially diagnosed as diverticulitis, and then ulcerative colitis, and then Crohn’s disease. Eventually doctors had given up trying to figure out what made Embrey so sick.

Embrey didn’t need to spend tens of thousands more dollars on more specialists, CT scans and lab tests to figure out the source of his illness. He knew it was the poisoned water, and he wasn’t alone.