Water-Related News

Bill in legislature would require FDEP to adopt tech to curb algal blooms

A bill that passed its first committee stop today [Nov. 30] would require the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to procure technology capable of removing harmful algae, toxins, and nutrients from water bodies.

The agency has a technology grant program local government entities can sign up for. According to a legislative staff analysis, the program uses short-term solutions to combat algal blooms and nutrient pollution in an attempt to restore Florida's water bodies. AECOM is an infrastructure consulting firm working with two Florida water management districts that received grants from the program.

"The problem that we're seeing is that we're now turning the corner a little bit, and we have more harmful toxic algal blooms throughout the state, and those of us that have been here for most of our lives we've kind of seen this really pick up in the last decade," Dan Levy says. He works for AECOM.

Even non-toxic algal blooms can be a problem. They block out sunlight, killing the plant life animals depend on, which is the main reason why more than 1,000 manatees have died so far this year. However, Levy believes his firm's algae harvesting technology would meet the legislation's criteria.

Red tide among DeSantis' environmental budget priorities

Gov. Ron DeSantis will ask legislators to consider $960 million in funds for the 2022-23 fiscal year to support resiliency efforts across the state.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday [Nov. 16] announced his environmental budget priorities for the 2022-23 fiscal year, including $660 million to go toward Everglades restoration and other funds to address the impacts of sea level rise. Speaking in Naples, DeSantis said he will request legislators to approve $960 million toward resiliency efforts.

“We are excited to announce this historic support for Florida’s environment, Everglades restoration, and our water resources," DeSantis said in a news release. "We have seen great results so far, but we are not yet at the finish line.

"It’s nice to see so many coming together to support these initiatives. We will be pushing hard to continue the momentum this legislative session.”

DeSantis said some of the funds will address algal blooms and help local governments — including those across the greater Tampa Bay region — with red tide cleanup, along with helping communities become more resilient against intensified storms and flooding.

The budget breakdown, according to the release:

  • $660 million for Everglades restoration including the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), the EAA Reservoir Project, and the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project.
  • $175 million for targeted water quality improvements
  • $40 million for the Alternative Water Supply Grant Program
  • $50 million for projects to restore Florida’s springs
  • $35 million for increased water quality monitoring and to combat harmful algal blooms including blue-green algae and red tide
  • $3 million to remove invasive Burmese pythons
  • $550 million to increase the resiliency for coastal and inland communities
  • $500 million for the Resilient Florida Grant Program for projects to make communities more resilient to sea level rise, intensified storms and flooding
  • More than $50 million to close the gap in resiliency planning and to protect coral reefs.

“In Florida, our environment is the foundation of everything from our economy to our way of life,” said Mark Rains, state chief science officer.

DeSantis is expected to releas

What Florida can expect from the infrastructure spending bill

Billions of dollars are on their way to Florida as part of the new infrastructure spending bill. Water projects may be the priority, according to a new report card.

Billions of dollars for roads, bridges and internet broadband will be coming to Florida over the next five years. President Joe Biden will sign the infrastructure bill into law Monday.

The trillion-dollar-plus spending plan earmarks money for a list of projects — transportation, public transit, electric vehicle recharging stations, and clean water projects among them.

There was some bipartisan support for the bill, but not among the Florida congressional delegation. Democrats in this state voted for it. Republicans against it.

Gov. Ron DeSantis described the legislation this way Monday: “I think it was a lot of pork-barrel spending from what I can tell.”

One of the Democrats hoping to win DeSantis’s job in next year’s election — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried — called the new money a beginning.

“This is a great starting place. Is it ever going to be enough? No, but certainly this is historic in what we can do moving forward,” she said.

Are scientists contaminating their own samples with microfibers?

More than 70% of microplastics found in samples from oceans and rivers could come from the scientists collecting them.

A new paper by Staffordshire University and Rozalia Project, published in Marine Pollution Bulletin, investigates procedural contamination when sampling for microparticles in aquatic environments. The study shows that a significant amount of microplastics and microfibres from scientists' clothing and gear mixes with environmental pollution in the water samples.

Claire Gwinnett, Professor in Forensic and Environmental Science at Staffordshire University, explained: "In the field this can occur due to the dynamic nature of the environment such as wind or weather, actions required to obtain samples and the close-proximity necessary for scientists to procure and secure samples whether in a medium-sized vessel, small boat or sampling from shore. In a mobile lab, this often occurs due to using small, multi-use spaces and similar requirements for scientists to be in close proximity to the samples while processing."

Polk County population growth causing more grease-related sewer blockages, officials say

LAKELAND – Grease, mayonnaise, rags, butter, sanitary wipes, shortening are just a few of the sickly things that flow through sewer pipes.

At a growing rate, Polk County pipes are clogging up.

Late this week, an 18-inch pipe on North Florida Avenue between Aida Street and Griffin Road became so clogged, the city of Lakeland had to bypass the pipe to allow residents to continue flushing their toilets.

“That’s an area where there’s a lot of, we call them heavy flows with sewage, so we did a bypass so we could have a workaround so people could still flush their toilets and do their business,” said Kevin Cook, city of Lakeland communications director.

Persistent rain posed a problem for crews trying to get a camera underground to make sure the pipe was unblocked.

Officials say clogs are caused by hot fats, oils and grease being poured directly down sinks.

The liquids harden when cooled and congeal, which blocks pipes and catches everything else flowing through sewer pipes.

Polk County teachers receive SWFWMD Splash! Grants

Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) awarded $104,941.81 in grants to 48 educators within the District as part of the Splash! school grant program. The program provides up to $3,000 per school to enhance student knowledge of freshwater resources in grades K-12.

Splash! grants encourage hands-on student learning through STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) activities as well as engagement of the greater school community through awareness campaigns. Each school district allocates a portion of their annual youth education funding provided by the District to support the Splash! grants in their county.

The District awarded grants to the following schools/teachers in Polk County:

  • Daniel Jenkins Academy - Melanie Tucker
  • Discovery Academy of Lake Alfred - Heather Matousek
  • Hillcrest Elementary School - Amber L. Johnson
  • Janie Howard Wilson Elementary School - Kim Griffiths
  • John Snively Elementary School - Johnna Bryant
  • Polk Avenue Elementary School - Melissa Kelly
  • R. Bruce Wagner Elementary School - Angie Samples
  • Union Academy - Dee Davis

Grants are available for freshwater resources field studies, water-conserving garden projects, community or school awareness campaigns and on-site workshops. For more information, please visit the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/SchoolGrants.

Florida congressional lawmakers hold meeting on state’s water quality woes

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers from Florida met in Washington D.C. to discuss the state's pressing water quality issues. Some of the topics discussed revolved around the record number of manatee deaths the state is seeing amid worsening algae blooms.

Republican Rep. Vern Buchanan and Democrat Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz originally announced the 29-member state Delegation meeting — the first meeting since Feb. 2020.

Dr. Michael P. Crosby, president and CEO of the Sarasota-based Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, was invited to speak in front of the delegation. He stressed the need for a new seagrass restoration project. Acres of seagrass beds have been dying off over the years in different parts of the state.

Seagrass acts as the main food source for manatees which have been dying at a record rate this year. The general consensus among marine biologists is many of the mammals are dying of starvation due to increased water pollution fueling algal blooms that kill off seagrass.

The FWC says there have been 988 manatee deaths from Jan. 1 to Oct. 29, 2021, meeting the criteria to be declared an Unusual Mortality Event — one that has been confirmed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

There were 830 manatee deaths in 2013 alone, the previous all-time high that happened following a red tide outbreak, according to The Associated Press.

Another recent water quality crisis that was addressed was the former Piney Point phosphate mining facility. Earlier this year, more than 200 million gallons of wastewater was dumped from a leaking reservoir at the facility and into Tampa Bay.

Wesley R. Brooks, director of federal affairs for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, told lawmakers the department's commitment to closing the facility.

Last month, FDEP finalized an agreement with a new court-appointed receiver to oversee the closure of the facility.