Water-Related News

City of Lakeland water utility adopts new technology to notify customers

LAKELAND – Starting April 30th, City of Lakeland Water Utilities will implement a new way that embraces technology to notify customers when important events happen like: Precautionary Boil Water Notices, Planned Water Outages, etc.

For the past several decades, City of Lakeland crews would manually hang a notice called a door hanger on the front doors of impacted customers. This system is antiquated and a common complaint from customers is that they don’t typically use the front door and may enter through the garage or a side door. On April 30, 2021, these types of notifications will be sent directly to the customer through a phone call, text message, or email that is associated with the customer’s Water Utility account.

Bill Anderson, Director of Water Utilities said, “Notification systems using the latest technology have been around and used by some of our neighboring communities for years. I’m excited that we will be adopting this type of direct contact method going forward. We want our customers to be safe and know the issues that may be impacting them. A direct contact method almost like the reverse 911 systems is a much better way to keep our citizens informed compared to a door hanger that oftentimes is missed by the customer.”

To ensure utility customers continue to receive important notifications, it is critical that each customer provide Lakeland Electric Customer Service with their contact information and update it when necessary. This can be done through the Customer Portal at LakelandElectric.com or by contacting Lakeland Electric Customer Service at 863.834.9535.

Customers impacted by a notification message will receive it in the following order:

  1. Phone calls will be the first notification attempt and reflect the Caller ID number of 863.834.6802.
  2. A text message will be the second notification attempt after a phone call was not confirmed. Texts from the utility will reflect a Text ID number of 88911
  3. Email messages will be the final notification attempt if the phone call and text messages are not confirmed and there is a customer email address on file.

During this notification process, customers will be asked to confirm receipt of the message. If a customer does not confirm receipt of the notification, their next contact method will be used to inform them of this notification. Once a customer confirms, the system will stop and recognize receipt of the notification.

These important messages will inform the impacted customer of the situation and reason for notification. At no time, will these notifications ask for any personal information or request payment. Customers reached by phone or text will be asked to respond by pressing a confirmation code so the system recognizes the customer was reached and the notification message was delivered.

Lake Juliana boat ramp closed April 20-23

Boat ramp access to Lake Juliana will be temporarily unavailable starting April 20.

A new dock will be installed at the lake to provide residents and visitors more conveniences and safer access to the water.

Public access to the boat ramp will resume April 23.

Boating safety in Polk

As the weather warms, Polk County's waterways can get congested.

Fishermen, air boaters, water skiers, jet skiers, joy riders and whatever those turbo jet things are that lift you in the air – they all share the same bodies of water. And that all that traffic means you need to use caution when out enjoying one of the nearly 554 lakes we have.

Florida law requires a vessel to have at least one Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device (PFD) per person.

In addition, those under the age of 16 are required to wear one at all times on a vessel less than 26 feet in length. There are plenty of products on the market that claim to help children stay afloat, such as water wings, floaties, pool noodles, etc.; however, these are not a substitute for Coast Guard-approved PFDs in a genuine emergency.

Finally, whether boating or swimming, consuming alcohol or other substances such as drugs is never a good idea. These can impair judgement, coordination and balance. They affect a person's ability to operate a vessel and their ability to swim, as well as lower body temperature that can allow for quicker onset of hypothermia. Parents should also never consume these items when watching their children swim.

Worried about Piney Point? Polk County is ground zero for phosphogypsum stacks

The breach of a reservoir in Manatee County holding wastewater from fertilizer processing offers a reminder that Polk County contains plenty of similar sites.

The leak at the Piney Point phosphogypsum stack is threatening to release millions of gallons of contaminated water into Tampa Bay. The potential environmental catastrophe has drawn national attention.

At least a dozen such stacks exist in Polk County, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Those include the largest storage facility in the state, the 1,147-acre New Wales Stack, about five miles southwest of Mulberry.

Phosphogypsum is a byproduct of fertilizer production. In Florida, phosphate ore mined from the soil is treated to create phosphoric acid, a main component of fertilizer, and the process also yields phosphogypsum as waste.

That waste is stored in phosphogypsum stacks, often called gypstacks. The phosphogypsum is contained in reservoirs inside the structures, which can be hundreds of feet tall and cover hundreds of acres.

The process of removing phosphorous from mined rock leaves behind most of the naturally occurring radioactive material in the waste, according to an explanation from the Environmental Protection Agency. That concentration makes phosphogypsum more radioactive than the original phosphate rock.

For that reason, the material cannot be released and is stored permanently in gypstacks. The structures hold ponds that usually contain “process water” left over from fertilizer production. In addition to having increased radiation levels, the water is acidic and contains nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous.

10 tips to save water for “Water Conservation Month”

While the Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) encourages water conservation year-round, there is extra emphasis each April for Water Conservation Month. April is historically one of the driest months of the year and typically marks the peak demand season for public water suppliers.

With these 10 simple tips, you can lower your monthly water bill and do your part to save hundreds of gallons of water:

INDOOR

  • Only run your washing machine and dishwasher when they are full.
  • Use the shortest clothes washing cycle for lightly soiled loads; normal and permanent-press wash cycles use more water.
  • Thaw frozen food in the refrigerator or microwave, not under running water.
  • Scrape, don’t rinse, your dishes before loading in the dishwasher.
  • Install high-efficiency showerheads, faucets and toilets.

OUTDOOR

  • Check your home’s irrigation system for leaks.
  • Turn off your irrigation system and only water as needed.
  • Don’t leave sprinklers unattended. Use a kitchen timer to remind yourself to turn sprinklers off.
  • Use a hose with a shut-off nozzle when washing the car.
  • Consider installing a rain barrel with a drip irrigation system for watering your landscaping. Rainwater is free and better for your plants because it doesn’t contain hard minerals.

Leaks are the biggest water waster, both inside and outside of your home. You can use your water meter to check for leaks. Turn off all faucets and water-using appliances and make sure no one uses water during the testing period. Wait for the hot water heater and ice cube makers to refill and for regeneration of water softeners. Go to your water meter and record the current reading. Wait 30 minutes. (Remember, no water should be used during this period.) Read the meter again. If the reading has changed, you have a leak.

For more information about water conservation, please visit the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/Conservation.

UF scientists to probe downstream ecological impacts of stormwater ponds

GAINESVILLE — Florida teems with rain. Depending on where you live, you might get 40 to 60 inches annually. That rain must go somewhere. Enter Florida’s 76,000 stormwater ponds. When it rains, the water runs off the land, bringing chemicals, grass clippings, lawn debris and more from the landscape into these ponds.

Yet little to no research analyzes downstream ecological impacts from those ponds. Stormwater ponds were originally designed to reduce downstream flooding and are expected to provide water quality benefits by preventing things like sediments or nutrients from entering natural water bodies.

Although ponds do help water quality, research has shown that ponds aren’t as good at removing nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen as they were originally designed. Nutrients not removed by the ponds might go from the stormwater pond – which collects the rain and debris – to nearby bodies of water.

A University of Florida scientist will embark on a study this summer, using Manatee County as his lab. But his results will apply to much of Florida, including Tampa Bay and Biscayne Bay.

FWC and partners work on restoring the Peace River

Over the past nine months, biologists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) teamed up with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Panama City Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office to restore two severely eroding riverbanks along the Peace River in southwest Florida.

The FWC completed an assessment of the Peace River, evaluating over 300 miles of stream. Through that assessment, the FWC identified locations for several critical projects including a 450-foot bank just south of Zolfo Springs and a 1,000-foot stretch of riverbank south of Arcadia.

On both sites, the riverbanks were recontoured with machinery using Natural Channel Design methodology. This technique uses layers of logs and other woody debris as a foundation to build out the eroded shoreline. The new riverbank was then modified to create a floodplain bench that will reduce stress and help prevent future erosion. The rebuilt riverbank was covered in grass seed and coconut fiber matting, and planted with more than 1,500 native plants to help stabilize the new bank and promote biodiversity.

This technique provides a more aesthetically-pleasing, natural result than traditional river stabilization techniques and it also provides great habitat for fish and wildlife. Over time the coconut fiber matting will deteriorate as the plants continue to grow and mature, creating natural stream conditions.

Rivers and streams serve as important habitat for fish and wildlife, and provide recreational opportunities for people. The Peace River also is a corridor between wetlands that connect Florida’s terrestrial habitats to its marine habitats.

Streambank erosion and associated channel sedimentation are the leading causes of habitat degradation and biodiversity decline in Florida rivers and streams. Erosion and sedimentation are accelerated by changes to flow rates and patterns, often caused by development within the river’s watershed, and loss of shoreline vegetation.

For more information about the FWC’s Aquatic Habitat Conservation and Restoration projects, visit MyFWC.com/wildlifehabitats, click on “Habitat,” then “Aquatic Habitat Conservation and Restoration.”

For general waterbody information, fishing forecasts, virtual tours, plant control operation schedules and annual workplans, boat ramp information, and more, visit the “What’s Happening on My Lake” website at MyFWC.com/Lakes.

Submit photos now for 2022 CHNEP Nature Calendar Photography Contest

The Coastal & Heartland National Estuary Partnership welcomes your photography submissions of nature in the CHNEP area. Our annual photo contest site is now underway. Please join in the fun and help CHNEP spread the word!

The CHNEP annual nature calendar showcases the beauty and diversity of its program area and is distributed to thousands all over Southwest Florida.

Submissions will be accepted until July 1st and winners will be notified mid-September. To learn more about submission guidelines or to enter the contest, please click on the link below: