Water-Related News

Blue-Green Algae Task Force: Alert public when algal toxins detected

How much toxicity does it take to make a blue-green algae bloom hazardous?

The World Health Organization says 10 parts per billion of the toxin microcystin is hazardous to touch. The federal Environmental Protection Agency sets the threshold at 8 parts per billion.

But the Florida Blue-Green Algae Task Force agreed Wednesday [July 30] people need to be warned when any toxins are in the water.

"A simple detection of toxins is enough to prompt a health alert," Florida Chief Science Officer Tom Frazer, who leads the panel, said during the Zoom meeting.

The task force was discussing whether Florida needs to establish a state threshold for hazardous levels of microcystin such as those used by the WHO and EPA and looking at signs developed by the Florida Department of Health and state Department of Environmental Protection to warn people of toxic algae blooms in water bodies.

"There's no safe exposure to toxins," said task force member James Sullivan, executive director of Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Fort Pierce. "If there's a reliable detection (of toxins in the water), the number doesn't mean anything. To be the most cautious for the public, if you detect toxins, you put out an advisory."

SJRWMD offers continuing education credits to community association managers

PALATKA – Community association managers (CAM) are invited to earn free continuing education credits through the St. Johns River Water Management District’s certified training courses on water quality and water conservation best practices for communities. These credits meet the requirements for CAM licensure.

The new, state-certified continuing education program offers community association managers training on a variety of water resource protection topics, including stormwater management, water-conserving landscapes, smart irrigation, conservation easements and more.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, trainings are currently held via webinar. To schedule a session for your association’s management office or homeowners’ association, contact Dr. Jennifer Mitchell, district public communications coordinator, at jmitchell@sjrwmd.com or 904-730-6283.

The district was certified as a continuing education provider by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation in December 2019. The district’s goals for the program are improved permit compliance, enhanced water conservation, better understanding of district stormwater rules, and community relationship building.

Benefits of continuing education include professional development, money savings for the community, staying current on new permitting requirements and technologies, sharpening skills for better job or promotion opportunities, increasing understanding of Florida’s unique environment, personal improvement and the enjoyment of learning. Also, continuing education is a requirement of maintaining licensure.

Visit www.sjrwmd.com/education/cam-training/ for information about the district’s CAM resources.

Clermont Chain / Lake Minneola update, 7/17

Clermont Chain Water Level

Dam structures at Cherry Lake and Villa City have been closed since the beginning of March. Water level in Lake Minnehaha is within regulation and currently 96.34 with rain anticipated for this weekend.

Lake Minneola

The Lake County Water Authority is working with a local environmental company to perform a 12-month water quality study on Lake Minneola. The team will sample water in the lake, stormwater entering the lake, and groundwater seepage entering the lake in an effort to identify unwanted sources of nitrogen and phosphorus. Under the right environmental conditions, these nutrients can provide blue-green algae a food source for rapid population growth and the formation of “pond scum” that was seen in Lake Minneola at the beginning of 2020.

SJRWMD report: 9% decrease in water use over last decade

PALATKA — Annual water use reporting conducted by the St. Johns River Water Management District shows that 2019 total water use was 9 percent below the 10-year average, even while total population continued to increase by 11 percent over the last decade. The district’s 2019 Survey of Annual Water Use was presented at the district’s July Governing Board meeting on Tuesday [July 14th].

“The study results remind all of us to keep doing our part to conserve water in our homes and businesses,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Dr. Ann Shortelle. “Turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth, installing water-efficient appliances and fixtures, following our Water Less advice and letting Mother Nature water your lawn are just a few examples of what each of us can contribute.”

Within the St. Johns District, the largest water use is public supply, which represents 55 percent of the total water use, followed by agricultural irrigation at 20 percent and commercial/industrial/institutional and mining/dewatering uses at 9 percent of water use.

EPA limits states’ power to review projects that affect water quality

SAN FRANCISCO — For almost 50 years, states and tribal governments have played an outsized role in deciding whether projects that can harm water quality should receive federal permits — a role that is about to change under a new rule finalized by the Trump administration Monday.

The “Clean Water Act 401 Certification Rule” narrows what issues state and tribal governments may consider when determining if a project, such as one that involves discharging pollution into a river or stream, will comply with state water quality standards. State or tribal approval is a prerequisite for obtaining a federal permit under the Clean Water Act.

The new rule curtailing states’ review power is intended to advance President Donald Trump’s goal of promoting “efficient permitting” and reducing “regulatory uncertainties” as outlined in his April 2019 executive order on “Promoting Energy Infrastructure and Economic Growth.” This rule is one of the first major overhauls of the water quality certification process established by the Clean Water Act of 1972.

Environmental groups say latest water bill bad for Florida

Environmental groups across the state are challenging the bill recently signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis that is supposed to help clean up Florida's ailing waterways.

Proponents of Senate Bill 712, also called the Clean Waterways Act, say it will help the state better deal with blue-green algae blooms that have popped up across the Sunshine State in recent years.

Critics, however, say the bill fails to advance Florida's water quality standards and regulations and is actually worse than having no new water laws at all.

"It started out with good intentions, taking the Blue-Green Algae Task Force recommendations and trying to convert them into law," said Chuck O'Neal, with Speak Up Wekiva, one of several groups that have filed a legal challenge to the bill. "But as always happens it goes to Tallahassee and gets picked apart until what comes out is worse than the status quo."

FWC seeks assistance in developing lake management plans

A new Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Lake Management Plans webpage is designed to strengthen communication and encourage stakeholders to become more involved with the management plan process.

The FWC’s lake management plans focus on the management of a system’s fish, wildlife and habitat. They are intended to guide the successful management of fish and wildlife on these systems for their long-term well-being and the benefit of people. The FWC is committed to designing these plans using stakeholder input and feedback to help guide management activities on individual lakes. Input from the public is vital to the success of these projects. The FWC is actively gathering input on each plan through multiple methods to ensure stakeholders can be involved in the development of management goals and objectives.

The FWC is currently developing lake management plans for the Harris Chain of Lakes, the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes and Lake Okeechobee. If you would like to get involved in this planning effort, select the lake in which you’re interested, click the “Get Involved” button and send us your information. Check the webpages for information on the progress of the plans and for completed management plans.

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/Lake.

For more information about lake management plans, contact Laura Rambo at 850-488-0520.

LCWA Preserves and Hickory Point Park Update for July 9, 2020

The Boat Ramps, Fishing Pier, Boardwalk, Restrooms, Playground and Picnic Grounds are now open at Hickory Point.

The Pavilion will remain closed to events at this time.

All preserves have reopened to the public.

This includes Hidden Waters, Flat Island Preserve, Sabal Bluff, Bourlay Historic Nature Preserve, Sawgrass Island Preserve, Crooked River Preserve, Scrub Point and Lake Norris. Restrooms at Crooked River, Bourlay Historic Nature Preserve and Flat Island Preserve are now open to the public.

Camping permits and/or the use of the Canoes/Kayaks will be limited to one group per weekend at this time. As always you are welcome to use your own canoes and kayaks.

LCWA will update its website and Facebook pages should there be any changes.

New technology delivers fast, easy results on water quality

Handheld platform technology uses single sample to test for a variety of contaminants

A new platform technology can assess water safety and quality with just a single drop and a few minutes.

Likened to a pregnancy test, the handheld platform uses one sample to provide an easy-to-read positive or negative result. When the test detects a contaminant exceeding the EPA’s standards, it glows green.

Led by researchers at Northwestern University, the tests can sense 17 different contaminants, including toxic metals such as lead and copper, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and cleaning products. The platform — which is powered by cell-free synthetic biology — is so flexible that researchers can continually update it to sense more pollutants.

“Current water tests rely on a centralized laboratory that contains really expensive equipment and requires expertise to operate,” said Northwestern’s Julius Lucks, who led the study. “Sending in a sample can cost up to $150 and take several weeks to get results. We’re offering a technology that enables anyone to directly test their own water and know if they have contamination within minutes. It’s so simple to use that we can put it into the hands of the people who need it most.”

The research was published today (July 6) in the journal Nature Biotechnology. Lucks is a professor of chemical and biological engineering in Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and a member of the Center for Synthetic Biology. Jaeyoung Jung and Khalid Alam, members of Lucks’ laboratory, are co-first authors of the paper.