Water-Related News

South Florida reservoir feared to send pollution to St. Johns River

ST. JOHNS RIVER — "You can't step in the same river twice" is a famous expression, although only partly applicable to Doctors Lake, because if you ever stepped foot in its bath-warm, lime-green waters this summer, last summer — or the summer before that — there is a chance you were ankle deep in a toxic algae bloom.

Doctors Lake, an inlet of the St. Johns, was issued a health advisory from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for blue-green algae toxins for the third consecutive summer.

Excessive concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorous are the nutrients that create the algae blooms, sometimes appearing as smelly green scum along the water's surface. The sources come from fertilizer runoff, septic leakage, and sewage sludge, also known as biosolids, used in agriculture. Toxins produced by some algae blooms can cause rashes, stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea and respiratory irritation.

Lisa Rinaman of the St. Johns Riverkeeper, an environmental advocacy group committed to protecting the ecology of Florida’s longest river and its inlets, is concerned about an upcoming development she believes will inevitably redirect polluted waters from South Florida into St. Johns, intensifying the frequency of algae blooms along the 310-mile river body.

The development is called the Grove Land Reservoir, a $400 million state-funded stormwater storage and treatment project planned at the headwaters of the St. Johns, which would redirect water flowing into the Indian River Lagoon by pumping 136 million gallons of water daily into the Upper St. Johns to alleviate the growing water demand in Central Florida.

State of Florida updates stormwater regulations

Governor Ron DeSantis signs updates to Florida stormwater regulations.

Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis signed SB7040 which updates environmental statutes with a number of standards recommended by the Department of Environmental protection.

The signed legislation lays out regulations that developers must comply with. Applicants seeking permits from the state must provide information through designs and plans that meet performance standards as well as meet other requirements under the revised rules.

Applicants must also demonstrate compliance with the rule’s performance standards by providing reasonable assurance through modeling, calculations, and supporting documentation that satisfy the provisions of the revised rules.5

According to an article, the legislation sets new minimum standards for stormwater treatment systems. It requires that they achieve at least an 80% reduction of the average annual post-development total suspended solids load, or a 95% reduction if the proposed project is located within an area with a watershed that contains Outstanding Florida Waters (OWF) or one located upstream.

The bill also clarifies provisions relating to grandfathered projects, or projects that have started before the bill was signed.

The bill also states that entities implementing stormwater best management practices also regulated under different provisions of the law are not subject to duplicate inspections for the same practices, and allows alternative treatment standards for redevelopment projects in areas with impaired waters.

These updated regulations come weeks after DeSantis singed the state budget that cut about $205 million in stormwater, wastewater and sewer projects.

St. Johns River Water Management District issues mandatory watering restrictions for all customers

All St. Johns River Water Management District customers now have to follow mandatory watering restrictions. This includes customers with reclaimed water service.

The St. Johns River Water Management District encourages all customers to follow the mandatory watering restrictions. The restrictions help ensure efficient use of water.

The current SJRWMD watering restrictions schedule runs from March through November during daylight saving time.

  • Residential properties with odd-numbered or no addresses may water Wednesdays and Saturdays.
  • Residential properties with even-numbered addresses may water Thursdays and Sundays.
  • Nonresidential properties may water Tuesdays and Fridays.

The restrictions also stipulate that customers water only when needed and not between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. JEA recommends watering from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. Water for no more than one hour per zone.

These restrictions apply to private wells and pumps, ground or surface water, and water from public and private utilities. Some exceptions may apply.

Advocates say so far, Florida’s new plans to heal polluted springs still fall short

As the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) works on required revisions to its Basin Management Action Plans, or BMAPs, some environmental advocates worry the pending changes still won't do enough to restore polluted Florida waters to good health.

BMAPs are supposed to reduce nitrate pollution levels in Florida’s freshwater springs and aquifer/groundwater, per Florida’s Springs and Aquifer Protection Act. That 2016 law identified 30 Outstanding Florida Springs, mandating FDEP to create 20-year water quality improvement plans for any of the 30 OFS determined to be impaired, or polluted.

But BMAPs adopted by FDEP in 2018 don't comply with the law, according to an appellate court's ruling issued last year in a case brought by Florida Springs Council (FSC). The nonprofit advocacy group had argued Florida's BMAPs were “legally and scientifically inadequate”; after losing in court initially, FSC filed an appeal.

Ruling in favor of FSC, the appellate court directed FDEP to produce new BMAPs: ones that would actually work. The new BMAPs must specify and enforce targeted reduction amounts for each category of polluter contributing pollution to a given springshed.

AguaCulture project ‘sucking up the muck’ off the bottom of Lake Kissimmee

LAKE KISSIMMEE – An innovative water treatment company is taking on the challenge of getting the muck out of a Florida lake.

In 2022, AguaCulture successfully completed a proof-of-concept project on the Indian Prairie Canal to mechanically remove invasive aquatic plants from Lake Okeechobee, liquify them and pump the liquid through a special hose to be spread on pastures as far as 20 miles away.

That project, funded by a grant from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) proved the concept works.

A new AguaCulture project on private property on the shore of Lake Kissimmee in Osceola County is now proving that same machinery can be adapted to suck some of the muck from the bottom of a lake without creating turbidity.

Eagle Haven Ranch owner Arnie Bellini is funding the project. Bellini, the founder of the Live Wildly Foundation, is interested in large scale conservation projects, explained AguaCulture champion Mike Elfenbein, conservation chair of the Izaak Walton League Cypress Chapter.

The 3,000-acre ranch was once the site of a 350-home trailer park and was slated for more development. Bellini purchased the ranch to save a piece of wild Florida. The mobile homes are gone, and the land, which includes five different types of natural Florida habitat, is home to more than 200 native species including eagles and Scrub Jays, as well as Florida Cracker horses and cattle.

The ranch has a dispersed water project, to hold excess water from Lake Kissimmee, and is part of the Florida Wildlife Corridor.

Elfenbein said they hope to use the AguaCulture system to improve the soil in different types of native Florida land, improving the habitat for wildlife.

Lake County reminds residents of summer fertilizer restrictions

Lake County logo

LAKE COUNTY – In accordance with Lake County’s Fertilizer Ordinance, we remind residents of the summer fertilizer application restriction in unincorporated Lake County. From June 1 through September 30, the application of fertilizer containing phosphorus and nitrogen to residential turf grass is prohibited. Nutrient pollution is a significant issue for Lake County’s waterbodies, and this restriction is intended to help reduce the nutrient loading from urban landscapes.

The Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act requires all jurisdictions within a Spring Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) area to enact an ordinance for Florida-friendly fertilizer use on urban landscapes or equivalent. The Lake County Board of County Commissioners approved the ordinance in 2017.

Residents can use nitrogen and phosphorus-free summer fertilizer blends that contain other allowed nutrients like iron, manganese, potassium, and lime. Compost is also an option for year-round use as it is natural, eco-friendly, and excellent for soil health. Leave grass clippings on the lawn as they provide a slow-release nitrogen source.

Before applying any fertilizer or amendments, test the soil to determine what nutrients are needed. Additionally, always measure the area and read the label directions to apply the proper amount for your location.

For more information on the Lake County Effective Fertilizer Ordinance, see lakecountyfl.gov/environmental-services/fertilizer