Water-Related News

Picture perfect: Photos sought for Adopt-a-Lake calendar

Now in its ninth year of production, the Lake County Adopt-a-Lake Program is again seeking beautiful original photographs of Lake County waterways for its classic Adopt-a-Lake calendar. The top 14 photographs, as chosen by a panel of volunteers, will be featured in the 2018 publication.

Once the semi-finalists are selected, online voting will be opened to the public. The top-scoring photograph will receive a prime spot on the calendar’s cover.

All photos submitted must be of a Lake County named body of water, and must be shot in landscape (horizontal) mode. Entries are limited to five photos per person and should include the name of the photographer and the body of water pictured. A photo release form will be required.

To submit a photo, e-mail ccatasus@lakecountyfl.gov, bring a CD to the Water Resource Management Laboratory at 12923 County Landfill Road, Tavares, or mail a CD to Adopt-a-Lake Program, Attn: Cathie Catasus, P.O. Box 7800, Tavares, FL 32778.

The deadline to submit entries is Friday, Oct. 27.

The Adopt-a-Lake calendar will be available at the Water Resource Management Laboratory for a suggested donation of $5, with proceeds benefiting the Adopt-a-Lake Program.

The Lake County Adopt-a-Lake Program encourages local civic organizations, individuals and fraternal and business groups to adopt a segment of a lake’s shoreline. The program is comprised of three separate components: Water-quality monitoring, public education and pollution prevention. Volunteers can select which aspects of the program best fit their level of interest.

For more information about Lake County’s Adopt-a-Lake Program, the calendar, or to become a volunteer, contact Cathie Catasus at 352-253-1659 or ccatasus@lakecountyfl.gov.

Dora Canal update

The Dora Canal is now open to boat traffic. Please use caution! Around the bend from Tiki Village you will see orange tape. It is IMPORTANT that you stay BETWEEN the orange tape and the shoreline. Water is 4 to 5 feet at that point. If you go outside of the orange tape you will hit a tree.

All the ways hurricanes can harm-and help-the ecosystems they hit

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma set records with their power, and the devastation they left in their wake. Irma has destroyed more than 90 percent of the structures on some Caribbean islands. All told, Harvey dumped 27 trillion gallons of water over Texas and Louisiana, swelling floodwaters that have been very slow to drain. Harvey has left its stamp on the landscape, too; the storm appears to have actually pushed a piece of the planet's crust down by more than half an inch.

There are a lot of ways that major storms can impact the ecosystem. When a hurricane hits, animals can be swept away or stranded, trees splintered, and coastal lands swallowed up. “Hurricanes are like people—they’re really different, each one of them, in terms of how they express themselves,” says Tom Doyle, deputy director of the United States Geological Survey Wetland and Aquatic Research Center in Lafayette, Louisiana. This violent self-expression can be dictated by many features, from a storm’s path and intensity to the geology of the lands it passes over.

Hurricanes alter every ecosystem they pass through on both land and sea. And now that Irma and Harvey have spent their fury, scientists are returning to these areas to take stock of the damage. “With extreme events like this, we need to understand what’s happened, we need to learn from it, and hopefully that will help us when we face future scenarios to be more resilient,” says Bryan Brooks, director of the Environmental Health Science program at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

Florida needs to improve sewage systems, enviro group says

Hurricane Irma caused massive sewage overflows in Florida, prompting an environmental group to call on local communities to improve infrastructure to prevent that from happening again when the next big storm hits.

“Hurricanes are a fact of life in Florida, but sewage in our streets and bays shouldn’t be,” said Jennifer Rubiello, state director of Environment Florida. “As these storms get more severe and frequent, we have to be ready for some pretty challenging conditions. We’re not ready now.”

The Department of Environmental Protection has received more than 200 cases of sewage spills since Irma barreled through Florida 10 days ago.

Environment Florida, Florida PIRG and the Frontier Group released a factsheet Wednesday demonstrating that many of the sewer systems in the state’s biggest coastal cities were unable to handle the strong rains and winds that a hurricane like Irma delivered.

Advocates say that the bacteria and viruses in wastewater can infect humans and animals.

Fight over 'flushable' wipes D.C. says are clogging sewer systems heads to federal court

The question of whether flushable wipes — used by potty-training toddlers and people looking beyond traditional toilet paper — are clogging sewer systems will be hashed out in federal court, where a manufacturer has sued the District of Columbia over a new city law regulating when such wipes can be labeled "flushable."

Dallas-based Kimberly-Clark, which manufactures Cottonelle, Scott Naturals and Pull-Ups flushable wipes, alleges that the District law — the first of its kind in the U.S. — is unconstitutional because it tries to regulate businesses beyond the city. The company also alleges that the law violates the First Amendment because it could require companies that believe their wipes to be flushable to label their products as "do not flush."

"In seeking this court intervention, Kimberly-Clark is fighting for our consumers and standing up for our brands," company spokesman Bob Brand said in an email. "The District of Columbia has unfortunately passed a law that will severely restrict, if not eliminate, consumers' ability to purchase flushable wipes in Washington D.C."

The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, came in response to complaints from DC Water and sewer utilities nationwide that flushable wipes are jamming pumps, blocking screens and clogging equipment at sewage treatment plants. The problem costs U.S. utilities up to $1 billion annually, according to the National Association of Clean Water Agencies.

The issue drew international attention a few years ago, when a 15-ton glob of wipes and hardened cooking grease the size of a bus — and nicknamed "Fatberg" by the Brits — was discovered blocking a London sewer pipe.

Water Shortage Warning Order rescinded as groundwater levels recover

The St. Johns River Water Management District’s Governing Board voted to rescind the districtwide Water Shortage Warning Order following an extended period of increased rainfall.

The Water Shortage Warning Order was originally issued in March 2017 due to below-average rainfall and declining hydrogeologic conditions. The purpose of the order was to increase awareness for the need to conserve water during drought conditions and ensure sufficient water was available to meet the needs of people and the environment.

A brief report outlining August’s hydrological conditions was also presented, which included limited data related to Hurricane Irma, as storm-related information is still being collected and assessed.

Counties with above-average monthly rainfall include Flagler with 8.49 inches, Lake with 8.25 inches, Volusia with 7.76 inches, Putnam with 7.61 inches, Marion with 7.87 inches and Nassau with 6.87 inches. Brevard, Indian River, Okeechobee and Osceola counties received below-average monthly rainfall, resulting in a deficit of two or more inches for each county.

Sewage spills add to misery In hurricane-battered Florida

As if loss of air conditioning and refrigeration weren't bad enough, widespread power outages in hurricane-battered Florida are teaming with structural failures to cause another headache: sewage overflows.

Local governments have submitted well over 100 "notices of pollution" to the state Department of Environmental Protection since Hurricane Irma struck, some involving multiple spills and releases of millions of gallons of wastewater in various stages of treatment.

Officials in many cities were still scrambling Thursday to determine how much sewage had escaped, while the state warned people to steer clear of standing water.

"Floodwaters may contain not only bacteria from sanitary sewer overflows but other potential contaminants from agricultural or industrial waste," environmental protection department spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller said.

About 6 million gallons of wastewater was released from a plant on Virginia Key near Miami during a seven-hour power outage overnight Sunday that disabled its pumps — one of seven spills reported by the Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer Department. The water had gone through most of the treatment process but hadn't been chlorinated, spokeswoman Jennifer Messemer-Skold said.

Officials advised people not to swim at Miami-area beaches until waters could be tested for a variety of pollutants.

Comment period extended for the definition of "Waters of the United States"

EPA and the Army have extended the comment period by 30 days for the proposed first step of the review of the definition of "waters of the United States" to provide additional time for stakeholders to weigh in.

The comment period, as now extended, will close on September 27, 2017. The proposed rule was signed by the Administrator and Mr. Douglas Lamont, senior official performing the duties of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, and posted to EPA’s website on June 27th and published in the Federal Register on July 27th. When finalized, the proposed rule would replace the 2015 Clean Water Rule with the regulations that were in effect immediately preceding the 2015 rule. The public can submit comments, identified by Docket Id. EPA-HQ-2017-0203, at regulations.gov.

Federal Register Notice
On August 16, 2017, the EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Water, Michael Shapiro, along with Mr. Douglas Lamont, senior official performing the duties of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, signed the Federal Register notice extending the public comment period, which published on August 22, 2017.

Hurricane Irma closes some LCWA-managed preserves

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Important Notice:

Hidden Waters Preserve in Eustis, Crooked River Preserve in Clermont, and Sabal Bluff in Leesburg are now OPEN to the public, along with Hickory Point Park in Tavares.

All other preserves are CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE for the safety of the public and to allow staff to assess any damage after the storm, and to clear any fallen trees and branches that might be a hazard.

Preserves that are still CLOSED to the public include:

  • Bourlay Historic Nature Park, Leesburg
  • Flat Island Preserve, Leesburg
  • Sawgrass Island Preserve, Umatilla

Hurricane Irma's fury has forced closure of many Central Florida parks and trails

After days of living without power, calling roofing companies or cleaning up yard debris, many Central Floridians may be looking for a quiet place to relax and de-stress following Hurricane Irma.

But visiting a preserve or taking a hike on a nature path might not be an option for the time being. A week after Irma plowed through the region, many campgrounds, trails and boardwalks are closed because of downed trees, fallen power lines, flooding and no electricity.

In some cases, the facilities could be closed for several more weeks.

“It’s not safe to be out on the property,” said Danielle Spears, a spokeswoman for the St. Johns River Water Management District, regarding the Lake Apopka Loop Trail, which was closed after the storm. The popular nature trail follows the northern shoreline of the large lake between Orange and Lake counties for nearly 15 miles and attracts hikers, bicyclists and nature lovers throughout the state.

Lake County Water Authority prepared to battle fracking

There’s no fracking anywhere in or near Lake County, but the Lake County Water Authority is prepared to battle it, if and when the possibility arises.

At the water authority’s monthly meeting this past Wednesday, board members heard a comprehensive report on the state of fracking in Florida. As a result the board has directed staff to monitor all future fracking applications, and to place a public records request with the state’s Department of Environmental Protection for any applications that may be already in the works.

According to the report by staffer Sergio Duarte, fracking would be difficult to permit in this state. But it is not prohibited at the state level, and could be permitted under the same regulations that govern the routine acid-wash cleaning of some wells. The difference with fracking is that the acid solution — not much stronger than what is currently used to cleaning mineral deposits from wells — is injected under pressure.

According to the report, “DEP reviews each individual permit application to ensure that water resources will be protected. Pollution from drilling operations is prohibited under Section 377.371. Florida Statutes.”

Board member Diana Mullins’ take on the situation was: “I’m sorry. We live on a giant sponge. (Whatever you inject) it goes everywhere. I’m not sure the amount of money on the fracking side won’t change some of the DEP applications.”

There are currently 64 producing crude oil/ natural gas wells in the state, all located either in the western panhandle or in the southwest part of the state. The only known fracking incident took place in Collier County about three years ago. The petroleum production company involved in that incident was fined for their action. The one oil well in Lake County, dug in the 1930s, failed to produce oil in commercial quantities.

City of Tavares focuses on protecting Lake Dora

Using the methodology to identify and verify water quality impairments described in Chapter 62-303, Florida Administrative Code, (Identification of Impaired Surface Waters or IWR), Lake Dora was included on the verified list of impaired waters for the Ocklawaha Basin that was adopted by Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Secretarial Order in 2002. Pollutants and nutrient loads exceeded acceptable standards as monitored by FDEP.

The main source of impairment for Lake Dora has been runoff from Lake Apopka via Lakes Beauclair and Carlton. Further, Lake Dora feeds into Lake Eustis through the Dora Canal, thus spreading further impairment through Lake County’s precious chain of lakes.

In response to this impairment, the Lake County Water Authority’s Nutrient Reduction Facility (NuRF) became operational in 2009. While the NuRF facility has been instrumental in reducing nitrogen, phosphorous and other pollutants from Lake Dora, the City of Tavares decided that further mitigation was needed.

In addition, the City of Tavares also needed to alleviate another ongoing issue: local city streets would continually flood during heavy rains. Since the runoff from these rainfalls was not being directed into a treatment facility and “cleaned”, this continual runoff was making its way into Lake Dora and adding to the pollutant problem. In 2008, Tavares commissioned a stormwater study of the downtown area funded by the Lake County Water Authority and conducted by Griffey Engineering.