Water-Related News

DeSantis puts $50 million toward springs, but existing funding sits unspent

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ state budget proposal puts $50 million toward Florida’s ailing springs, even as existing springs money sits unspent.

The money is an annual allocation under the Legacy Florida Act, approved in 2016 to put a quarter of water and land conservation funding toward the Everglades, springs and Lake Apopka.

Lawmakers allocated the springs money again last year, but Clay Henderson of Stetson University’s Water Institute says a list of projects remains unfunded.

Umatilla will pump waste to Eustis in cost-effective venture

UMATILLA – Faced with a $12 million bill to replace its aging sewage treatment plant, the City of Umatilla instead will pipe its waste to Eustis in a deal that is expected to benefit both communities financially.

Officials say the move will save Umatilla millions in repairs and upgrades to its existing plant, but at the same time Eustis will gain a very lucrative customer.

“We have the capacity and it’s not being used, and since we charge for our treatment, that’s a revenue stream for our wastewater,” said Eustis’ Public Works Director Rick Gierok. “We’re working together well and both cities are benefiting from this agreement.”

Umatilla’s treatment plant is 52 years old and in need of a $12.2 million upgrade to bring it to compliance.

“We would have to find the $12 million to build a new plant, then the sewage bills for our customers would have been astronomical as we worked to pay it back,” said Aaron Mercer, Umatilla’s director of public works. “It wasn’t our only option, but it was the most affordable. In the end, this will save us and our residents millions of dollars.”

With the agreement in place, Umatilla will instead spend about $6 million for the construction of a raw wastewater pump station and force main from Umatilla directly to Eustis’ plant.

Lake County Commission tables water projects discussion until Feb. 26th

TAVARES - The Lake County Commission on Tuesday tabled two hot-button issues and directed staff to work on the design of a Groveland Four memorial.

After many spoke against a development in the Green Swamp, the board unanimously agreed to postpone a vote on a request from Hilochee Partners to rezone almost 285 acres in the Green Swamp. The developer applied to turn this agricultural land into a planned unit development of a 29-lot subdivision in the Groveland area of unincorporated Lake County.

Residents also showed up to voice their concerns about a proposed agreement between the county and a wetlands mitigation company. The company, Blackwater Creek Wetlands Mitigation, has been contracted by the St. Johns River Water Management District to remove sand, soil and other materials from the Lake Norris Conservation Area in Eustis. The proposed agreement to restore wetlands would bring in $62,900 in revenue to the county over the next five years.

Both will be discussed again at the commission’s Feb. 26 meeting.

Nearly a third of state's waters are polluted, experts say

FORT MYERS – "Not a single resident in Florida lives more than 20 miles from an impaired waterway," said John Cassani, Calusa Waterkeeper, at the first Florida Water Policy Summit last Monday.

Organized around the idea that "clean water is a basic human right," the event on Martin Luther King Jr. Day featured six speakers from local conservation groups who spoke about actionable water policy that can improve Florida's impaired waters.

And Florida has a lot of impaired waters - currently 12 million acres under Best Management Action Plans, or BMAPs, which are 15-year restoration plans required by the federal government when a waterbody is not meeting quality standards.

The Federal Clean Water Act requires each state to compile a list of waterbodies that aren't up to snuff.

Then, the Department of Environmental Protection conducts watershed assessments.

Any waterbody that doesn't meet standards for pollution is scheduled for a Total Maximum Daily Load, which is a limit for the amount of a particular pollutant that a waterbody can handle.

The state of Florida currently has 416 TMDLs, with 80 waterbodies on a waiting list to receive one, according to Maria Carrozzo, senior environmental policy specialist at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.

FWC to pause aquatic plant herbicide treatment while collecting public comment

Beginning Jan. 28, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) will temporarily pause its aquatic herbicide treatment program throughout the state. During this pause, staff will work to collect public comments regarding the FWC’s aquatic plant management program.

The FWC will hold several public meetings to gather community input about the program. Specific dates and locations of these meetings will be announced shortly. Comments can also be sent to Invasiveplants@MyFWC.com.

Invasive plants degrade and diminish Florida's waterways by displacing native plant communities. Some invasive aquatic plants pose a significant threat to human welfare and cause economic problems by impeding flood control and affecting recreational use of waterways.

Go to MyFWC.com/WildlifeHabitats and click on Invasive Plants to find out more about invasive plant management, including Frequently Asked Questions.

Funding is drying up to control hydrilla in the Harris Chain

LEESBURG – Hydrilla in the Harris Chain of Lakes is flourishing as funding to control it is drying up.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has spent all the money originally earmarked for aquatic plant management in the 2018-19 fiscal year, which started in July. The agency even added more to help combat it, but that won’t be enough.

“They have either done the treatments or have purchased chemicals for scheduled treatments,” said Mike Perry, the executive director of the Lake County Water Authority. “After that, there is no more money. And hydrilla doesn’t stop growing even if there’s no money.”

The invasive water plant can grow up to a foot a day during the warmer months. It can impede waterway navigation, frustrating recreational boaters and kayakers. And in recent years, the plant has become nearly uncontrollable.

Immediately after Hurricane Irma in September 2017, treating hydrilla on the Harris Chain became difficult. Extra water flowing in the ecosystem made aquatic herbicides ineffective during a prime treatment season.

The problem snowballed from there.

“They couldn’t treat sufficiently during that time and during that delay, the hydrilla went crazy,” Perry said.

Now FWC is playing catch-up. And local officials like Perry are begging for more money.

One option for disposal of biosolids: recycling them to make sustainable bricks

How can you recycle the world’s stockpiles of treated sewage sludge and boost sustainability in the construction industry, all at the same time? Turn those biosolids into bricks.

Biosolids are a by-product of the wastewater treatment process that can be used as fertiliser, in land rehabilitation or as a construction material.

Around 30% of the world’s biosolids are stockpiled or sent to landfill, using up valuable land and potentially emitting greenhouse gases, creating an environmental challenge.

Now a team at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, has demonstrated that fired-clay bricks incorporating biosolids could be a sustainable solution for both the wastewater treatment and brickmaking industries.

Published this month in the journal Buildings, the research showed how making biosolids bricks only required around half the energy of conventional bricks.

As well as being cheaper to produce, the biosolids bricks also had a lower thermal conductivity, transferring less heat to potentially give buildings higher environmental performance.

The EU produces over 9 million tonnes of biosolids a year, while the United States produces about 7.1 million tonnes. In Australia, 327,000 tonnes of biosolids are produced annually.

The study found there was a significant opportunity to create a new beneficial reuse market - bricks.