Water-Related News

Lawmakers grill DEP over water pollution limits

Members of the Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation grilled Department of Environmental Protection brass Tuesday on its handling of controversial new water pollution limits.

DEP in May proposed to update human health criteria for 43 chemical compounds that are allowed in Florida’s rivers, lakes and estuaries and create new limits for 39 others. Under the proposal, limits would become less stringent for roughly half the compounds on the books and more stringent for the rest.

The agency’s plan drew intense opposition from environmental groups and others not only over relaxed standards for some of the chemicals but also because of the way the agency rolled out its proposal.

DEP initially said it would take the proposal to the state Environmental Regulation Commission for approval in the fall but moved the meeting up to July. And the ERC, whose seven members are appointed by the governor, voted on the plan while two of its seats set aside for environmental and local government representation were vacant. The ERC in July approved the limits in a 3-2 vote.

Leesburg High School Students to Test Water Quality

To make sure her AP Environmental Science students are ready for the AP exam in May, Leesburg High School instructor Tessa Clark is thinking outside the box...; and outside the textbooks and classrooms.

With the help of nearly $2,000 from the Lake County Water Authority (LCWA), Clark will purchase waste water treatment kits, biological factors kits, nitrate water test kits and digital soil test kits and in February will transport 50 students to Lake Louisa State Park, Leesburg Canal Street Waste Water Treatment Facility and Bourlay Historic Nature Park so the students can test the quality of water.

"The purpose of the soil kits is for students to understand that there are nitrates and phosphates in the soil that occur naturally but with local agriculture and golf courses, these nutrients can run off into our waterways and have a negative impact on aquatic systems," she wrote in her application for the Water Resource Education Mini-Grant worth $1,976.48.

The mini-grant is part of the LCWA's "Drop-by-Drop: You Make a Difference!" program, and is designed to promote freshwater resource education in schools by awarding grants that focus on issues that affect local water resources. Since 2001, the LCWA Board has awarded more than $390,000 to local educators.

Students will have to keep journals of their findings.

Clean Water Network asks federal judge to force EPA’s hand

The Florida Environmental Regulation Commission voted July 26th to adopt overdue water quality standards for Florida. Environmentalists are fighting in federal court.

A Panhandle environmental group opposed to Florida’s sweeping new water quality standards is asking a federal judge to intervene. The Florida Clean Water Network’s complaint names the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and asks a judge to force her to weigh in. Tallassee attorney David Ludder says state regulators ignored a 30-day deadline to submit the new standards to the EPA.

“It’s up to the EPA to enforce those deadlines. EPA historically has not enforced those deadlines and as a consequence, states feel that they can do whatever they want.”

A state Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman said regulators are waiting for administrative challenges to be resolved. Ludder says critics are worried the state is waiting for a more sympathetic Trump Administration to take office.

Clean Water Network activist Linda Young is urging members to flood a legislative committee next week when regulators give an update on the standards to lawmakers.

Reed: Hickory Point is a fine place for a stroll

TAVARES - Hickory Point is more than a park - much more. It is a true recreational facility. It's also a great place for a walk.

When it was being built in the winter of 1991, people driving past the construction project underway on State Road 19, just north of the Howey Bridge, thought it was going to be some type of commercial property. Maybe a subdivision. Or a mall. Or maybe even an apartment complex.

The people couldn't have been more wrong. It is loaded with facilities for all sorts of recreational activities.

When thinking about the park's highlight my mind goes from one feature to the next, to the next. It has 12 boat ramps, a multi-slip day-use marina, fishing pier, observation deck, two-story picnic pavilion, 21 sand volleyball courts, five lighted soccer fields, a playground and open-field play areas, outdoor picnic areas, horseshoe pits and a swimming beach.

This property is owned and operated by the Lake County Water Authority.

5th Annual Lake Apopka Wildlife Festive and Birdapalooza Jan. 21

APOPKA – The 5th annual Lake Apopka Wildlife Festival and Birdapalooza will be held Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017 from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at Orange County’s Magnolia Park located at 2929 S. Binion Rd., Apopka, 32703. Birdapalooza is a free event that will showcase the 20,000-acre Lake Apopka North Shore and its habitat for hundreds of bird species and other wildlife. This will be a day of fun and learning for the whole family.

There will a guided nature photography hikes (leaving at 7:30 a.m.), guided bus tours (limited first-come seating), guided walking and biking nature tours for children and adults on the Lake Apopka Loop Trail, fishing demonstrations, entertainment by IBEX Puppetry, bounce houses, face painting, live animal demonstrations, tree giveaways, music, airboat rides (for a fee), exhibitors, merchandise vendors and food trucks.

This year in addition to the free Saturday festival, Birdapalooza has added a Birding Festival with guided Friday and Sunday field trips by well-known birding trip leaders and Friday night and Saturday night keynote speakers. For more information, visit the link below.

Interested vendors and exhibitors should contact Commissioner Bryan Nelson’s Office at 407-836-5850 or District2@ocfl.net.

Florida judge tosses pollution notification rule

TALLAHASSEE – A Florida judge says a rule requiring companies to notify the public of pollution events within 24 hours is invalid.

The new rule was pushed by Gov. Rick Scott after it took weeks for the public to be notified about a giant sinkhole at a fertilizer plant that sent millions of gallons of polluted water into the state's main drinking water aquifer.

Administrative law judge Bram Canter ruled Friday that the new rule, which would result in fines for companies who failed to report pollution within a day, was "an invalid exercise of delegated legislative authority."

Five business groups challenged the rule in court, saying it would create excessive regulatory costs.

Gov. Scott's office says he is reviewing the ruling and that he still believes the current rules are outdated and need to change.

Registration now open for biodiversity conference

Registration is now open for a major conference about conserving biodiversity in Florida. It will be March 7–9 at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, with the theme Conserving Biodiversity: Challenges for Florida in the Anthropocene".

This is a critical time for open discussion about the conservation challenges faced by scientists, resource managers, educators, decision-makers, and global citizens. The conference's aim is to provide an opportunity for forging shared responses, centered on three themes that are acute in Florida and relevant everywhere: climate change, habitat fragmentation, and biological invasions.

Please visit the conference website for details about the dynamite line-up of invitees, anchored by contributions from Reed Noss, Thomas Lovejoy, Thomas Hoctor, and Daniel Simberloff, among many other renowned speakers. There you will find information about registration and hotels. (Note that attendance space is limited and spring break is peak travel season).

Details will be posted soon about a poster session and student scholarships for registration costs.

Tighter requirements sought for Environmental Regulation Commission

After a controversy this year about new water-quality standards, a Democratic senator Tuesday filed a proposal that would tighten requirements for the state Environmental Regulation Commission.

The commission was in the middle of a controversy when it voted 3-2 in July to approve water-quality standards that drew criticism from environmentalists, the Seminole Tribe of Florida and some industries.

Adding to the controversy about the standards, Gov. Rick Scott at the time had not filled two vacancies on the commission. Stewart's bill, which is filed for the 2017 legislative session, would require that vacancies on the commission be filled within 90 days.

FWC “Fishbrain” app to help FWC track nonnative freshwater fish

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250,000 Florida anglers can now log 15 different types of nonnative fish to help monitor and benefit the local ecosystem

Photo of Bullseye Snakehead courtesy FWC

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) plans to crowdsource data on nonnative freshwater fish species in Florida by partnering with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and Fishbrain – the world’s largest app and social network for anglers. The FWC has provided a list of nonnative species of interest in the Sunshine State, which will equip Fishbrain’s users with the necessary information to log sightings of these species when they come across them.

Florida is the pilot state to use Fishbrain technology in order to help land managers better understand the extent and impact of nonnative aquatic species. Following the Florida campaign, Fishbrain and the Service hope to build on the pilot project in other areas of the country through partnerships with state conservation organizations. With a better understanding of the extent of these species in the environment, resource managers will be able to develop effective tools designed to monitor nonnative species and prevent them from further damaging the biodiversity of ecosystems across the nation.

The Fishbrain app allows users to log catches by recording the location, time, species and a picture of their catch. Starting Dec. 20, the FWC will invite the 250,000 Florida-based users of the Fishbrain app to log catches of 15 different types of nonnative fish in the Florida ecosystem. The FWC promotes the consumptive use of these exotic fish instead of releasing them back into the wild.

Registration open for Lake Apopka Wildlife Festival & Birdapalooza

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The Lake Apopka Wildlife Festival & Birdapalooza, based out of Magnolia Park in Apopka, FL is a free family-oriented festival, now in its 5th year. This year Birdapalooza will be held January 21, 2017 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Now in its second year, Orange Audubon Society's Birding Festival is wrapped around Birdapalooza. On Friday January 20th and Sunday January 22nd, enjoy field trips on and around the Lake Apopka North Shore. Trips will search for recently sighted rarities, and as many of the 360+ bird species documented on the property as possible. This year we have added dinners and keynote talks on Friday night and Saturday night. We are thrilled to announce that our Saturday keynote speaker is none other than Greg Miller of The BIg Year fame, who will also lead field trips. Here is a link to some of the great birds seen on the Lake Apopka North Shore, including since last weekend twos Groove-billed Anis! https://www.facebook.com/lakeapopkawildlifedrive/

Magnolia Park is located at 2929 S. Binion Rd., in Apopka.

Contact Information

Vanessa Lewis

Orange County Government

(407) 836-5850