Residents and landscapers are reminded that Pinellas County’s fertilizer ordinance prohibits the sale or application of fertilizers containing nitrogen and/or phosphorous between June 1 and Sept. 30. Phosphorous cannot be used at any time of the year unless a soil test confirms that it is needed.
The ordinance regulates landscape maintenance practices year-round and the sale and use of fertilizers containing nitrogen or phosphorous during the rainy season. Homeowners, landscapers and lawn care services must follow the practices described in the ordinance or face fines up to $10,000 per day. All landscapers who apply fertilizer in the county must display a Pinellas County-certified vehicle decal.
The nitrogen/phosphorous ban aims to prevent fertilizer runoff from entering storm drains and lakes, ponds, rivers, Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Excess nitrogen and phosphorous can cause harmful algae blooms that lower oxygen levels and lead to fish kills. Recent data shows that the ordinance is having a positive impact on the aquatic environment.
Pinellas County Environmental Management recommends the following Florida-friendly lawn care best practices to keep a healthy landscape during the summer:
- Look for products with “0-0” as the first two numbers on the fertilizer label.
- Apply iron to keep lawns green during the summer without increasing growth, as well as other environmentally friendly landscape products, available at your favorite lawn and garden store.
- Use compost to enrich soil.
- Set lawn mower blades between 3½ to 4 inches for St. Augustine turf to encourage deep roots that resist fungus and pests.
- Buy plants adapted to Florida’s hot and humid climate and plant them in places that suit their sun and water needs.
Pinellas County is one of more than 90 Florida communities that have summertime fertilizer restrictions.
Landscapers and residents looking for more tips on skipping fertilizer can visit the Be Floridian website.
Public's help solicited in locating marine debris hot spots
A new map funded by a Tampa Bay Estuary Program Mini-Grant is designed to use crowdsourced data to help determine what areas around Tampa Bay have the highest concentrations of marine debris. The tides and currents can carry debris from the land and deposit it anywhere along shore, but frequently it collects in specific locations. The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission created the interactive map to get information from the public about where they commonly find trash accumulating, so that cleanup organizations can focus on these spots and allocate more resources to keeping them clean!
Users can visit the map to see details about high-trash areas already identified: type of debris, estimated quantity (# of pieces), weight of the items (lbs.), and photos of the area. Using the map's tools, they can add their own information to these pre-identified spots or add new locations where they see garbage collecting.
Because many areas are not be accessible by car, information from boaters, kayakers, and paddle-boarders is especially valuable. If you have any difficulty using the new map or need help to add information, please email Ryan.Druyor@myfwc.com. Please include any information that you would like to share and attach images you have of the site.
Tampa Bay Mini-Grants are funded by sales of TBEP's "tarpon tag". To help support projects, like this, get a Tampa Bay Estuary license plate for your vehicle!
Crews from St. Pete help Bradenton clean up sewage spill
ST. PETERSBURG — When Bradenton public works crews found themselves overwhelmed by a sewage spill Friday, the city's public works department joined with other nearby crews to help clean up the spill.
It all started Thursday when a contractor mistakenly broke a sanitary sewer force main — the pipeline that conveys wastewater.
City of Bradenton crews mobilized to suck up the spills and convey the wastewater to its treatment plant. However, by Friday morning, it was clear the job was too big for the city crews, said Jim Martin with Bradenton Public Works. So they put out the call for help.
Martin said they received assistance from about half a dozen counties, including Manatee, Charlotte and Hillsborough.
The city of St. Petersburg sent a pair of vactor truck crews to assist, said public works spokesman Bill Logan. These trucks have pumps and tanks that are designed to suck up liquids, sludge and sewage.
"We're in this together," St. Petersburg Water Resources Director John Palenchar said. "We're all there to help."
Crews vacuumed waste water and transferred the sewage to non-damaged pipes. Some sewage seeped into storm drains, but it's not clear at this point how much.
Despite the consequences of the spill, Martin said Friday was an example of how cleanups should work — a group of teams coming together to clear the scene as quickly and efficiently as possible.
"We all work for the same people, the public," Martin said. "That's the way it should be."
St. Pete in talks with TECO to discuss biogas project
ST. PETERSBURG — City officials have had two meetings with representatives from TECO Peoples Gas this month to determine whether its possible to use natural gas to power its sanitation trucks.
The renewable energy would come from a $93.6 million biosolids project that the city has been working on for seven years. Now set to be completed in June 2019, the project is designed to convert wastewater byproducts into methane gas at the Southwest Water Reclamation Facility next to Eckerd College.
The goal is for that biogas to then integrated into the natural gas distribution system for TECO Peoples Gas.
The project was first conceived in 2011 but all these years later still faces unanswered questions such as: Is Peoples Gas willing to provide a pipeline to get the gas from the new facility to the trucks?
City Council members expressed concern at a May 3 meeting that they still don't know whether Peoples Gas will actually commit to the project. Using biogas to fuel the city's garbage truck fleet is a key part of the city's plan to earn money back from the project.
Hurricane season has anxiety running high. How much is development to blame?
MANATEE – Most agree that a major storm packing fast and furious rain events can't stop flooding from taking place across Manatee County. A lot of factors go into it, including the amount of rain, how fast it drops, tides, stormwater pipe capacity, and yes, development.
While new developments come with the bells and whistles of modern stormwater infrastructure and retention ponds, no one is building a new Ware's Creek or a new Cedar Hammock drainage canal. New drainage pipes can whisk away the water from that particular project, but the water still has only so many places to go.
With hurricane season once again upon us, anxiety levels are running high in those neighborhood that have historical flooding issues, as well as areas that have recently been prone to flooding due to surrounding new development.
Tampa Bay still vulnerable to flooding despite major upgrades
Hundreds of millions have been spent on upgrades, but a major storm is still a threat.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Ask anyone who drives in South Tampa. When it comes to flooding, they all know the usual suspects.
The city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods were exposed when record rainfall fell in August 2015, leaving cars stranded and homes and businesses flooded.
Since then, Tampa had passed a new set of taxes and fees allowing it to implement a 10-year plan – a total of $251 million for cleanup and construction.
Several projects are already underway, expanding capacity.
In addition to construction, maintenance projects will keep water moving.
“We have cleaned out outfalls to the tune of about 600 tons of material,” said Tampa Public Works Administrator Brad Baird. “We cleaned out ponds of almost 400 tons of material. All to make the system function better.”
Aside from construction, Tampa improvements in just the first year and a half include:
- 18.8 miles of stormwater ditch grading
- 136.8 miles of stormwater pipe inspections and cleaning
- 20,473 curb miles swept
- 6,944 tons of debris swept up
In St. Petersburg, the same floodwaters overwhelmed the city's sewers.
Areas that typically flood, like Shore Acres on the city’s west side, were isolated for days.
Since then, St. Pete has also spent millions to expand capacity.
Longboat Key group pushes for sea level rise solutions
The Revitalization Task Force sent a letter to island leaders asking for an infrastructure analysis plan about what parts of the island could be impacted by sea level rise.
The Longboat Key Revitalization Task Force has called for local action on sea level rise, saying recent storms and floods portend more drastic conditions in the future.
In a letter to the Town Commission this week, Revitalization Task Force Chairman Tom Freiwald warned island leaders of the potential adverse impacts of rising sea levels, including more intense storms, higher tides and storm surges and a potential decline in property values.
“LBK needs a well thought-out master plan, combined with a timeline of action, in order to counter all the negativities that will soon cloud our reputation as a reliable long-term investment and desirable place to live,” Freiwald wrote.
Global sea level has been rising over the past century, a rate that has increased in recent decades, which the National Ocean Service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration attributes to continued atmospheric and ocean warming.
The average annual rise in sea levels is one-eighth of an inch, according to NOAA.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration estimates that by 2100, sea levels could rise anywhere from just over half a foot to six-and-a-half feet. Most of the island would be underwater if sea levels were to rise six feet, according to NOAA projections.
Landowner hopes mitigation bank will save Parrish property from development
MANATEE – The decades upon decades of cattle farming, citrus cultivation and pine production — then the lifeblood of East Manatee — have slashed and stripped the natural features of a plot of land just southeast of Lake Parrish.
In an effort to turn back the clock, the latest effort to set aside land for preservation rather than development can be found in the proposed Manatee Mitigation Bank.
A mitigation bank is a piece of disturbed wetlands that, once permitted, is cleaned up by the landowner and assessed for "credits." Local developers who unavoidably destroy similar wetlands with their own projects can buy these "credits" from the "banker," or landowner, to offset their impacts. Each credit can be tens of thousands of dollars, and more valuable depending on the type of wetland.
Tampa-based Mitchell Family LLC, headed by George Mitchell, filed their plans earlier this year with the Southwest Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The federal agency is now taking comments for the proposal.
Manatee County Commission preserves 'vested rights' for Mosaic phosphate mines
MANATEE COUNTY — In a series of unanimous votes Thursday, the Manatee County Commission amended plans for two of Mosaic Fertilizer’s phosphate mines in the Myakka-Duette area.
The revisions involve extending deadlines for the 3,028-acre Wingate Creek Mine and the continued use of clay settling areas at the 2,508-acre Southeast Tract, where mining has been completed and most of the land has undergone environmental restoration.
“We are not asking for additional land to be mined,” said Hugh McGuire, attorney for Mosaic.
The changes partly involve transferring requirements in previous state-mandated “developments of regional impact” into updated local land development agreements. In 2015, the state dismantled the DRI process of getting regional approvals of major developments that could have impacts across county lines.
Mosaic officials said they wanted “vested rights” from what has become an obsolete document under state law reiterated in the county-approved mining plans. They added that they are not seeking changes in groundwater withdrawals, trucking routes, ore processing or zonings.
St. Pete prepares sewage plants for wet weekend ahead
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Workers in St. Petersburg are in a mad dash to get the city’s sewer treatment plants ready for this weekend's deluge of rain water.
Crews at the Southwest Wastewater Plant started working Tuesday to prepare for the wet weather by emptying sewage storage tanks, digging a deep stormwater swale and hauling in pumps to suck up any stormwater on the sewage treatment center's property.
St. Petersburg resident Bert Dooley gets nervous every time rain is in the forecast. His home is just blocks from the Southwest Water Reclamation facility, where crews are working to stop sewage leaks with a $326 million project.
"I think everyone in Pinellas County is concerned with that because it has been such an issue,” Dooley elaborated.
Dooley and his neighbor Harold Wells say they cannot help but feel rattled by rain ever since FWC blasted the city for dumping one billion gallons of waste during heavy rainfall into neighborhoods and Tampa Bay.
“It’s disturbing and I hope that’s something that never ever happens again,” Wells said.
St. Petersburg Public Works leaders say they are confident it will not happen again even with significant rain in the forecast this weekend.
Ken Wise, plant manager at the Southwest facility, says they have nearly doubled capacity which should alleviate many of the issues.
Scientists: Please report horseshoe crabs on Florida's west coast
They look like tanks.
They hook up on the beach.
Their lineage goes back more than 445 million years.
Call them blue bloods — without the paparazzi.
They are horseshoe crabs. They really do have blue blood.
And although they’re not conventional celebrities, these critters are crucial to human health and the region’s ecosystem.
That realization is propelling increased monitoring and public education efforts on many levels.
It’s no easy task; they cover a lot of territory. Horseshoe crabs are found along the North Atlantic coast, from Mexico to Maine.
They live in shallow ocean waters, coming ashore only to reproduce. They eat fish, algae and crustaceans, and can live about 20 years.
"Crab" is a misnomer. They're more closely related to spiders or scorpions.
Modern horseshoe crabs are not listed as “threatened,” but it's believed their numbers have declined due to over-harvesting and loss of habitat.
Little is known about their numbers today, though, in the Sunshine State.
“They’re poorly understood and understudied,” said Armando Ubeda, marine biologist and Florida Sea Grant agent with UF/IFAS Extension for Sarasota County.
Manatee County finalizes purchase for Johnson Preserve at Braden River
MANATEE COUNTY, FL (May 22, 2018) – Manatee County Government and the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast today announced the permanent protection of a 44.5-acre preserve on the Braden River that will be named the Floyd C. Johnson & Flo Singer Johnson Preserve at Braden River.
Over the past six months volunteers, donors, private foundations and the Manatee County Commissioners worked together to find a way to purchase the land, the majority of which was slated for development.
Located on the Braden River east of I-75, the 44.5-acre oasis of nature is home to an amazing diversity of plants and animals not normally seen in similar suburban areas, with mature live oaks, tall long leaf pines, important wetlands that store water preventing flooding, imperiled swallowtail kites and gopher tortoises. The land’s riverfront and floodplain forests are part of a corridor linking natural habitat along the Braden River, which supplies drinking water for the City of Bradenton.
Beckett Bridge to remain closed until further notice
Due to a mechanical failure, the Beckett Bridge drawbridge in Tarpon Springs will remain in the closed position until further notice.
The bridge, which spans Whitcomb Bayou on Riverside Drive, remains open to vehicle and pedestrian traffic, but cannot be raised for boaters.
Beckett Bridge is the only drawbridge of its kind in Pinellas County, featuring a single-leaf movable span rather than the standard double-leaf span. It is also one of the oldest bridges in the country.
Pinellas County Public Works staff is working to secure a special order part that is needed to repair the bridge, which was built in 1924 and reconstructed in 1956.
City of Clearwater seeking interns for Stormwater Utility positions
A one-year intern position is available for tasks associated with the following descriptions. Responsible work in calculating the Stormwater Utility Billing for commercial customers found within City limits. Employee will receive inquiries regarding stormwater billing complaints from customers, customer service, and supervisors, and is responsible for coordinating resolutions for these problems. Duties include the managing of Stormwater Utility records for departmental use; making field inspections in preparation of utility billing; communication with new and existing customers; and utilizing the GIS ArcMap software to accurately calculate Stormwater Utility Billing. This position will be available for a full year. Prefer a candidate who can provide 15-20 hours a week of availability.
There will be possible opportunities to gain construction, environmental, utility, and traffic experience throughout the Engineering Department.
A Summer intern position is available for the following tasks: Coordination with city staff and consultant on the verification of existing stormwater pipes. Work will include field verification, data entry, and other related tasks. Prefer a student who can work up to 29 hours a week from May 7 through August 17.
MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS: Candidate who is a math/science/engineering student that has completed their freshman year of college. Candidate must possess a valid driver’s license. Experience with MS Word and MS Excel software required.
HIGHLY DESIRABLE: Has some experience using GIS Arcmap and AutoCAD.
These are paid positions.
Full position description »
Employment application »
Back to the future? Hillsborough Planning Commission okays filling lagoon for townhomes
TAMPA — Think of the bay breeze wafting through Snell Isle’s graceful curving streets, Davis Islanders’ stunning views of Hillsborough Bay, or the man-made fingers that make up Venetian Isles.
Many of Tampa Bay’s most scenic and pricey waterfront neighborhoods were built by pouring soil into the open water. Known as "dredge and fill," the practice largely ended in the 1970s as lawsuits and state and federal laws designed to protect marine environments made it difficult.
Now, officials in Tampa may be turning back the clock.
On Monday, the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission approved a proposal to fill in 3 acres of open water north of Rocky Point Drive, near the eastern end of the Courtney Campbell Causeway.
An Albany, N.Y., developer wants to build 16 townhomes there, each 3?½ stories high with a private dock. Residents would enjoy views of private Scarborough Park and what’s left of an 8.8 acre lagoon once part of it is filled to create the property.
The 6-3 vote followed more than 90 minutes of contentious discussion among planning commissioners, neighbors and businesses. Opponents call it a precedent-setting decision that would harm marine life, limit public access to the water, and encourage people to move into a coastal flood zone.
Harbour Island residents take issue with plans for sewage line replacement
Neighbors in Tampa’s Harbour Island are upset and want answers about the city’s plans to replace a sewage pipeline running through the middle of their community
“The more I find out about it, the more I’m scared that they don’t know what they’re doing,” said Larry Premak, president of the South Neighborhood Association.
With Downtown Tampa facing a major facelift thanks to Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, the reliability of the existing sewage pipeline could make a potential problem much more stinky.
“I didn’t realize we were essentially Tampa’s toilet going all the way up to Fowler Avenue. There is a lot of sewage going through us,” said resident Sam Hallenbeck. He’s lived in the neighborhood for 18 years.
Residents are essentially sitting on a ticking time bomb -- the pipeline put down in 1951 was only made to last 75 years. City leaders say it’s reaching its limit.
It runs through Harbor Island and ends at the Howard F. Curren Wastewater Treatment Plant. It carries 30 percent of the city's wastewater, which is more than 15 million gallons a day.
It's why Tampa leaders hosted a meeting Wednesday night to make residents aware of the problem and talk options for replacement.
Those options aren’t sitting well residents who say construction always takes longer than expected.
Mosaic sinkhole finally closed, almost two years later
Two years after it swallowed 215M gallons of polluted water, a Mosaic sinkhole is finally corked
Nearly two years after a massive sinkhole opened at Mosaic’s Mulberry phosphate processing plant, a company spokeswoman says it has been sealed at last and will be completely filled by the end of May.
The state Department of Environmental Protection has approved demobilizing the deep drilling and grouting equipment used to fill the chasm "since the sinkhole now is sealed in accordance with the consent order requirements," said Mosaic spokeswoman Jackie Barron, which a DEP official confirmed.
All that’s left is some cosmetic work, Barron said.
"We’re currently working to fill the upper portion of the cavity, close the opening and level the surface," she said, predicting that would be done in the next two weeks.
This was no ordinary sinkhole. It was viewed at first as a potential threat to the area’s water supply, and the way it was revealed prompted Gov. Rick Scott to push for a change in state law.
Challenger students experience Florida wetlands without leaving school
SPRING HILL — Mouths dropped as students walked through the door and were immersed in an underwater cave of the Florida aquifer, looking up at the mouth of a natural spring.
Beyond the aquifer model was an equally impressive diaroma of the Florida wetlands, and a variety of hands-on environmental education exhibits and games, all in a 53-foot tractor-trailer transformed into WaterVentures, Florida’s Learning Lab. There were lots of buttons to push, knobs to turn and giant screens that oozed with environmental facts.
The mobile learning lab recently visited Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics two times: on April 11 for fourth-graders, and on April 26 for fifth-graders.
"It’s really cool," said fifth-grade student Grace Bartolomeo. "I feel like I can learn a lot in here."
"I liked learning about the water cycle," said fifth-grader Joseph Rozsa. "It was cool to see how it evaporates ... The aquifer was my favorite."
WaterVentures is a free resource through Crystal Springs Foundation that visits schools, fairs and other events throughout Florida, providing an innovative, hands-on experience on Florida’s watersheds, water conservation and recycling.
Majorities see government efforts to protect the environment as insufficient
Majorities of Americans say the federal government is doing too little to protect key aspects of the environment including water (69%) and air quality (64%). And two-thirds of Americans (67%) say the government is doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change. These findings come after a year of change in climate and energy regulatory policies under the Trump administration.
Majorities of U.S. adults say federal government is not doing enough to protect environment in these waysAt the same time, Americans are closely divided (52% to 48%) over whether or not it is possible to cut back on regulations while still effectively protecting air and water quality. There are wide political divides on this issue, with roughly three-quarters of Republicans (74%, including independents who lean Republican) convinced this is possible but 64% of Democrats (including Democratic-leaning independents) convinced it is not possible.
The national survey by Pew Research Center, conducted March 27-April 9 among 2,541 adults, finds pockets of partisan agreement over expanding solar and wind power, though wide political divides remain over increasing fossil fuels through such methods as coal mining, hydraulic fracturing and offshore drilling for oil and natural gas, a pattern consistent with a 2016 Pew Research Center survey.