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Water-Related News

Pass-A-Grille Beach nourishment project moves to next phase

Pass-A-Grille beach was devastated after Hurricane Idalia and now the county is working to replenish it.

PINELLAS COUNTY – Pinellas County is beginning the second phase of a beach re-nourishment project. Pass-A-Grille beach was devastated after Hurricane Idalia, and the county is working to replenish it.

"The beach is the heart of this community. So, without the beach, it's just not the same," said Olivia Durham who works at a shop near the project.

Pass-A-Grille Beach is still recovering from Hurricane Idalia. The storm battered and eroded the sandy shoreline.

"There was definitely a lot more beach front, a lot more space for people to spread out. Its definitely been cut short since then," said Durham.

Pinellas County has been working to re-nourish the beach since June, and just received authorization from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to move on to phase two of the project.

"It's always devastating to see a beach after a hurricane like that, and to see it come back to life and come back to what it was is exciting," said Durham.

Pinellas County is using tax-payer money and grants to pay for the remaining portion of the project.

The next phase will include dredging and piping 140,000 cubic yards of sand from 1st Avenue to 22nd Avenue.

DOH-Hillsborough cautions about blue-green algae at Lake Breckenridge

FDOH logo

July 12, 2024

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY – The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County (DOH-Hillsborough) is cautioning the public of the presence of blue-green algae in Lake Breckenridge on July 11, 2024. Water sample testing is underway. Blue-green algae have the potential to produce toxins. Since environmental conditions can change at any time, it is important to exercise caution, even if presence of toxins has not yet been confirmed.

DOH-Hillsborough advises residents and visitors to take the following precautions:

  • Do not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercrafts, or come into contact with waters where there is a visible bloom.
  • Wash your skin and clothing with soap and water if you have any contact with algae, or discolored or water that smells unpleasant.
  • Keep pets and livestock away from the area to avoid any contact with water. Waters where algae blooms are present are not safe for animals. Pets and livestock should use an alternative source of water when algae blooms are present.
  • Do not cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms. Boiling the water will not eliminate toxins.
  • Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe. Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts, and cook fish thoroughly.
  • Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and partners collect algae samples from reported bloom locations. After samples are analyzed at their laboratory, the toxin results can be viewed on Protecting Florida Together or on DEP’s Algal Bloom Dashboard.

A Piney Point settlement is reached between the state and environmental groups

They filed the federal lawsuit after around 215 million gallons of wastewater was discharged into Tampa Bay in 2021. It said the discharges caused harmful algae blooms and fish kills.

Environmental groups and the state have reached a settlement to end a federal lawsuit over management of a former phosphate plant site that leaked millions of gallons of wastewater into Tampa Bay in 2021.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Tampa Bay Waterkeeper, Suncoast Waterkeeper, Manasota-88 and Our Children’s Earth Foundation and the state Department of Environmental Protection filed a joint notice of settlement Monday involving the Piney Point site in Manatee County.

The environmental groups said in an announcement that the settlement includes the Department of Environmental Protection drafting a Clean Water Act permit “that will require more robust oversight of pollution from the Piney Point phosphate facility.” Also, the state will pay $75,000 for the Tampa Bay Estuary Program to monitor water quality in the area where Piney Point’s discharges enters Tampa Bay.

The lawsuit, filed by the groups in May 2021 in the federal Middle District of Florida, alleged the Department of Environmental Protection and other defendants long mishandled the site.

DOH-Pasco issues Blue-Green Algae Bloom Alert for Blanton Lake

FDOH logo

June 19, 2024

PASCO COUNTY – The Florida Department of Health in Pasco County has issued a Health Alert for the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins in Blanton Lake. This is in response to a water sample taken on June 25, 2024. The public should exercise caution in and around Blanton Lake.

Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:

  • Do not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski or boat in waters where there is a visible bloom.
  • Wash your skin and clothing with soap and water if you have contact with algae or discolored or smelly water.
  • Keep pets away from the area. Waters where there are algae blooms are not safe for animals. Pets and livestock should have a different source of water when algae blooms are present.
  • Do not cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms. Boiling the water will not eliminate the toxins.
  • Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe. Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts and cook fish well.
  • Do not eat shellfish from waters with algae blooms.
For updates, visit the FDEP Algal Bloom Dashboard.

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.

Summertime is seagrass survey time

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Despite the threat of severe weather, the Tampa Bay Estuary Program successfully led its annual seagrass transect training last month! Scientists from the Southwest Florida Seagrass Working Group gathered to identify species, measure blade lengths, and estimate seagrass abundance. Over the summer, these teams will document seagrass diversity and density at 62 locations around the bay. This data will be used to create a comprehensive picture of seagrass health in Tampa Bay.

Seagrass is a crucial habitat for fish and other marine animals. It stabilizes sediment, produces oxygen, and reduces shoreline erosion. The amount and condition of seagrass is a key indicator of ecosystem health in Tampa Bay.

View the data from previous years here: https://shiny.tbep.org/seagrasstransect-dash/

Clearwater has a $100 million plan to prevent this neighborhood from flooding

North Beach residents have been flooded again and again. City officials are weighing their options as peak hurricane season approaches.

As Hurricane Idalia swept past Tampa Bay last summer, storm surge topped seawalls and inundated David Hooks’ Clearwater Beach neighborhood.

Though his home was spared, houses up and down Hooks’ street weren’t so lucky. Neighbors soon mounted full remodels, only to be flooded out again months later when another storm washed away progress in December.

After these back-to-back floods, city staff started to research why the area didn’t flush out as quickly as it should have, said Marcus Williamson, Clearwater’s public works director. They found decades-old stormwater pipes were unmaintained and blocked by debris. There was also a much larger issue: The network of pipes didn’t connect and many were too narrow to effectively push out floodwaters.

“At the time it was developed, it probably made sense,” Williamson said. “A lot of folks have said we’ve always struggled with flooding. It does feel like it has gotten worse.”

But booming development along the Gulf Coast coupled with rising seas fueled by climate change have pushed current stormwater infrastructure to its limits. Now, the city is looking to fund a decades-long project that may cost up to $100 million to safeguard Clearwater’s most vulnerable and low-lying neighborhood from future floods.

The city started by cleaning out pipes and upgrading valves that prevent high tide flooding from rushing into underground pipes meant to allow rainwater to drain away from streets and homes.

Manatee County funds natural resources and stormwater projects

Manatee County logo

MANATEE COUNTY – The Manatee Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) is continuing their funding of important initiatives across the county, including transportation, natural resources, parks and recreation.

$15,602,024 was appropriated to fund the Emerson Point Land Expansion acquisition project as approved by the BOCC on May 28. An additional $6,668 will go toward funding a new Ranger at Emerson Point. The board also approved $696,500 in funding for improvements at the newly acquired Crooked River Ranch Preserve.

Manatee County has been awarded a grant through the Tampa Bay Environmental Restoration Fund (TBERF) for the Lake Manatee Watershed Improvement Project on Duette Preserve in the amount of $172,709. This will go to match County funds in projects along the north fork of the Manatee River.

Public Works will use $173,500 from reserves in the Stormwater Management fund to engineer a Real-Time Flood Forecasting (RTFF) and Early Warning System for the coastal fringe areas of Manatee County.

For up-to-date information about Manatee County Government, visit mymanatee.org or call (941) 748-4501. Follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @ManateeGov.

SWFWMD extends watering restrictions again for Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas Counties

SWFWMD logo

June 25, 2024

In Tampa, these restrictions apply to all users that are watering with either the City’s drinking water or well water. Reclaimed water customers can water any day and any time, so long as it is not in a wasteful and unnecessary manner.

Modified Phase I Water Shortage Order remains in effect Districtwide

The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) Governing Board voted today to extend one-day-per-week watering restrictions again for Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties until September 1. This also includes the existing water shortage order currently in effect for Citrus, DeSoto, Hardee, Hernando, Manatee, Polk, Sarasota and Sumter counties; portions of Charlotte, Highlands and Lake counties; the City of Dunnellon and The Villages in Marion County; and the portion of Gasparilla Island in Lee County.

The District Governing Board declared a Modified Phase I Water Shortage Order in November 2023 and voted to extend that order in February.

Despite having Districtwide above-average rainfall during the winter months (Nov.-Jan.), we still have a Districtwide 12-month rainfall deficit of about 7.4 inches (based on data through May). The 12-month rainfall total through May in the Northern Region of the District matches the historical average, while it is below average in the Southern and the Central regions, which includes the Tampa Bay area. June rainfall through June 19 is near the historical average in the Southern Region of the District, while it is below average in the Northern and Central regions. Additionally, Tampa Bay Water’s 15.5-billion-gallon C.W. Bill Young Regional Reservoir is still approximately 12.5 billion gallons below its capacity.

As a reminder, the Modified Phase I Water Shortage Order does not change allowable watering schedules for most counties, however, it does prohibit “wasteful and unnecessary” water use and twice-per-week lawn watering schedules remain in effect except where stricter measures have been imposed by local governments. Residents are asked to check their irrigation systems to ensure they are working properly. This means testing and repairing broken pipes and leaks and fixing damaged or tilted sprinkler heads. Residents should also check their irrigation timer to ensure the settings are correct and the rain sensor is working properly.

Once-per-week lawn watering days and times are as follows unless your city or county has a different schedule or stricter hours in effect (Citrus, Hernando and Sarasota counties, and the cities of Dunedin and Venice, have local ordinances that remain on one-day-per-week schedules):

If your address (house number) ends in...

  • ...0 or 1, water only on Monday
  • ...2 or 3, water only on Tuesday
  • ...4 or 5, water only on Wednesday
  • ...6 or 7, water only on Thursday
  • ...8 or 9*, water only on Friday
    * and locations without a discernible address

Unless your city or county already has stricter hours in effect, properties under two acres in size may only water before 8 a.m. or after 6 p.m.

Unless your city or county already has stricter hours in effect, properties two acres or larger may only water before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.

Low-volume watering of plants and shrubs (micro-irrigation, soaker hoses, hand watering) is allowed any day and any time.

The order also requires local utilities to review and implement procedures for enforcing year-round water conservation measures and water shortage restrictions, including reporting enforcement activity to the District.

For additional information about the Modified Phase I Water Shortage Order, visit the District’s website WaterMatters.org/Restrictions. For water conserving tips, visit WaterMatters.org/Water101.

Lake Manatee algal blooms may affect taste, color of drinking water but it is safe

Manatee County logo

MANATEE COUNTY – Customers of Manatee County Utilities may notice a temporary and non-harmful change in their water taste or odor. Algae blooms are regular seasonal occurrences in Lake Manatee but vary in frequency and duration. Current conditions favor a bloom, and tests conducted over the past several days indicate the presence of algae at elevated concentrations in Lake Manatee. This can create an earthy and/or musty taste or odor in the treated drinking water. While the odor or taste may be noticeable, the water remains safe to drink.

“We will continue monitoring and conducting treatment efforts until water quality returns to normal,” said Manatee County Utilities Deputy Director Katie Gilmore. “It is our hope that by informing the public of this algal bloom, we can alleviate any concerns that may arise should a customer experience taste or odor issues in their drinking water.” Since the detection of these compounds in Lake Manatee, the County has implemented¬†a treatment process that involves the addition of powdered-activated carbon. This process is very effective in the removal of taste and odor-causing compounds. However, when the levels reach quantities that exceed the limit of the systems' removal capability, customers may notice a slight earthy/musty taste to their water.

The water remains entirely safe for consumption. If desired, customers can utilize a carbon filter hooked up to the faucet to the water system of the refrigerator or a filter pitcher designed for taste and odor removal to help minimize the off-taste and/or odor.

Additional information or answers to frequently asked questions about this or other water quality issues can be found at this link.

Pasco County offers water quality and lake management support

Pasco County logo

If you’re concerned about the quality of Florida’s freshwater lakes and their future, Pasco County and Florida LAKEWATCH would like your help!

Pasco County’s Department of Public Works is partnering with Florida LAKEWATCH, a citizen volunteer lake monitoring program to help in the management of Florida lakes, estuaries, rivers and springs through monthly monitoring activities.

Florida LAKEWATCH is coordinated through the University of Florida’s School of Forest, Fisheries, and Geomatics Sciences and UF/IFAS.

Pasco County residents who live on natural lakes may be eligible for FREE water quality and lake management support through water quality testing.

Florida LAKEWATCH will train eligible residents to collect water samples and analyze them at no cost. Participants will have access to the latest lake management data and technical assistance from experts and more.

“By working with Florida LAKEWATCH, residents can learn the best way to keep their lakes healthy,” said Public Works Environmental Division Manager Jonah Mick. “Healthy lakes are an important part of keeping water clean for everyone.”

Space is limited and participants must have access to a boat. To determine eligibility, residents should email their name and address to jmick@mypasco.net.

For more information, please visit Pasco County Public Works or call 727-834-3611.

DOH-Hillsborough cautions about Blue-Green Algae at Lake Thonotosassa  

FDOH logo

June 19, 2024

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY – The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County (DOH-Hillsborough) is cautioning the public of the presence of blue-green algae in Lake Thonotosassa on June 19, 2024. Water sample testing is underway. Blue-green algae have the potential to produce toxins. Since environmental conditions can change at any time, it is important to exercise caution, even if presence of toxins has not yet been confirmed.


May 16, 2024

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY – The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County (DOH-Hillsborough) has issued a health alert for the presence of harmful blue-green algae in Lake Thonotosassa on May 16, 2024. Water sample testing is underway. Blue-green algae have the potential to produce toxins. Since environmental conditions can change at any time, it is important to exercise caution, even if presence of toxins has not yet been confirmed


May 7, 2024

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY – The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County (DOH-Hillsborough) is cautioning the public of the presence of blue-green algae in Lake Thonotosassa on May 07, 2024. Water sample testing is underway. Blue-green algae have the potential to produce toxins. Since environmental conditions can change at any time, it is important to exercise caution, even if presence of toxins has not yet been confirmed.

DOH-Hillsborough advises residents and visitors to take the following precautions:

  • Do not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercrafts, or come into contact with waters where there is a visible bloom.
  • Wash your skin and clothing with soap and water if you have any contact with algae, or discolored or water that smells unpleasant.
  • Keep pets and livestock away from the area to avoid any contact with water. Waters where algae blooms are present are not safe for animals. Pets and livestock should use an alternative source of water when algae blooms are present.
  • Do not cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms. Boiling the water will not eliminate toxins.
  • Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe. Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts, and cook fish thoroughly.
  • Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and partners collect algae samples from reported bloom locations. After samples are analyzed at their laboratory, the toxin results can be viewed on Protecting Florida Together or on DEP’s Algal Bloom Dashboard.

Research finds dolphins with elevated mercury levels in Florida and Georgia

In a study with potential implications for the oceans and human health, scientists have reported elevated mercury levels in dolphins in the U.S. Southeast, with the greatest levels found in dolphins in Florida's St. Joseph and Choctawhatchee Bays.

Dolphins are considered a "sentinel species" for oceans and human health, because like us, they are high up in the food chain, live long lives, and share certain physiological traits with humans. Some staples of their diet, such as spot, croaker, weakfish and other small fish, are most vulnerable to mercury pollution and are also eaten by people.

The study, which appears in the journal Toxics, drew no conclusions about Florida and Georgia residents' mercury levels or the potential health risks to humans. It did, however, cite previous research by a different group of researchers that found a correlation between high mercury levels in dolphins in Florida's Indian River Lagoon and humans living in the area.

"As a sentinel species, the bottlenose dolphin data presented here can direct future studies to evaluate mercury exposure to human residents" in the Southeast and other potentially affected areas in the United States, the authors of the study in Toxics wrote.

EPA is asked to set blue-green algae toxin standards for Florida

Federal environmental officials had recommended criteria in 2019 for two of the most common cyanotoxins, but advocates and the mayor Stuart say Florida never implemented them, nor explained their decision not to do so.

Florida’s lakes, rivers, springs and estuaries have some of the nation’s worst toxic algae blooms, which can threaten the health of people and wildlife, while costing local economies hundreds of millions of dollars.

The blooms are said to be fueled by nutrient pollution, water-management decisions and climate change.

Now, the Center for Biological Diversity, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, Calusa Waterkeeper, Friends of the Everglades, Florida Wildlife Federation, and the city of Stuart have asked the federal government to set limits on blue-green algae toxins found in Florida waters.

The EPA had officially recommended criteria in 2019 for two of the most common cyanotoxins: microcystins and cylindrospermopsin.

States are not required to adopt the EPA recommendations, but they are supposed to explain their reasoning for not adopting them, and the Center for Biological Diversity said the state has not done that.

Florida agriculture fuels algae blooms — how much remains unclear.

The Blue-Green Algae Task Force wants data on the state's strategy for curbing farm-related nutrient pollution.

Nutrients from fertilizers and animal waste can move from Florida farms to waterways, fueling harmful algal blooms. But assessing farms’ nutrient pollution – and gauging the success of the state’s efforts to reduce it – remains a significant challenge.

That was one of the main takeaways from the Blue-Green Algae Task Force’s meeting on June 4 at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research & Education Center – Suwannee Valley. The Task Force convened at the center in Live Oak to learn about the science behind Florida’s strategy to manage nutrient pollution from agriculture, the state’s second-largest industry.

The lynchpin of this strategy is a set of tools and techniques known as Best Management Practices, or BMPs. The goal of BMPs is to keep nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus in the soil where they can boost crop growth – and keep them out of water where they can supercharge toxic algae that threaten public health, wildlife and local economies.

Examples of BMPs include using precision irrigation systems, cover crops and controlled release fertilizers. Florida growers in water-impaired regions must either implement BMPs or demonstrate their compliance with state standards through water quality monitoring. The state also offers cost-share assistance to bring BMP investments, such as new equipment, within farmers’ financial reach.

But just how much these practices are reducing nutrient pollution from Florida farms is unclear – and something the Task Force would like to know.