An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Health Advisory Issued for CYPRESS POINT BEACH Due to High Bacteria Levels

FDOH logo

January 27, 2023

TAMPA – The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County has issued a public health advisory for Cypress Point Beach due to high bacteria levels. This should be considered a potential risk to the bathing public, and swimming is not recommended. Samples taken, were above the threshold for Enterococci bacteria. The beach will be re-sampled in a week.

Cypress Point Beach is located north of I-275 and west of the Veterans Expressway.

When re-sampling indicates that the water is within the satisfactory range, the advisory will be lifted.

About Health Advisory for High Bacteria Levels

An advisory is issued when the beach action value is 70.5 or higher. This is set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County has been conducting coastal beach water quality monitoring at nine sites once every two weeks since August 2000, and weekly since August 5, 2002 through the Healthy Beaches Monitoring Program.

The water samples are being analyzed for enteric bacteria (enterococci) that normally inhabit the intestinal tract of humans and animals, which may cause human disease, infections, or rashes. The presence of enteric bacteria is an indication of fecal pollution, which may come from storm water runoff, pets and wildlife, and human sewage. The purpose of the Healthy Beaches Monitoring Program is to determine whether Florida has significant coastal beach water quality problems.

Please visit the Florida Department of Health's Beach Water Quality website. To review the beach water sampling results for reporting counties, click on a county name.

Pinellas County 2023 Recycle Guide now available

Pinellas logo

recycle advice

The new and updated 2023 Recycle Guide is now available at schools, libraries throughout Pinellas County and online. The guide provides readers everything they need to know to be a responsible recycler in Pinellas County. The guide also highlights local recycling facilities and how recycling works in the Tampa Bay area. Feature articles include how recyclables are sorted at a local Materials Recovery Facility, where to find contact information to set-up curbside recycling at home, how to locate recycling drop-off sites and how to properly discard household chemicals. In addition, activities for children are included in bonus Going Beyond the Text sections.

While what should be placed in the recycle bin has not changed in Pinellas County for decades, it is best practice to review local recycling rules on an annual basis. The cover of the Recycle Guide makes it easy for users to identify the five material categories that should be recycled in Pinellas County, which include glass bottles and jars, metal food and beverage containers, paper and cardboard, plastic bottles and jugs, and cartons. For materials not on this list, residents can check the online Where Does It Go? Search Tool to find the best options to reuse, recycle or dispose of hundreds of different items in Pinellas County.

No red tide is reported along Pinellas beaches and Sarasota Bay for first time in months

Red tide is finally receding along Gulf of Mexico beaches for the first time since Hurricane Ian came ashore in late September.

Red tide continues to recede from the Gulf of Mexico beaches.

State environmental officials are saying that only one report of a "medium" amount of red tide was found in the area, along the south Sunshine Skyway fishing pier. No red tide was found at any beaches in Pinellas County for the first time in several months.

Low amounts of it were reported along Manatee County's shoreline on Tampa Bay, as well as the northern tip of Anna Maria Island.

No red tide was reported in Sarasota Bay, which has been plagued by the toxin since shortly after Hurricane Ian came ashore. Low amounts were still found, however, near Venice Beach, Nokomis Beach, and several locations south of Venice.

Still, reports of fish kills and respiratory irritation suspected to be related to red tide came in from Sarasota County over the past week. For more details, visit: https://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/health/fish-kills-hotline/ and https://visitbeaches.org/.

Respiratory irritation suspected to be related to red tide was reported in these locations in Sarasota County: Caspersen Beach, Lido Key Beach, Longboat Key, Manasota Key Beach, Nokomis Beach, Siesta Key Beach, Venice Beach and Venice North Jetty Beach.

FWC conducts workshop to explore ways to help pelicans at Sunshine Skyway fishing pier

Thousands of pelicans had to be rescued from possible death by becoming entangled in fishing lines and hooks in the past several years. A compromise between bird advocates and fishermen is in the works.

Environmental groups asked federal wildlife officials to step in after more than 2,300 pelicans had to be rescued in the past two years from becoming entangled in fishing lines at the Sunshine Skyway south pier.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is trying to solve the problem. During a virtual workshop Wednesday night, they tried to reach a compromise between anglers and advocates for the pelicans.

"We genuinely appreciate the ethical fishermen who are embracing these compromises and working together in a really positive way, and we agree on several points," Kate McFall, Florida state director for the Humane Society of the United States, said during the virtual meeting. "But the most important changes we have to see are the closing of the very end of the pier, prohibiting the multi-pronged hooks and lastly to require that anglers have a normal Florida fishing license from the FWC."

Some bird advocates want fishing banned in the busy winter months. And other want the state to hire full-time rescuers that are available to help anglers when they have entanglements.

Several fishermen said they believe educating anglers about the problem would be more beneficial to the birds than banning fishing gear.

Robert Olsen said more regulations are not a solution.

"I fish the Skyway pier frequently and I've never caught a pelican. But if I did, I don't know what to do in that case," Olsen said. "So I believe that a permit should be required, with the education of what to do involved in obtaining that permit for every angler that fishes the Skyway pier."

A fisherman who identified himself only as "Ed" supports a compromise.

"There needs to be some kind of rule, as you're trying to set forth, for these birds so we can protect these birds," he said. "At the same time, I think as a fisherman there has to be some kind of a give and take for both sides, as I think you're trying to do at this point."

Wildlife officials will give their recommendations at an upcoming meeting of the board of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

St. Pete’s free Sprinkler System Checkup and Rain Sensor Installation Program returns

ST. PETERSBURG – St. Petersburg water customers with in-ground sprinkler systems using potable, reclaimed or well water can be more water-wise with the free Sensible Sprinkling Program.

The Sensible Sprinkling Program is back for a limited time. The free program helps customers get the most out of their sprinkler system and use their water most efficiently with the help of a local expert.

Eligible customers will receive, for no charge:

  • Sprinkler system evaluation with site-specific recommendations
  • Diagram of your sprinkler layout
  • Installation of a rain sensor
  • Automatic shut-off hose nozzle
  • Water conservation tips

Find more information and the application at stpete.org/WaterPrograms. Questions? Email SensibleSprinkling@stpete.org or call 727-892-5611.

The Sensible Sprinkling Program is one of several ways the City of St. Petersburg helps residents conserve water and save money on their utility bill. The City offers free workshops, rebates and resources to help customers be more water wise. More information about the Sensible Sprinkling Program and other offerings can be found at stpete.org/WaterConservation.

New Watergoat installed at St. Pete Pier

Tampa Bay Watch has partnered with Keep Pinellas Beautiful in a collaborative effort to remove and reduce marine debris in Tampa Bay by installing a new Watergoat at the St. Pete Pier!

Watergoats are placed around stormwater outfalls to help capture litter before it’s carried further into our waterways. The trapped debris is scooped up by staff and volunteers to be properly disposed of while collecting valuable marine debris data.

A big thank you to Keep Pinellas Beautiful, the St. Peter Pier, Surfing’s Evolution & Preservation Foundation, Inc., Watergoat staff, and the City of St. Petersburg for their commitment to helping combat marine debris here in Tampa Bay!

Check out the new Watergoat on your way to visit the Tampa Bay Watch Discovery Center.

The next meeting of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force will be on Feb 1st

FDEP logo

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is hosting a meeting of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023.

Members of the public are invited to participate in-person or online.

  • WHAT: Blue-Green Algae Task Force Meeting
  • WHEN: Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • WHERE: Florida International University's Biscayne Bay Campus
    Wolfe University Center, Room 155
    3000 N.E. 151st St.
    North Miami Beach, FL 33181

If joining virtually, please register for the GoTo Webinar or view the livestream on The Florida Channel.

The registration link and meeting agenda are available at ProtectingFloridaTogether.gov.

Public comment will be accepted during the meeting and can also be submitted via email to BlueGreenAlgaeTaskForce@FloridaDEP.gov

Air-breathing, frog-hunting snakehead fish found in Manatee County

An aggressive, airbreathing, frog-killing fish was discovered living in a Manatee County freshwater pond, according to a recent study from the University of Florida’s Museum of Natural History.

This is the first documented occurrence of the suave-named goldline snakehead fish in Gulf Coast waters. Snakeheads are native to Myanmar and western Thailand but were introduced to the wild worldwide for their popularity in ornamental fish trades and sport fishing.

Where in Manatee were they found?

The snakeheads were captured at a large, unnamed freshwater pond located in the Williams Creek watershed, a tributary of the Braden River.

Officials with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission captured nearly 400 snakeheads from June 2020 — the initial discovery — through May 2021. Field scientists completed numerous visual surveys by hand or boat electrofishing, finding the fish most often along the pond’s perimeter and vegetation. There were no confirmed sightings or evidence of snakeheads in any other waterways outside of the pond, according to the study.

In Tampa Bay, community members help local governments with environmental stewardship

Tampa’s inaugural Green Team, the first city-sponsored environmental stewardship program AmeriCorps has funded in Florida, has 20 members.

Working primarily in city parks, they will maintain and restore the urban tree canopy that provides shade, beauty, clean air and protection against rising temperatures and extreme heat in a city that just finished its hottest year on record. They will clear litter and debris from stormwater drains to help with water quality and keep trash out of the streets, the river and the bay. They will also maintain green infrastructure like rain gardens and bioswales that help protect against flooding and improve water quality.

The Green Team is part of a recent effort by some local governments to recruit community service workers and volunteers to help tackle environmental issues.

Pinellas County and, more recently, St. Pete Beach have both launched Adopt-A-Drain programs for volunteers to inspect and clear storm drains near where they live. The Pinellas County program is a partnership with the UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County and currently has 10 volunteers working to inspect and maintain 75 drains with equipment provided by the program.

The Pinellas County program initially launched with funding from a Tampa Bay Estuary Program Bay Mini-Grant. Natural resources agent Lara Milligan says county government and UF/IFAS have continued the program “because we see great potential in it.”

Tampa continues to plug away at leaky water and sewer pipe fixes

A recent rash of water main breaks highlights the long run ahead for a massive overhaul of the city’s aging underground infrastructure.

TAMPA — After the cold snap around Christmas, water pipes started bursting around Tampa — 50 times in one week in Florida’s third-largest city.

As streets were closed to repair the breaks and residents were inconvenienced, officials said that the water coming from the city’s shallow reservoir on the Hillsborough River had cooled to under 50 degrees. All that cold water rushing into city water lines caused havoc, in no small part because many of those lines are so old, some dating back more than a century.

The city is entering the fifth year of a 20-year program to fix its aging pipes. The $2.9 billion program, dubbed PIPES (Progressive Infrastructure Planning to Ensure Stability), will also overhaul the city’s sewage and water plants and their distribution systems.

So far, 115 pipe projects are in construction, procurement, design or nearing completion at an estimated cost of $1.2 billion, according to city data.

USF engineering-led team awarded $2.5M federal grant for coastal harmful algal bloom research

USF engineers awarded $2.5 million federal grant to expand harmful algal bloom research along Florida coasts

Engineers from the USF College of Engineering are leading a team of scientists across the state in the development of a new, state-of-the-art system that allows water districts to better predict and manage harmful algal blooms.

The $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers allows USF to work with researchers from the University of Florida and the South Florida Water Management District to address harmful algae blooms in Lake Okeechobee, St. Lucie River and Caloosahatchee River watersheds.

“Harmful algae blooms cause many negative environmental, health and economic effects throughout the state,” said principal investigator Mauricio Arias, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering. “This three-year grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers supports the development of new state-of-the-art water quality data and models to better predict and manage harmful algae blooms in this vitally important and environmentally sensitive ecosystem.”

Harmful algae blooms occur when rapid growth of algae leads to an accumulation of individual cells that discolor water and often develop floating mats that produce unpleasant odors and may negatively impact fish, birds and other wildlife.

The research team will take a multidisciplinary approach to fill any knowledge gaps by utilizing tools that model water resources and water quality, physical oceanography and will engage with end-users.

“The goals of this project are to generate actionable knowledge and develop a tool that will allow managers to better predict and manage harmful algae blooms in Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee River watersheds,” said Wendy Graham, director of the University of Florida Water Institute.

Tampa Bay Water awards 5 local organizations Source Water Protection Mini-grants

TBW logo

CLEARWATER – Tampa Bay Water will distribute $23,950 in grant funds to help Tampa Bay area nonprofits protect the region’s sources of drinking water. The utility is partnering with the Florida Aquarium, Florida Botanical Gardens Foundation, Hillsborough County Council PTA/PTSA, Tampa Bay Kayak Anglers and Tampa Bay Times Newspaper in Education program on projects that protect and restore sensitive waterways, and educate families, teachers, students and residents through environmental education programs.

“Our community plays an important role in keeping our drinking water sources clean and safe,” said Brandon Moore, Tampa Bay Water’s public communications manager. “Partnering with organizations that share common environmental goals helps us reach more people and helps to ensure that we have clean, safe water supplies for generations to come.”

Tampa Bay Water will fund five organizations through its Source Water Protection Mini-grant program.

  • The Florida Aquarium will use $8,000 in grant funding for workshops to inform educators about various sources for our drinking water supply in the Tampa Bay area and the importance of protecting our watersheds. Workshops will provide opportunities for educators to interact with inquiry-based activities that can be used with students and other audiences that they teach. Activities will support important watershed and drinking water source concepts for students and teachers alike. The project’s main goal is to provide outreach to the broader Tampa Bay community through educators and their students.
     
  • The Florida Botanical Gardens Foundation will use $3,000 in grant funding to install interpretative signage panels along the elevated Wetlands Walkway in the Florida Botanical Gardens located in Pinellas County. The sign topics will relate directly to wetlands and why they are important to the water cycle and ecosystem. The objective of the project is to increase awareness and stewardship of Florida’s wetlands and source waters. The Florida Botanical Gardens has thousands of visitors each year who will experience the Wetlands Walkway and educational signage.
     
  • The Hillsborough County Council PTA/PTSA will use $2,250 in grant funding for an art competition following the same standards as the National PTA’s Reflections program with the theme “Protecting Our Water.” Every year the National PTA hosts the Reflections program for all PTA units throughout the United States. Students submit their completed works of art based on a theme and participate in appropriate division for their grade. Students will conduct research about water protection and decide how to represent the theme in a work of art. The artwork will be displayed at an arts festival for the Reflections program. The project’s main goal is to raise awareness of ways in which we can protect our water in the Tampa Bay region.
     
  • Tampa Bay Kayak Anglers will use $8,000 in grant funding to educate Hispanic communities of Tampa Bay about the importance of our region's water supply through outings and community clean ups that are delivered in their language and cultural representation. The grant funding will support several community clean-ups along paddle trails, waterways and coastal areas. The project seeks to promote learning about our region’s drinking water supply and taking action to help protect it.
     
  • The Tampa Bay Times Newspaper in Education program will use $2,700 in grant funding to build upon existing curriculum resources by creating an original, Florida Standards-aligned teacher guide on source water protection. The teacher guide will focus on engaging students by integrating current events and issues pertaining to the environment and water topics. The grant funding will support a series of educator professional development workshops, both in-person and virtual, focused on showing teachers how to incorporate source water protection resources, themes and activities into existing curricula. The project’s main goal is to provide Tampa Bay teachers with a comprehensive suite of resources to teach about source water protection.

About the Source Water Protection Mini-grant Program

Tampa Bay Water’s Source Water Protection Mini-grant program is an important component of the utility’s outreach and education efforts for source water protection. A major line of defense in protecting drinking water sources is public awareness and support. Non-profit groups, schools and community groups are eligible to apply for mini grants ranging from $2,000 to $10,000. Funds for these activities are approved by the Tampa Bay Water’s Board of Directors each year through its budget. Eligible projects must relate to protecting regional drinking water supplies such as education programs, workshops, exhibits, school activities, awareness campaigns and environmental cleanups.

Recent cold fronts were good news for Tampa Bay’s red tide situation. At least for now.

As the head of Florida’s red tide research center said: Conditions have improved, but “there’s still red tide around.”

ST. PETERSBURG — Under Karen Henschen’s microscope, a single drop of ocean water comes to life.

Popcorn-colored cells float around like butterflies. They dart, then pause, then dart again. An entire world teems with motion in an amount of water that would barely cover the face of a penny.

“What we’re looking at here are Karenia brevis cells, which are what cause Florida’s red tide,” said Henschen, a research associate at the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg. “They’re beautiful, they’re healthy and they’re eating well. In short, they’re surviving.”

That may be good news for the algae species, but not for humans.

Red tide is finally receding along the Gulf beaches

Red tide has been found at beaches along the Gulf Coast since shortly after Hurricane Ian made landfall. It is finally being pushed back out to the sea.

Red tide is starting to dissipate along the Gulf beaches.

Medium concentrations of the toxin were found this week only along the south fishing pier of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Low concentrations were found at Wallace Park, along Boca Ciega Bay in Pinellas County. Low concentrations were also found along New Pass Dock and Bay Dock on Sarasota Bay, and Siesta Beach and Turtle Beach on the Gulf.

Still, reports of fish kills suspected to be related to red tide were received from Manatee and Sarasota over the past week. Respiratory irritation was also reported in in Manatee County (Anna Maria Island Rod and Reel Pier, Coquina Beach, Manatee Beach, Pine Avenue Canal) and Sarasota County (Lido Key Beach, Manasota Key Beach, Nokomis Beach, Siesta Key Beach, Snake Island, South Lido Key Beach, Venice Beach, Venice North Jetty Beach).

For current information at individual beaches, visit https://visitbeaches.org/

Tampa Bay Water approves ‘blue route&rsquo for southern pipeline segment

TBW logo

CLEARWATER – On Jan. 23, 2023, Tampa Bay Water’s board of directors selected the final route segment for the new South Hillsborough Pipeline, which will carry additional water to southern Hillsborough County once completed in 2028.

At its September meeting, the board selected the “blue” route for Segment A and considered Segment B, but deferred action to allow Hillsborough County additional time to review the route studies. At today’s meeting, the board approved the “blue” route for Segment B, which together with Segment A, represents the lowest cost route, estimated at $417 million.

The new South Hillsborough Pipeline will be approximately 26 miles long, up to 72 inches in diameter and will carry up to 65 million gallons per day (mgd) of additional drinking water to the southern Hillsborough service area. It will start at the Tampa Bay Regional Surface Water Treatment Plant in Brandon, connect to Hillsborough County’s Lithia Water Treatment Plant and end at the County’s new connection point at Balm Riverview and Balm roads.

Segment B connects to Segment A near Fish Hawk Boulevard, just west of Fish Hawk Creek. It heads south to Boyette Road, then intersects Balm Boyette Road and continues south to Hillsborough County’s new connection point at the intersection of Balm and Balm Riverview roads.

Tampa Bay Water’s engineering consultants will now complete a final design to determine the specific location of the pipeline within the approved route corridor, estimate the final cost and determine the schedule for Segment B. Construction of Segment A of the pipeline is scheduled to begin in late 2024 or early 2025 and be completed in early 2028.

Tampa Bay Water’s engineering consultants analyzed a total of 10 routes (five northern segments and five southern segments), which resulted in a shortlist of three top-ranked consolidated routes. The routes were evaluated against 11 selection criteria, which included non-cost factors such as public inconvenience, safety, environmental impacts and permitting, as well as project cost.

For more information about the project, please visit tampabaywater.org/shp.

Learn, collect, create! at two-part macroalgae workshop

Manatee logo

TBEP logo

Join Manatee County Dept. of Natural Resources and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program for a two-part workshop that combines macroalgae, education, adventure, and art!

Macroalgae, also known as seaweed, is a plant-like organism commonly found on our local shorelines. These colorful clumps can be pressed and dried to make beautiful artwork.

On Saturday, January 28th, participants will kayak to Flamingo Cay to collect and press macroalgae specimens.

The following week, Saturday, February 4th, participants will discover the fascinating biology of macroalgae and the important role they play in the environment.

The course will conclude with an art session where participants will create their own piece of algae artwork and take home their own algae pressing kit.

Time (both days): 9:00 am - 12:00 pm
Location: Robinson Preserve, 170499th St. N. W., Bradenton, FL, 34209
Cost: $25

For more information, call (941)742-5923

No debate anymore: Climate change makes extreme weather worse, federal scientists say

Scientists at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) delivered a clear message: Climate change is — unequivocally — making extreme weather events worse.

South Florida has always been hot, rainy and vulnerable to hurricanes. So it’s understandable that some longtime residents remain skeptical that climate change is doing anything to make the region’s age-old problems any worse.

But scientists at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) delivered a clear message Monday at the American Meteorological Society’s annual meeting in Denver, Colorado: Climate change is — unequivocally — making extreme weather events worse.

In fact, scientists can now go a step further and show that specific weather disasters were more likely or more damaging because we live in a hotter climate. At the meeting, scientists presented case studies of heat waves, droughts, and extreme rainfall events that were influenced by climate change over the past two years in the U.S., South Korea, China and other countries. A collection of these studies was also published Monday in a special report from the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

Update on Manatee County water main repairs

Manatee logo

MANATEE COUNTY – Manatee County Utilities Department (MCUD) crews continue to focus repair efforts on a leak in the 42” transmission line at the Water Treatment Plant—a repair that has become more extensive than originally believed. The repair involves removal of a damaged portion of pipe and replacement with a new length of pipe. However, to fully isolate the area of repair—while keeping water flowing to the rest of the county—line stops need to be inserted into the surrounding transmission mains. This additional work is adding time to the repair effort.

County crews are working with contractors to procure materials and prepare the site for the repairs. Components of the line stops are being built and brought to site for the repairs, which are expected to be completed next month.

No service interruptions are anticipated during these repairs.

Florida’s emergency chief seeks changes in disaster response

Florida’s emergency-management director wants lawmakers to make changes to help with disaster preparation and response, pointing to issues that have arisen as the state recovers from Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole.

Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie this week asked lawmakers to reduce the amount of time people have to remove damaged boats from waterways and to provide uniform requirements for local governments about debris-removal contracts. He also wants to tweak a new relief fund and shield from public records the names of people harmed by disasters.

“What we’re talking about is media outlets. We’re talking about lawyers, attorneys, those that are seeking to try to start making money off of disaster survivors and victims,” Guthrie told members of the Senate Select Committee on Resiliency as he described the proposed public records exemption.

Red tide bloom worsens at Anna Maria beaches with ‘intense’ irritation, dead fish

With reports of dead fish on the sand and “intense” amounts of breathing irritation, the effects of red tide amplified this week around Anna Maria Island and Manatee County’s coastline.

Blooms of the toxic algae were carried near shore in October and have impacted area beaches on and off ever since.

Manatee County’s Gulf beaches saw a brief reprieve from the bloom’s effects around the holidays. But the often patchy nature of red tide blooms, along with their ability to be moved quickly by wind and currents, means that conditions can change rapidly.

Several weeks ago, red tide conditions were worse for Pinellas County beaches. But now the denser patches of algae has drifted southward into Manatee County waters, following predictions by University of South Florida’s Ocean Circulation Lab.

This week, slight to intense levels of respiratory irritation were reported by lifeguards at Coquina Beach and Manatee Public Beach, and slight to moderate irritation was reported on the north end of Anna Maria Island. Dead fish were also reported around the island.

Researchers look at ways to control Red Tide

While most research on red tide is focused on what causes it and how to track its path, new funding sources are making it possible for investigators to take a deeper look at actually controlling red tide.

A team with researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, Mote Marine Laboratory, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the University of Central Florida, and the University of South Florida has the funding they need to field test a potential new treatment that has been very successful in China.

Finding a way to control red tide is important for Tampa Bay – and Florida’s west coast – because events can cause massive environmental and economic losses. Just in 2021, more than 3.9 million pounds of dead sealife were collected during a red tide event by Pinellas, Sarasota, Manatee and Hillsborough counties.

The technology being studied now is called clay flocculation. Clay particles are applied to waters infested with Karenia brevis, the algae which causes red tide. The cells become enmeshed in the clay and fall to the sea floor. Initial results from a small field test in July 2021 showed that it killed about 75% of the red tide cells in two hours. Despite the high kill rate, the levels of the K. brevis toxins decreased only slightly.

Key Florida lawmaker focuses on shifting from septic tanks to sewer systems

The chair of the Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee said a “big focus” will be getting homes and businesses off septic systems.

A Republican senator who oversees environmental spending said this week he wants to continue efforts to shift properties from septic tanks to sewer systems to try to help protect waterways.

Sen. Jason Brodeur, a Sanford Republican who chairs the Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, said a “big focus” will be getting homes and businesses off septic systems.

“As we look at the nutrients that are continuing to leach into our waterways, particularly inland, we want to make sure that we're doing all we can to support those municipalities, to make sure that those (nutrients) are not continuing to move into our water bodies and jeopardizing either our wildlife or our recreational opportunities,” Brodeur said during a subcommittee meeting Thursday.

This year’s state budget includes $557 million for water quality improvements, with $125 million aimed at helping with such things as septic conversions and upgrades.

Florida is fighting to feed starving manatees this winter

As the state’s residents step up to save the sea cows, advocacy organizations believe the solution is less about lettuce—and more about leaders.

FEW VIGNETTES SHOW how much human activity has affected wildlife more than the scene at Florida Power & Light’s plant in Cape Canaveral. Hundreds of manatees bask in an intake canal on its southeast edge, drawn by the warm waters. These manatees are hungry. Pollution has decimated their usual menu of seagrasses in the Indian River Lagoon. Many have starved: 1,101 died in Florida in 2021, and as of December, 2022’s official estimate was nearly 800 deaths. So along the canal, members of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are tossing them lettuce.

“It's just emblematic of how dire the situation is,” says Rachel Silverstein, the executive director of environmental nonprofit Miami Waterkeeper. “The point where we would need to artificially feed a wild animal because their ecosystem is so destroyed that they cannot find food for themselves is pretty extreme.”

The supplemental feeding program began in early 2022 and restarted this winter, because of the persistence of what marine mammal experts call an “unusual mortality event.” “It probably kept the manatees alive,” says Silverstein of the feeding program, “but it's not a sustainable condition for manatees in the long term to need to rely on an artificial food source.”

[N.B.: Manatee starvation is a problem in southeast Florida, but not on the Gulf Coast, the area covered by Water Atlas websites.]

New year, same goal: A debris-free Florida

Florida is unique as the only state that borders both the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. No matter where you are in the state, you’re never more than 60 miles from the nearest body of water. It also means that the daily choices and activities of Florida’s residents and visitors can easily lead to debris in our coastal and marine habitats. Luckily, our partners across the region are kicking off the New Year with renewed energy and effort in leading marine debris removal and prevention projects to keep Florida’s waters healthy and free of debris.

Students at Eckerd College and the University of North Florida are learning to reduce their single-use plastic consumption by making sustainable purchasing and personal decisions to ultimately prevent marine debris. The project’s Plastic Reduction Challenges gave students the opportunity to use a smartphone app to track their use of both plastic and plastic alternative items. During these challenges, the students also completed surveys to gauge their knowledge, views, and beliefs related to plastics, and whether their views changed over time. Through educational opportunities, workshops, and campus and community cleanups, students are learning firsthand the environmental impacts of their daily choices.

U.S. approves Little Manatee River study

A federal study is needed before river gets “scenic” status and environmental safeguards.

President Joe Biden’s signature on a $1.7 trillion spending bill last week guaranteed a victory for Hillsborough County environmental preservationists.

Included in the omnibus bill was a measure from U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, which will begin the process of potentially designating the Little Manatee River as a scenic waterway to safeguard it from future development.

“Designating the Little Manatee River as ‘scenic’ will ensure that it is kept in its current, pristine condition for future generations to enjoy. This bill brings us one step closer to making this historic designation a reality,” Buchanan said in a released statement.

Buchanan filed the Little Manatee Wild and Scenic River Act in 2020. It sought to add a 51-mile segment of the Little Manatee River in southeastern Hillsborough to the National Park Service’s Wild and Scenic River System, which has the primary goal of conserving free-flowing rivers across the country.

However, the House Natural Resources Committee amended the bill last year to authorize a formal National Park Service study of the river before an official designation can occur. The measure passed the House on a voice vote in September and was included in the omnibus spending bill approved by the U.S. Senate and signed by the president in late December.

Hillsborough lifts water restrictions in south county

A 2-year limit on landscape irrigation expired Jan. 1.

The start of the new year meant the start of new water rules in fast-growing southern Hillsborough County.

The county ordinance limiting outdoor irrigation to one day a week expired Sunday. The temporary rules, approved by the County Commission in December 2020, were intended to offset what the county termed “dangerously low” water pressure in the southern part of the county utility system.

The low pressure, attributed to peak demand from landscape watering, raised having to issue possible boil water notices for customers or potentially hampering firefighting efforts in the region.

The rules were unpopular, in part, because they lumped long-established population centers together with the owners of newly built homes irrigating new sod and landscaping.

Plan to inject Piney Point waste underground to become reality in 2023

The amount of waste to be injected deep underground in Manatee County as a result of the environmental disaster at the former Piney Point fertilizer plant continues to grow as cleanup efforts are set to ramp up next year.

Authorities are preparing to inject hundreds of millions of gallons of waste at the former Piney Point fertilizer processing plant deep underground once construction of a new injection well is completed in 2023, a major step in the ongoing effort to clean up the troubled facility.

The cleanup also requires millions of gallons of bleach to treat polluted Piney Point waste water before it is injected underground just across the street from the site. Late last month, county commissioners also agreed to allow the company that produces that bleach in Palmetto, Allied New Technologies 2 Inc., to dispose of its waste in Manatee County.