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

Water-Related News

Bill in legislature would require FDEP to adopt tech to curb algal blooms

A bill that passed its first committee stop today [Nov. 30] would require the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to procure technology capable of removing harmful algae, toxins, and nutrients from water bodies.

The agency has a technology grant program local government entities can sign up for. According to a legislative staff analysis, the program uses short-term solutions to combat algal blooms and nutrient pollution in an attempt to restore Florida's water bodies. AECOM is an infrastructure consulting firm working with two Florida water management districts that received grants from the program.

"The problem that we're seeing is that we're now turning the corner a little bit, and we have more harmful toxic algal blooms throughout the state, and those of us that have been here for most of our lives we've kind of seen this really pick up in the last decade," Dan Levy says. He works for AECOM.

Even non-toxic algal blooms can be a problem. They block out sunlight, killing the plant life animals depend on, which is the main reason why more than 1,000 manatees have died so far this year. However, Levy believes his firm's algae harvesting technology would meet the legislation's criteria.

Florida moves closer to issuing a permit for deep well injection of Piney Point wastewater

The permit will allow up to 4 million gallons a day of wastewater from the Piney Point facility to be injected nearly 2,000 feet below the surface.

Florida officials intend to issue a permit that allows Manatee County to pump water from the Piney Point phosphate plant into a deep well.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection last week sent out a notice of intent to issue the permit.

The permit will allow the county to inject up to 4 million gallons a day of wastewater from the Piney Point facility into Florida’s aquifer nearly 2,000 feet below the surface.

Anyone opposed to the plan will have two weeks to file a petition for an administrative hearing.

Manatee County commissioners applied for the permit in April, after a leak in one of the reservoirs forced the release of more than 200 million gallons of contaminated water into Tampa Bay.

Officials have struggled to determine what to do with the water, which sits in several ponds atop stacks of phosphogypsum, a toxic byproduct produced during the processing of phosphate.

Environmental groups have concerns that injecting water into the ground could contaminate Florida's aquifer.

Top 10 fertilizer tips from Hillsborough County Extension Service

Learn how to choose and apply fertilizer in accordance with the County's new ordinance

On Wednesday, Nov. 17, Hillsborough County commissioners approved an ordinance that limits fertilizer use during the rainy season from June 1 through Sept. 30, unless subject to an exemption, which includes agriculture. The ban includes the application of fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorus in unincorporated Hillsborough County. The goal of the new ordinance is to continue the County's mission of keeping contaminants out of local waters.

With the new ordinance, Hillsborough County Extension Service, which provides education and services in agriculture, lawn and garden, and professional horticulture services, has some helpful tips for homeowners on how to choose and apply fertilizer.

How to choose the right fertilizer:

  • The fertilizer ordinance applies to any product that contains nitrogen and/or phosphorous in the guaranteed analysis or on the label. Check labels carefully for things to avoid, such as systemic insecticides, fungicides, and some preemergent weed killers.
  • Look at fertilizer labels to determine the source of slow-release nitrogen or insoluble nitrogen, which must be at least 50 percent.
  • Choose a fertilizer with a 2:1 or 1:1 ratio of nitrogen (first number on the bag) and potassium (third number on the bag). Potassium is a key nutrient in keeping turfgrass healthy.
  • Choose a fertilizer with zero phosphorous (the second number on the bag) unless a soil test shows deficiency. Adding more phosphorous when there's enough in the soil can result in runoff, leaching, and wasted product.
  • Micronutrients such as manganese may be helpful. A soil fertility test plus micronutrients can provide information about the nutrient makeup of soil.

How to safely apply fertilizer:

  • Don't apply fertilizer before it rains. Most fertilizers only need to be watered in about ¼ inch to ½ inch, so putting fertilizer down before it rains can result in runoff and wasted product.
  • Don't apply fertilizer when turf is dormant in the winter, which can stress turf the following spring when it greens up.
  • Fertilize with a long-term controlled-release product at the end of May, ahead of the rainy season. The grass will receive low doses of nitrogen over a period of three to four months, depending on the product used.
  • When the rainy season is over, fertilize again with a product that has a more soluble nitrogen component, such as sulfur-coated urea. This will reduce the potential for the fertilizer to release nitrogen during the winter months when the ability to take up the nutrients is reduced.
  • Leave grass clippings on the lawn or blow them back into the landscape because they can add nutrients and replace a fertilizer application. Do not blow or direct them into roads, storm drains, or ditches, and keep a 10-foot fertilizer-free zone near water bodies.

If you have any questions regarding fertilizer use, visit HCFLGov.net/Extension or call (813) 744-5519. Residents are also invited to attend Extension Service's lawn and landscape classes.

Hillsborough County Extension Service is an educational service provided by University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) and Hillsborough County. Extension offers education and information to Hillsborough County residents through workshops, publications, and other media.

TBRPC to study resiliency and sustainability at MacDill AFB

The Military Installation Resilience Review will foster, protect, and enhance military installation resilience and sustainability

The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council was awarded a Community Economic Adjustment Assistance for Responding to Threats to the Resilience of a Military Installation grant from the Department of Defense. The 18-month, $570,000 grant is designed to examine the long-term resilience and sustainability of MacDill Air Force Base and its surrounding community.

The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council will complete a Military Installation Resilience Review, which is a community-driven initiative to analyze risks and future climate conditions and implement actions to foster, protect, and enhance military installation resilience and sustainability. “I am excited for this opportunity to collaborate with MacDill Air Force Base,” said TBRPC executive director Sean Sullivan. “This grant provides an important vehicle to our continued regional resiliency planning work, and the military installation review can be shared with other military base communities, furthering resiliency planning across the nation.”

TBRPC, City of Tampa partner on resiliency projects

The City of Tampa will submit two projects on behalf of the Tampa Bay Regional Resilience Coalition and TBRPC, per recommendations from FDEP, Resilient Ready Tampa Bay and Safe Shelter Tampa Bay.

Resilient Ready: Tampa Bay

The Resilient Ready technical assistance program will enhance the Tampa Bay Regional Resilient Coalition members’ capacity to assess, plan for, and adapt to flood impacts using multi-functional nature-based infrastructure, resilient site design and construction practices. A diverse team of planners, landscape architects, engineers, and hydrologists will support municipal staff and their communities to co-create adaptive redesign concepts for vulnerable critical assets in at-risk neighborhoods.

Project Outcomes

The region will increase its knowledge of risks, trade-offs, and benefits associated with specific sea level rise and flood adaptation projects. Through walking tours and interactive charrettes, members and stakeholders will define common local issues, needs and strategies, and shape redesign concepts. The Resilient Ready team will produce 30 diagrams and animations to accelerate investment interest, and technical reports to support local planning and infrastructure applications for State and Federal grants.

Safe Shelter Tampa Bay: A Regionwide Vulnerability Assessment of Hurricane Shelters and Critical Community and Emergency Facilities

Many Critical Community and Emergency Facilities (CCEF) which serve as hurricane shelters in the Tampa Bay Region are at risk to sea level rise. A regional vulnerability assessment which combines existing shelter deficits and impacts of current and future flood risk on shelter supply is needed. The TBRPC will compile data, map assets, convene stakeholders to discuss risks, define resilience priorities to support FDEM and coordinated planning among the 31 TB Regional Resilience Coalition members.

Project Outcomes

The Safe Shelter project will produce a detailed regional vulnerability analysis of shelters and CCEF assets to increase understanding of resilience needs. Outputs include: data layers and maps depicting vulnerability to SLR and flooding; risks to vulnerable populations and lifelines; and stakeholder prioritized project lists. Outcomes include enhanced local vulnerability assessments, regional EM analysis, Local Mitigation Strategy updates, and FDEM shelter retrofit planning.

What do baby sharks do? New College and a Palmetto conservation group to find out

New College of Florida has received a shark research grant that focuses on population trends for shark species not currently included in long-term monitoring efforts, a news release said.

Specifically, juvenile — or baby — sharks of the blacktip, blacknose, bull and great hammerhead species in lower Tampa Bay.

The Tampa Bay Estuary Program and Restore America’s Estuaries awarded the $165,111 grant to fund Dr. Jayne Gardiner’s shark research. She’s the Pritzker Marine Biology Research Center director and associate biology professor at New College.

“Juvenile sharks are a critical component of a healthy Tampa Bay ecosystem, but they’ve historically been overlooked in many monitoring programs,” Gardiner said, in the news release. “Young sharks of several species have been documented in lower Tampa Bay, and our research will help us better understand the bay’s potential role as a nursery ground.”

Gardiner is using acoustic transmitters to discover the sharks’ nursery areas and study their habitat use, the news release said. According to Tampa Bay Business Journal, that can “measure the impact of climate change and coastal development in areas where the sharks reside.”

UF/IFAS awarded $100K grant to boost shellfish aquaculture industry

The project will include water quality sampling at four shellfish aquaculture farms — two oyster and two clam — along the Gulf Coast

HOMESTEAD — Shellfish like clams and oysters can help restore ocean health and support economic development and food production in coastal communities worldwide.

A scientist at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) has partnered with Florida Sea Grant researchers on a $100,000 grant awarded by The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Through the grant, scientists plan to quantify the ecosystem benefits of bivalve aquaculture, specifically assessing the use of oysters and clams. Researchers also will explore how to integrate shellfish into water quality policies in the state.

The Conservancy announced the grant recipients this month as part of the new Supporting Oyster Aquaculture and Restoration (SOAR) Shellfish Growers Resiliency Fund.

“The grant will help pave the way for shellfish aquaculture in Florida,” said Ashley Smyth, an assistant professor of biogeochemistry and soil and water sciences at UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida. “The amount of nitrogen removed by oyster and clam aquaculture in Florida is unknown. Until those data exist, it is difficult to have a direct path for shellfish growers to contribute to water quality restoration and mitigation policies, or to be compensated for the ecosystem services that their products provide.”

Hillsborough limits summer fertilizer use

The new ordinance follows a summer of fish kills in Tampa Bay and elsewhere.

TAMPA – Hillsborough County wants to reduce fish-killing pollution in Tampa Bay.

Wednesday, commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance limiting fertilizer use during Florida’s rainy season. It prohibits application of landscape fertilizers containing nitrogen or phosphorus from June 1 to Sept. 30 each year.

The goal is to reduce Red Tide and other nutrient-triggered toxic algae blooms that result in fish kills and other ecological damage. Commissioner Mariella Smith first proposed the ordinance after dead fish swamped Apollo Beach canals and other county locations over the summer.

Hillsborough’s ordinance is similar to rules followed by Tampa, Pinellas and 14 other counties in the state. The Hillsborough ordinance does not ban fertilizer sales. Agricultural land is exempt.

“It is much cheaper, easier and more effective to prevent pollution from entering the bay than it is to clean up the bay after the damage has been done,” Smith said Wednesday.

Red tide among DeSantis' environmental budget priorities

Gov. Ron DeSantis will ask legislators to consider $960 million in funds for the 2022-23 fiscal year to support resiliency efforts across the state.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday [Nov. 16] announced his environmental budget priorities for the 2022-23 fiscal year, including $660 million to go toward Everglades restoration and other funds to address the impacts of sea level rise. Speaking in Naples, DeSantis said he will request legislators to approve $960 million toward resiliency efforts.

“We are excited to announce this historic support for Florida’s environment, Everglades restoration, and our water resources," DeSantis said in a news release. "We have seen great results so far, but we are not yet at the finish line.

"It’s nice to see so many coming together to support these initiatives. We will be pushing hard to continue the momentum this legislative session.”

DeSantis said some of the funds will address algal blooms and help local governments — including those across the greater Tampa Bay region — with red tide cleanup, along with helping communities become more resilient against intensified storms and flooding.

The budget breakdown, according to the release:

  • $660 million for Everglades restoration including the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), the EAA Reservoir Project, and the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Restoration Project.
  • $175 million for targeted water quality improvements
  • $40 million for the Alternative Water Supply Grant Program
  • $50 million for projects to restore Florida’s springs
  • $35 million for increased water quality monitoring and to combat harmful algal blooms including blue-green algae and red tide
  • $3 million to remove invasive Burmese pythons
  • $550 million to increase the resiliency for coastal and inland communities
  • $500 million for the Resilient Florida Grant Program for projects to make communities more resilient to sea level rise, intensified storms and flooding
  • More than $50 million to close the gap in resiliency planning and to protect coral reefs.

“In Florida, our environment is the foundation of everything from our economy to our way of life,” said Mark Rains, state chief science officer.

DeSantis is expected to releas

Bradenton could face lawsuit over sewage spills

BRADENTON – Both Sarasota Bay and Tampa Bay have taken hits over the last few years with bouts of red tide and seagrass loss. Founder of Suncoast Waterkeeper Justin Bloom says there’s too much nitrogen in our waterways and aging infrastructure is part of the problem.

“Sewage plagues this area and it is not just Bradenton. Many municipalities have spills, but I think Bradenton has been accounted for more than their share, a lot more recently,” Bloom said.

Suncoast Waterkeeper and other environmental groups in the region are joining forces to hold the City of Bradenton accountable over a series of sewage spills over the last few years. Suncoast Waterkeeper, Our Children’s Earth Foundation, ManaSota-88 and Tampa Bay Waterkeeper have filed a 60-day notice of violation of the Clean Water Act and notice of intent to file suit for what they’re calling “serious and ongoing violations of the federal Clean Water Act.”

Mayor Kriseman: Cost of St. Petersburg plan for preventing sewage spills could top $3B

Rick Kriseman said the city doesn't have a sewage problem, it has a stormwater problem.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman announced Monday the city has completed its stormwater and wastewater master plan.

Kriseman said the long-term plan to address the city’s increasingly stressed infrastructure will be a hefty but necessary investment.

“Our integrated water resources master plan takes everything into consideration. It is ambitious and quite frankly it is expensive,” Kriseman said. “It may ultimately cost the city about $3 billion over the next 20 years.”

According to city staff, St. Pete has already invested more than $280 million into repairs and enhancements of its aging infrastructure. Kriseman said it all started with a 2015 phone call from a Creative Loafing Tampa reporter asking about a sewage spill in Clam Bayou.

What Florida can expect from the infrastructure spending bill

Billions of dollars are on their way to Florida as part of the new infrastructure spending bill. Water projects may be the priority, according to a new report card.

Billions of dollars for roads, bridges and internet broadband will be coming to Florida over the next five years. President Joe Biden will sign the infrastructure bill into law Monday.

The trillion-dollar-plus spending plan earmarks money for a list of projects — transportation, public transit, electric vehicle recharging stations, and clean water projects among them.

There was some bipartisan support for the bill, but not among the Florida congressional delegation. Democrats in this state voted for it. Republicans against it.

Gov. Ron DeSantis described the legislation this way Monday: “I think it was a lot of pork-barrel spending from what I can tell.”

One of the Democrats hoping to win DeSantis’s job in next year’s election — Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried — called the new money a beginning.

“This is a great starting place. Is it ever going to be enough? No, but certainly this is historic in what we can do moving forward,” she said.

Are scientists contaminating their own samples with microfibers?

More than 70% of microplastics found in samples from oceans and rivers could come from the scientists collecting them.

A new paper by Staffordshire University and Rozalia Project, published in Marine Pollution Bulletin, investigates procedural contamination when sampling for microparticles in aquatic environments. The study shows that a significant amount of microplastics and microfibres from scientists' clothing and gear mixes with environmental pollution in the water samples.

Claire Gwinnett, Professor in Forensic and Environmental Science at Staffordshire University, explained: "In the field this can occur due to the dynamic nature of the environment such as wind or weather, actions required to obtain samples and the close-proximity necessary for scientists to procure and secure samples whether in a medium-sized vessel, small boat or sampling from shore. In a mobile lab, this often occurs due to using small, multi-use spaces and similar requirements for scientists to be in close proximity to the samples while processing."

New College of Florida wins grant to study Tampa Bay shark population

The Tampa Bay Estuary Program and Restore America’s Estuaries have awarded a $165,111 grant to New College of Florida to fund shark research.

The research, which will be conducted by New College associate professor Jayne Gardiner, will assess population trends for Tampa Bay shark species, addressing data gaps that currently hinder conservation and management efforts.

“Juvenile sharks are a critical component of a healthy Tampa Bay ecosystem, but they’ve historically been overlooked in many monitoring programs," Gardiner said. "Young sharks of several species have been documented in lower Tampa Bay and our research will help us better understand the Bay’s potential role as a nursery ground.”

With a focus on blacktip, blacknose, bull and great hammerhead sharks in lower Tampa Bay, Gardiner will use long-term acoustic transmitters to discover the sharks’ nursery areas and study their habitat use.

The findings will help measure the impact of climate change and coastal development on the areas of the bay inhabited by these sharks.

Environmental groups lobby receiver on Piney Point deep well

MANATEE COUNTY — Suncoast Waterkeeper, Manasota 88, and Tampa Bay Waterkeeper were among several environmental groups to sign a letter sent to Herbert Donica, the attorney appointed as receiver for HRK Holdings, the site owner at Piney Point, a former phosphate processing plant that has been the source of multiple environmental catastrophes in Manatee County. The groups requested a "robust, representative, and transparent sampling effort at Piney Point.

"We write today about the present situation at the former Piney Point phosphate plant and the pending application to inject billions of gallons of process wastewater from that site just below the aquifer that millions of Floridians rely upon for drinking water and crop irrigation,” the letter stated. "On behalf of our collective members that reside in Florida, we respectfully request that you, in your role as receiver on behalf of HRK Holdings, LLC, undertake a robust, representative, and transparent sampling effort to confirm that the process wastewater proposed to be disposed of via deep well injection does not contain any hazardous constituents above the regulatory limits …”

The Center for Biological Diversity and Our Children’s Earth Foundation also signed the letter.

Mote Marine Lab shark researcher Eugenie Clark to be honored with postage stamp

stamp image

From the blog of the Historical Society of Sarasota County:

Our Forever Heroine

Coming up in 2022, there will be this wonderful “Forever stamp” to stock up on. If it weren’t for Dr. Eugenie Clark, what would our oceans and the Gulf of Mexico be like? Known as “The Shark Lady”… she transformed a dream into a multi-faceted research center, Mote Marine. Clark was a pioneer in the field of scuba diving for research purposes.

Can you say “ichthyologist”? That is what Eugenie Clark was!

Links to learn more about Dr. Clark’s life work as summed up by the best scientific sites:

Our thanks to Sarasota’s Tak Konstantinou for letting us know of this honor to his family and to our local hero!

Hillsborough County teachers receive SWFWMD Splash! Grants

Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) awarded $104,941.81 in grants to 48 educators within the District as part of the Splash! school grant program. The program provides up to $3,000 per school to enhance student knowledge of freshwater resources in grades K-12.

Splash! grants encourage hands-on student learning through STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) activities as well as engagement of the greater school community through awareness campaigns. Each school district allocates a portion of their annual youth education funding provided by the District to support the Splash! grants in their county.

The District awarded grants to the following schools/teachers in Hillsborough County:

  • Belmont Elementary School - Rebecca Foster
  • Buchanan Middle School - Walter Watts and Monique Guerard
  • Chiles Elementary School - Lori Hanson
  • East Bay High School - Michelle Laycock
  • Greco Middle School - Jennifer Butler
  • Hill Middle School - Michelle Guagliardo
  • Ippolito Elementary School - Theresa Graves
  • Lomax Elementary Magnet School - Sarah Henix
  • Pivot Charter School - Debra Gwyn
  • Tampa Bay Boulevard Elementary School - Jacob Gill
  • Terrace Community Middle School - Elizabeth Mila

Grants are available for freshwater resources field studies, water-conserving garden projects, community or school awareness campaigns and on-site workshops. For more information, please visit the District’s website at WaterMatters.org/SchoolGrants.