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

Water-Related News

Tampa Bay Waste Spills Stoke Fears of an Era of Pollution

In just four months, three major spills of raw sewage and industrial waste have dumped roughly 75 million gallons of nitrogen-rich water into Tampa Bay, endangering years of improvement to the estuary's health and stoking fears that budget cuts and lax regulation could spawn a new era of pollution.

Since the 1970s, clean water laws, improved sewer systems and environmental restoration have produced a 50 percent reduction in nitrogen pollution in Tampa Bay, allowing the water to clear and seagrass beds to return by the thousands of acres.

But the bay--Florida's largest estuary--still needs significant yearly nitrogen reduction just to maintain the status quo. Every spill adds to chronic pollution that washes in from over-fertilized lawns, agricultural runoff and phosphate mining discharges in a watershed that reaches eastward into Polk County. Big spikes in nitrogen and phosphorus--nutrients found in sewage and phosphate-based fertilizers--can feed algae blooms that muddy the water, kill fish and block sunlight seagrass needs to grow. ...