An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: Seminole County, USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Sewage spills add to misery In hurricane-battered Florida

As if loss of air conditioning and refrigeration weren't bad enough, widespread power outages in hurricane-battered Florida are teaming with structural failures to cause another headache: sewage overflows.

Local governments have submitted well over 100 "notices of pollution" to the state Department of Environmental Protection since Hurricane Irma struck, some involving multiple spills and releases of millions of gallons of wastewater in various stages of treatment.

Officials in many cities were still scrambling Thursday to determine how much sewage had escaped, while the state warned people to steer clear of standing water.

"Floodwaters may contain not only bacteria from sanitary sewer overflows but other potential contaminants from agricultural or industrial waste," environmental protection department spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller said.

About 6 million gallons of wastewater was released from a plant on Virginia Key near Miami during a seven-hour power outage overnight Sunday that disabled its pumps — one of seven spills reported by the Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer Department. The water had gone through most of the treatment process but hadn't been chlorinated, spokeswoman Jennifer Messemer-Skold said.

Officials advised people not to swim at Miami-area beaches until waters could be tested for a variety of pollutants.

Comment period extended for the definition of "Waters of the United States"

EPA and the Army have extended the comment period by 30 days for the proposed first step of the review of the definition of "waters of the United States" to provide additional time for stakeholders to weigh in.

Background
The comment period, as now extended, will close on September 27, 2017. The proposed rule was signed by the Administrator and Mr. Douglas Lamont, senior official performing the duties of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, and posted to EPA’s website on June 27th and published in the Federal Register on July 27th. When finalized, the proposed rule would replace the 2015 Clean Water Rule with the regulations that were in effect immediately preceding the 2015 rule. The public can submit comments, identified by Docket Id. EPA-HQ-2017-0203, at regulations.gov.

Federal Register Notice
On August 16, 2017, the EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Water, Michael Shapiro, along with Mr. Douglas Lamont, senior official performing the duties of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, signed the Federal Register notice extending the public comment period, which published on August 22, 2017.

Hurricane Irma's fury has forced closure of many Central Florida parks and trails

After days of living without power, calling roofing companies or cleaning up yard debris, many Central Floridians may be looking for a quiet place to relax and de-stress following Hurricane Irma.

But visiting a preserve or taking a hike on a nature path might not be an option for the time being. A week after Irma plowed through the region, many campgrounds, trails and boardwalks are closed because of downed trees, fallen power lines, flooding and no electricity.

In some cases, the facilities could be closed for several more weeks.

“It’s not safe to be out on the property,” said Danielle Spears, a spokeswoman for the St. Johns River Water Management District, regarding the Lake Apopka Loop Trail, which was closed after the storm. The popular nature trail follows the northern shoreline of the large lake between Orange and Lake counties for nearly 15 miles and attracts hikers, bicyclists and nature lovers throughout the state.

Residents near Seminole County lakes desperate for water to recede

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, residents living near Lake Harney are asking people to drive slow through flooded streets.

"Some people come really fast through here and I've requested a No Wake Zone sign form the sheriff's department to see if they can come put that up here,” said resident Sarah Procell.

She added that they are going on eight days without power, but she’s grateful the flood waters haven’t reached her home. "You can see we have a couple more feet, so it's going back down. I'm just hoping we don't get any more hurricanes and no more rain," said Procell.

Several residents have left for higher ground.

Residents near Lake Jessup would like to know when the lake will crest.

Laker Harney has already crested, but the St. John’s River has not.

County officials said it may crest Monday nigh

Minimized water usage request from Seminole County

Seminole County has experienced a large amount of power outages due to Hurricane Irma. Unfortunately these power outages have left the majority of the County’s lift stations without electricity. County staff is working diligently to pump down these lift stations using portable generators.

In order to help prevent sewer backups the County is requesting that water usage be minimized at this time. If possible, please limit the use of washing machines and dishwashers. Water should be used for essential functions only.

The County thanks you for your help in this time of need. Another notification will be provided when the minimized usage has been lifted.

State bill requests $125 million to help springs, St. Johns River

A bill to increase money for the preservation of North Florida springs and the St. Johns River has been filed by state Sen. Rob Bradley, who is trying to build on funding that is in the current budget.

Senate Bill 204 requests that $75 million from the state’s Land Acquisition Trust Fund be spent annually for the restoration of springs. It also requests that $50 million be given annually to the St. Johns River Water Management District for restoration of the river and its tributaries in the Keystone Heights lake region.

“The St. Johns River and our springs define the character of North Florida,” Bradley said in a news release. “In addition to providing scenic beauty and recreational opportunities to local residents, our river and springs attract visitors from across the state and nation.”

The Land Acquisition Trust Fund is primarily supported by Amendment 1, a referendum approved by Florida voters in 2014. The law sets aside one-third of the tax revenue from real estate transactions to buy land for preservation and for environmental restoration projects.

After its overwhelming passage, the Legislature drew criticism from the public over the way some of the money was being spent, contending some of the appropriations were not consistent with the requirements of the Land Acquisition Trust Fund.

The current budget includes $50 million for springs restoration and $13.3 million for St. Johns River projects, which Bradley worked to get in the budget, the release states.