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

Water-Related News

DEP to drop controversial water pollution regulations and start over

Florida regulators are withdrawing a set of controversial standards for how much pollution can be dumped into the state’s waterways.

The standards drew strong opposition from environmental groups, local governments and Native American tribes. Now the Department of Environmental Protection says it will start over and work with one of those groups to produce new pollution standards.

"DEP has identified an opportunity to partner with the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes to gather additional data as we move forward to protect Florida’s water," agency spokeswoman Lauren Engel said in an e-mail to the Tampa Bay Times .

She said that with their help, the DEP wants to "update the state’s water quality criteria to ensure the department is relying on the latest science."

Attorneys for the Seminole Tribe did not return a call seeking comment Friday. No one at the Miccosukee Tribe offices answered the phone.

The pollution regulations that are being withdrawn marked the first update to the state’s water quality standards in 24 years. When they were first unveiled in 2016, critics said they would allow polluters to increase the level of toxic chemicals they dump into Florida bays, rivers and lakes. Those most at risk would be children and people who eat a lot of seafood.

The 2016 standards, which were strongly supported by business and manufacturing interests, called for increasing the number of regulated chemicals allowed in drinking water from 54 to 92 chemicals and also raising the allowed limits on more than two dozen known carcinogens.

Governor and cabinet approve purchase of Seminole County trail connector

Governor Scott and the Florida Cabinet approved a land exchange with the city of Winter Springs that will complete a significant portion of the Cross Seminole Trail. The long-sought 1.36-acre parcel will join two distinct segments of the trail, providing greater recreational access to the natural and residential communities west of Lake Jesup.

“DEP is proud to make strategic land exchanges and acquisitions like this one, which benefit not only our environment but our communities,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. “DEP is committed to working with local communities to expand our trail system and give residents and visitors even more opportunities to enjoy the natural resources that make Florida the best state in the nation to live, work and recreate.”

The Cross Seminole Trail is a paved recreational trail that has been designated as one of Seminole County’s Showcase Trails because of its length, beauty and accommodations for trail enthusiasts. It is a component of the Florida National Scenic Trail and the Florida Greenways and Trails Priority System.

Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam said, “Florida’s natural spaces, greenways and trails are second to none, and I was proud to vote in favor of this land exchange today to finish a significant portion of the Cross Seminole Trail."

Charles Lacey, Mayor, city of Winter Springs said, “Finalizing the purchase of land to complete the Cross Seminole Trail is very important to the community and to me personally. I congratulate the city’s residents who joined me in our determined effort to finally connect this beautiful, recreational pathway. To me, joining the trail in the heart of our city, forever links the can do spirit of Winter Springs with the wider community of Seminole County.”

The 0.44-acre parcel being conveyed to the city will also benefit trail users by providing trail access, improved access to an existing park from the trail and restroom facilities.

John Horan, Chairman, Seminole County said, “Seminole County greatly appreciates the cooperation of the state of Florida, the city of Winter Springs and the Seminole County School Board in securing this vital link for the Cross Seminole Trail. It will advance public safety and enhance the enjoyment of the trail. Indeed, we are Seminole County: The Natural Choice.”

Meandering north through Oviedo and Winter Springs, the Cross Seminole Trail skirts Central Winds Park before breaching the cypress forests of Spring Hammock Preserve. With approximately 31 total miles of paved pathways, it traverses a variety of settings, creating a peaceful and picturesque experience in an urban setting. Managed by Seminole County, the Cross Seminole Trail offers abundant opportunities to the public, including hiking, cycling and equestrian activities.

Mark Brandenburg, Vice Chair, Seminole County Parks and Preservation Advisory Committee (PPAC), said, “When I first joined the PPAC 10 years ago, completing the 'missing link' had already been discussed for years prior. The work necessary between private landowners, the city of Winter Springs, Seminole County, and the state for land swaps, exchange agreements, and maintenance agreements was more complicated than anyone could have imagined. I am ecstatic that all the pieces have finally come together to allow this last component of the Cross Seminole Trail to be completed!”

Floods are getting worse, and 2,500 chemical sites lie in the water’s path

Anchored in flood-prone areas in every American state are more than 2,500 sites that handle toxic chemicals, a New York Times analysis of federal floodplain and industrial data shows. About 1,400 are located in areas at highest risk of flooding.

As flood danger grows — the consequence of a warming climate — the risk is that there will be more toxic spills like the one that struck Baytown, Tex., where Hurricane Harvey swamped a chemicals plant, releasing lye. Or like the ones at a Florida fertilizer plant that leaked phosphoric acid and an Ohio refinery that released benzene.

Flooding nationwide is likely to worsen because of climate change, an exhaustive scientific report by the federal government warned last year. Heavy rainfall is increasing in intensity and frequency.

At the same time, rising sea levels combined with more frequent and extensive flooding from coastal storms like hurricanes may increase the risk to chemical facilities near waterways.

The Times analysis looked at sites listed in the federal Toxic Release Inventory, which covers more than 21,600 facilities across the country that handle large amounts of toxic chemicals harmful to health or the environment.

Of those sites, more than 1,400 were in locations the Federal Emergency Management Agency considers to have a high risk of flooding. An additional 1,100 sites were in areas of moderate risk. Other industrial complexes lie just outside these defined flood-risk zones, obscuring their vulnerability as flood patterns shift and expand.

35 manatee deaths in January blamed on cold weather

Cold waters in January caused the deaths of 35 manatees across Florida, wildlife officials say.

The animals died due to cold stress syndrome brought on by low water temperatures, the Bradenton Herald reports. The deaths occurred between Jan. 1 and Jan. 26, according to a preliminary report released by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Officials say there were five times as many manatee deaths last month compared to the same timeframe in 2017, the Associated Press reports. However, it’s still much less than the 151 manatees killed by a cold snap in January 2010.

Data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration showed that water temperatures never climbed above 67.1 degrees at Port Manatee in January, according to the Herald. The average temperature was 57.6 degrees.

Cold stress syndrome can occur when marine mammals are immersed in water below 68 degrees Fahrenheit for an extended period of time. Manatees begin to experience hypothermia, which causes their organs to fail and their skin to slough off.

In total, 87 manatees were found dead across the Sunshine State last month, the Herald reports. The deaths are measured in eight categories, ranging from natural to undetermined.

Wildlife officials told the AP that boat collisions killed 10 of the animals statewide last month.

Senate committee approves statewide fracking ban

A controversial method of extracting natural gas would be banned statewide under a bill approved by a Senate panel Monday.

But while the Senate is moving forward on a ban on fracking — a process whereby a mixture of water and chemicals is forced deep underground at high pressure to release natural gas — its chances look slim in the House.

Anti-fracking activists say the possibility of fracking fluids polluting groundwater is high in Florida, where slabs of limestone could make it easier for leaking chemicals from fracking sites to seep upward and pollute the aquifer that South Florida uses for drinking water.

The bill sponsor, state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa, held up a chunk of porous, 125,000-year-old limestone from Miami-Dade County and said, “This is what our state is built on, and this is the reason for this bill.”

Advocates for fracking disagree.

“You’re sending a message to the rest of the country that fracking is not good, and I think that’s the wrong message,” said Eric Hamilton, of the Florida Petroleum Council, which lobbies for fossil fuel interests. “It may not be advantageous to use it at this time, but as we find additional reservoirs, it may be a technology we can rely on. And it can be done safely.”

The bill appears to be dead on arrival in the House.

Supreme Court rules that challenges to WOTUS should be filed in district courts

The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday that challenges to the Obama-era “Waters of the United States” rule must be filed in federal district courts, as opposed to the federal appeals courts.

The ruling marked the first opinion of the month. Justice Sonia Sotomayor delivered the opinion, which was filled with water puns, though she was not on the bench Monday.

The court heard oral arguments in the case, National Association of Manufacturers v. Department of Defense, in October.

The Supreme Court met to weigh in on which courts had jurisdiction for lawsuits challenging WOTUS, not to decide the merits of the 2015 water rule, which vastly expanded the definition of a waterway that can be regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers.

The definition of a waterway under the rule includes everything from a simple drainage ditch to streams and rivers. That means many more areas would fall under EPA's enforcement jurisdiction and control, from farmers to individual homeowners to oil companies, critics of the rule say.

The National Association of Manufacturers filed a lawsuit challenging WOTUS in federal district courts after agencies promulgated the rule, and the cases were then consolidated and transferred to the U.S. District Court for the 6th Circuit.

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2016 ruled that appeals courts have jurisdiction over challenges to the water rule.

Research finds discrepancies between satellite, global model estimates of land water storage

Research led by The University of Texas at Austin has found that calculations of water storage in many river basins from commonly used global computer models differ markedly from independent storage estimates from GRACE satellites.

The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Jan. 22, raise questions about global models that have been used in recent years to help assess water resources and potentially influence management decisions.

The study used measurements from GRACE satellites from 2002 to 2014 to determine water storage changes in 186 river basins around the world and compared the results with simulations made by seven commonly used models.

The GRACE satellites, operated by NASA and the German Aerospace Center, measure changes in the force of gravity across the Earth, a value influenced by changes in water storage in an area. The computer models used by government agencies and universities were developed to assess historical and/or scenario-based fluxes in the hydrological cycle, such as stream flow, evapotranspiration and storage changes, including soil moisture and groundwater.

Notice - Black Hammock Water Service Area

Begins February 12, 2018 and ends on March 20, 2018.

The City of Oviedo will be performing a maintenance chlorine flush of the City’s Drinking Water Distribution System which will also affect Seminole County customers in the Black Hammock service area. During this period, the Drinking Water Distribution System will use a “free” chlorine residual in the water instead of the usual “chloramines” disinfectant.

Some residents may notice a slight chlorine taste and/or chlorine odor in the water. Fish owners and individuals on kidney dialysis need to take necessary precautions during the chlorine flush of the system.

If you have questions please call Seminole County Environmental Services at 407-665-2767. We thank you for your cooperation during this chlorine flushing period.