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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.

The Monster Surge That Wasn’t: Why Irma Caused Less Flooding Than Expected

Across coastal Florida, the dreaded storm surge from Hurricane Irma — caused when ferocious winds pile up ocean water and push it onshore — was not as bad as forecast. While some areas were hard hit, notably the Florida Keys and Marco Island, residents of neighborhoods north to Fort Myers, Sarasota and Tampa Bay were expressing relief.

That bit of good fortune was the product of some meteorological luck.

Because a hurricane’s winds blow counterclockwise, the precise path of the storm matters greatly for determining storm surge. Had Irma lingered far enough off Florida’s Gulf Coast, its eastern wall, where the strongest winds occur, could have shoved six to nine feet of water into parts of Fort Myers and Naples, while swamping Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg as well.

At the last minute, Irma unexpectedly veered inland right before it got to Naples, taking its eastern wall safely away from the ocean. That meant that as the storm tracked north over Naples, Fort Myers and Tampa Bay, the winds at the head of the storm were moving west and actually pulling water away from the shoreline. In Tampa, water levels dropped five feet below normal, and bewildered spectators walked out to see beaches sucked dry. In Sarasota, a manatee became stranded.

Damage to Florida’s coral reef has made the state more vulnerable to storm surges

As we begin to piece together the damage from Hurricane Irma in Florida, scientists are pointing to an environmental factor that may have made the storm’s impact worse: the ongoing loss of coral on the state’s increasingly threatened barrier reef.

At 360 miles long, the Florida Reef Tract is the third-largest barrier reef in the world, stretching from the Florida Keys up to Martin County. But as Chris Mooney of The Washington Post reported just a few months ago, the reef is in big trouble — scientists estimate that less than 10 percent of it is covered with living coral, the result of a long history of damage that, most recently, includes warming waters and back-to-back bleaching events in recent years.

Now, scientists say these losses may have weakened the reef’s storm buffer.

Research demonstrates that “if you reduce coral reef health — if you go from that really rough coral reef with lots of live coral to a degraded coral reef with a relatively smooth surface — you have increased run-up in flooding,” said Curt Storlazzi, a research geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Tampa Bay Estuary Program seeking new executive director

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Deadline to Apply: No later than 2:00 P.M. EST on Friday, October 6, 2017

The Tampa Bay Estuary Program (TBEP) is seeking qualified applicants for the Executive Director position. The successful applicant will have demonstrated experience in effectively managing multi-entity environmental, scientific and/or engineering programs; fostering and maintaining collaborative approaches to complex environmental issues; the ability to facilitate consensus among diverse and sometimes conflicting stakeholders; success in raising funds from public and private sectors, including federal, state and local grants; and the ability to manage an effective and talented staff.

Position Summary
The Executive Director is a full-time position responsible for ensuring the efficient and fiscally-responsible operation of the TBEP. This includes providing the supervision and appropriate oversight of the managers of TBEP's technical projects, its public education and outreach initiatives, and its program administration function. The Executive Director will also be responsible for maintaining existing and developing new sustainable funding sources from public and private sectors, and meeting requirements stated in the various grants (including EPA Cooperative Agreements) awarded to TBEP.

Primary among the Executive Director's responsibilities is to maintain and strengthen TBEP's local, state and national reputation as a science-based 'honest broker', encouraging all stakeholders to work together to form effective solutions to meet agreed-upon goals for the restoration and protection of Tampa Bay.

Snooty Memorial Open House rescheduled

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The Snooty Memorial Open House, originally scheduled for Sept. 10th, was postponed due to hurricane Irma.

It is now scheduled for Sunday, September 24, 2017 from noon to 5 p.m. The South Florida Museum will host a special day of remembrance for Snooty. (Admission is free.)

“The Snooty Memorial Open House will pay tribute to Snooty’s legacy, while we celebrate his remarkable life and all that he has brought to the Museum and the world throughout his record-breaking 69 years,” said Brynne Anne Besio, Museum CEO.

This daylong celebration of Snooty’s life will include a visual tribute to Snooty that will be shown in the Museum’s Bishop Planetarium, opportunities for visitors to help create memorial projects honoring Snooty as well as visit the Parker Manatee Aquarium to learn more about Snooty’s true legacy: the Museum’s Manatee Rehabilitation Program.

SWFWMD to Hold Public Workshop on Ranking Water Bodies

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The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) is seeking public input about the order in which minimum flows and levels (MFLs) for lakes, wetlands, rivers, streams and aquifers in the District will be determined. Legislation requires the District to review and, if necessary, revise the schedule each year.

A public workshop will be held from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on Aug. 30 at the District’s Tampa Service Office, located at 7601 U.S. Highway 301.The workshop will provide an important opportunity for local governments, residents and others to be part of the scheduling of minimum flows and levels for priority water bodies.

A minimum flow or level is the limit at which further water withdrawals will cause significant harm to the water resources or environment. The District Governing Board sets these limits as part of achieving the balance between meeting water needs and sustaining Florida’s natural systems.

The adopted Minimum Flows and Levels Priority List and Schedule for 2017 is available on the District’s website here. The draft 2017/2018 list will be published on the site following the Governing Board’s August meeting. The revised schedule will be considered for adoption at the Board’s meeting in October.

Written comments on the draft Priority List and Schedule may be submitted to Doug Leeper, chief environmental scientist, at doug.leeper@watermatters.org or to 2379 Broad Street, Brooksville, Florida, 34604 no later than Oct. 6.

For more information, please contact Doug Leeper at 1-800-423-1476, ext. 4272.