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

Water-Related News

Manatee County on board for $500k, big win for ‘clams on deck’

$500,000 is a lot of clams.

Manatee County commissioners Aug. 9 fulfilled a $500,000 funding request made by islander Ed Chiles, founder and board member of the All Clams on Deck initiative.

The seats in the commission chambers were filled with staff and supporters of All Clams on Deck, an initiative of the nonprofit Gulf Shellfish Institute, also a Chiles endeavor, as he spoke to commissioners about the project.

“Harmful algal blooms and water quality issues are what keeps me up at night,” said Chiles, who operates restaurants in Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Longboat Key and other business enterprises in the county. He also is an appointed member of the Manatee County Tourist Development Council and the Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency.

Already this year, the All Clams initiative received $2.5 million in funding through the 2022-23 state budget.

Chiles told commissioners funding from the county would show support for water quality initiatives.

Rainwater from Piney Point released into Tampa Bay

More water was released over the weekend from the troubled Piney Point phosphate plant into Tampa Bay. But this time, the water is not expected to impact the bay.

Rainwater is being removed from the Piney Point gypsum stacks in Manatee County as the plant is being readied for permanent closure.

The state Department of Environmental Protection says rainwater is being siphoned from a pond where it has collected over the past few months.

Officials say this is not like the phosphate process water that was released on a massive scale into Tampa Bay last year, which fueled algae outbreaks and likely contributed to red tide that killed untold numbers of fish and marine life.

Much of the hundreds of millions of gallons of phosphate process water that remains in the stacks is expected to be injected into an underground aquifer.

Scientists will take samples from around Tampa Bay to monitor possible impacts from the rainwater release. Environmental regulators say the pond will be modified so that it will no longer accumulate rainwater in the future.

Longboat Key advances green initiatives to improve, sustain environment

The town of Longboat Key has released another update detailing the progress of initiatives it has set in hopes of improving and sustaining the island’s environment.

The update provides information on projects that have been completed and those that are planned for the future or are in progress.

“Long term, the town has always looked at environmental sustainability and preserving and protecting the environment,” said Support Services Director Carolyn Brown, who leads the program alongside Public Works Director Isaac Brownman and Planning, Building and Zoning Director Allen Parsons.

The initiatives are part of five primary goals laid out in the Town Commission’s strategic planning goals. The updates and staff participation fall under the plan’s goal of Environmental/Resiliency.

Can citizen scientists turn the tide against America’s toxic algal blooms?

‘Red tides’ are an annual hazard in Florida and other coastal areas but a monitoring project can help limit harm to humans

Nearly every day, Florida resident Pradeepa Siva goes paddleboarding through Doctors Pass in Naples. The thin passageway between Moorings Bay and the Gulf of Mexico is home to a couple of friendly dolphins, which Siva often sees on her outings.

But the journey is about more than exercise and wildlife sightings, because when Siva paddleboards she is also participating in a government-funded science project aimed at protecting public health. As climate change brings warming ocean waters, predictions of a dangerous phenomenon known as “red tide” are on the rise.

Red tides occur when warming waters and other factors spur the growth of a type of rust-colored alga known as Karenia brevis. The alga produces toxic compounds that are harmful to humans as well as dolphins, manatees, shellfish and other sea life. Exposure to the organism can cause respiratory illnesses and other problems for people who are exposed, and, in rare occasions, be debilitating or even fatal.

SWFWMD seeks public input on annual MFL prioritization

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The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) is seeking public input to determine the priority of minimum flows and levels (MFLs) establishment for lakes, wetlands, rivers, streams and aquifers in the District as well as the establishment of water reservations. Legislation requires the District to review and, if necessary, revise this schedule each year.

The District will hold a virtual public meeting Aug. 24 at 5 p.m. Members of the public can join the meeting via Microsoft Teams. To join the meeting via Teams, please use this link. Use of the Chrome browser is recommended for best compatibility with Teams.

To join the meeting by telephone only, dial (786) 749-6127 and when prompted enter the conference ID: 875-792-902#.

A minimum flow or level is the limit at which further water withdrawals will cause significant harm to the water resources or environment. A water reservation defines a quantity of water set aside from the water use permitting process for the protection of fish and wildlife or public health and safety. The District’s Governing Board establishes MFLs and reservations 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 2021 is available on the District’s website here. The draft 2022 list will be published on the site following the Governing Board’s Aug. 23 meeting. The revised schedule will be considered for approval at the Board’s October meeting.

Written comments on the draft priority list and schedule may be submitted to Doug Leeper, MFLs Program Lead, at doug.leeper@watermatters.org or to 2379 Broad Street, Brooksville, FL, 34604 no later than Sept. 7.

For more information, please contact Doug Leeper at (352) 269-5863.

Manatee County now accepting ELMAC applications

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MANATEE COUNTY – Manatee County residents interested in helping protect land and water resources, preserve fish and wildlife habitats and provide for passive recreation are invited to apply for one of five positions now available on the Environmental Lands Management and Acquisition Committee (ELMAC):

  • Member of an Environmental Group (3-year initial term)
  • Member engaged in Banking, Finance or Real Estate (3-year initial term)
  • Member with Education in Active Outdoor Sports (3-year initial term)
  • Member employed by the Manatee County School Board (3-year initial term)
  • Member of the Florida Engineering Society (3-year initial term)

Members are appointed by the Board of County Commissioners for initial terms of service of one, two or three years. All terms after the initial term are for 3 years, with reappointment at the discretion of the Board.

ELMAC makes recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners on environmental land acquisition and management issues, including recreational planning, and establishes programs for public lands. ELMAC also serves as the Tree Advisory Board.

ELMAC is responsible for implementing the community-initiated Conservation and Parks Projects Referendum. The Referendum, approved by voters in November of 2020, authorizes up to $50M in tax proceeds for the acquisition, improvement and management of land to protect natural resources and provide parks.?

ELMAC meets on the first Monday of every other month, excluding holidays, at 6:00 p.m., in the Manatee County Administration Building, 5th Floor, Manatee Room, 1112 Manatee Avenue West, Bradenton FL, 34205.

Applications are due September 2, 2022

For more information, visit the ELMAC webpage.

For more details or assistance with an application, call ELMAC Liaison Debra Woithe at (941) 742-5923 x6052 or email Debra.Woithe@MyManatee.org.

Public input sought on Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Action Plan

The Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council wants to hear from YOU! Public comment is now open for the Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Action Plan!

On October 8, 2018, six counties and 19 cities signed an MOU at the TBRPC to develop a Regional Resiliency Action Plan (RRAP) with strategies for coordinated regional preparation for and adaption to a rapidly changing global environment. Since early 2019, TBRPC staff have been developing the action plan with input from member governments, regional governments, and private and nonprofit sector partners.

The RRAP is comprehensive document with five chapters that include 10 high level recommended goals, dozens of objectives and actions for local implementation and regional collaboration. The RRAP is meant to serve as a voluntary tool for the region and local governments. The plan identifies regional opportunities for collaboration and provides a menu of local best practices to create a clear–though challenging–path forward for the region.

Stakeholder and public comments are critical to the RRAP development process – and NOW is the time.

The written public comment period will be open from August 8 - September 8, 2022.

Tampa Bay Estuary Program now accepting 2022 Bay Mini-Grant applications

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How to Apply - Deadline is September 16th

Are you involved in a community organization and have an idea for a restoration or education project in Tampa Bay??If you are, then you may be interested to know that the Tampa Bay Estuary Program (TBEP) is now accepting Bay Mini-Grant project proposals.

The TBEP Bay Mini-Grants are competitive cash awards of up to $5,000 provided to community organizations for projects that address restoration and education priorities in Tampa Bay, empowering participatory science, promoting environmental ethics and stimulating community stewardship.

Projects must address one or more of TBEP’s Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan (CCMP) priorities: clean waters and sediments, thriving habitats and abundant wildlife as well as an informed, engaged and responsible community.

Each year, TBEP highlights a specific CCMP action to prioritize for Bay Mini-Grant funding.?This year, projects supporting the prevention, eradication and/or management of invasive species in Tampa and its watershed will be prioritized for?funding.

Past Bay Mini-Grant projects have included Florida native plantings at local parks, marine educational workshops for Tampa Bay teachers, bird nesting documentaries and citizen science projects researching endocrine disruptors in seagrass meadows.

The application deadline for Bay Mini-Grants is 5 p.m. on Friday, September 16. Schools, neighborhoods and other nonprofit and for-profit organizations from Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco and Pinellas counties may apply.

On average, 20 projects are funded each year with about $90,000 in grants. A ‘Golden Mangrove Award’ is given every year to the outstanding Bay Mini-Grant project as determined by the TBEP Community Advisory Committee.

All Bay Mini-Grants awarded to community organizations for education and restoration projects are funded by the Tampa Bay Estuary Program Specialty License Plate, or the ‘Tarpon Tag.’ The Tarpon Tag is one of the least expensive specialty plates at just $17 per year, and all of the revenue goes directly towards protecting and restoring Tampa Bay. To obtain a Tarpon Tag and directly support this grant program for years to come, simply visit your local DMV.

Additional Bay Mini-Grant information, including grant eligibility, application review criteria and grant priorities can be found at?https://tbep.org/our-work/restoration-research/bay-mini-grants/. For questions or assistance with transforming an idea into a competitive proposal, contact Sheila Scolaro, TBEP community programs scientist, sscolaro@tbep.org.

Roundtable event invites public to help solve pressing issues in Florida’s waters

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This August in St. Pete, some of the state’s most respected and influential voices are coming together to share their vision for saving Florida’s water. “Our Bay, Our Future” is a panel and roundtable discussion hosted by Ocean Conservancy on Wednesday, August 24, from 6:00 to 8:30 pm at the St. Petersburg College STEM Center.

Our Bay, Our Future will feature five speakers with various areas of expertise as it pertains to Tampa Bay and the surrounding waterways. This roundtable discussion with local advocacy, science and policy experts will address the biggest issues facing Florida’s water quality, including red tide, harmful algae blooms, and sea level rise.

During the evening, speakers will discuss the environmental problems facing Tampa Bay, outline key solutions, and encourage everyone to leave with their own individual action plans on how they can contribute to making our bay bountiful and life-sustaining for future generations to come.

The goal of the roundtable is not only to identify problems, but to offer solutions and drive action in the fight to preserve Florida’s waters. Speakers include:

  • J.P. Brooker (Director of Florida Conservation, Ocean Conservancy)
  • Peter Clark (President and Founder of Tampa Bay Watch)
  • Dr. Kate Hubbard (Director of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission center for Red Tide Research)
  • Justin Tramble (Executive Director of Tampa Bay Waterkeeper)
  • Ed Sherwood (Executive Director of Tampa Bay Estuary Program).

Check-in for the event begins at 5:45 p.m. The program will begin at 6 p.m., with the roundtable program and audience Q&A, followed by a meet-and-greet reception at 7:30 pm including food and beverage. The event is open to the public.

Ocean Conservancy is a not-for-profit organization that envisions “a healthier ocean, protected by a more just world.” The organization works with partners all over to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges, creating evidence-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it.

Learn more about the event at oceanconservancy.org.

Resilient Ready initiatives take innovative approach to sea-level rise

Tampa Bay is on the frontline of global sea-level rise, but it’s not just our world-renowned beaches at risk.

Three neighborhoods selected to be part of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council’s (TBRPC) Resilient Ready Tampa Bay planning project show how differently sea level rise will impact an inland site and a community at the northern tip of the bay, as well as a barrier island.

The Resilient Ready initiative, funded by a $273,000 grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Resilient Florida Program (FY 2021-22), brought a diverse group of national and international experts to meet with community leaders and to determine how their neighborhoods can be protected as sea levels rise an estimated 11 inches by 2050.

The concept actually started in 2019 in New Port Richey when TBRPC Senior Planner and Urban Designer Sarah Vitale spent two weeks in New Port Richey helping the city develop a plan to cope with flooding. “The Pithlachoscotee River runs through downtown, which is an asset but also something to plan and prepare for in terms of drainage and future flood risks,” she said. “The question posed was what if we turn this water problem into an opportunity and design a stormwater system that doubles as a floodable park.”

FSU researcher leads team to study conditions for plant survival in ocean desert

West of St. Petersburg in the Gulf of Mexico is an area called the West Florida Shelf. It’s a marine desert, cut off from many of the elements that are essential for life.

But in this nutrient-deficient region, some forms of phytoplankton — microscopic plants that float through the water — are thriving and supporting other forms of life. But how?

Florida State University Associate Professor Angie Knapp and a team of researchers from around the country have received a $2.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate this oceanographic mystery. Knapp, part of the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science in the College of Arts and Sciences, will lead the project to examine how iron and nitrogen released from submarine groundwater discharge potentially serves as a fertilizer for phytoplankton in this area and beyond.

“Plant growth in the ocean plays an important role in regulating atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, which plays an important role in regulating climate,” Knapp said. “However, plant growth in the ocean is often limited by the availability of nitrogen; thus, we’re focusing on the processes that add and remove nitrogen to and from the ocean.”

Submarine groundwater discharge is a ubiquitous hydrological process characterized by the flow of fresh and brackish groundwater from land into the sea. It plays an important role in moving nutrients, trace elements and gases that are often used by phytoplankton throughout ocean waters.

In this project, researchers want to understand exactly how far these elements are moved through the sea and to what degree they are being used by phytoplankton.

NOAA and Saildrone launch seven hurricane-tracking surface drones

Part of an array of marine and air uncrewed tools NOAA is using to improve forecast models

In partnership with NOAA, Saildrone Inc. is deploying seven ocean drones to collect data from hurricanes during the 2022 hurricane season with the goal of improving hurricane forecasting. For the first year, two saildrones will track hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico.

This week, Saildrone launched two saildrones into the Gulf of Mexico, one from St. Petersburg, Florida, and another from Port Aransas, Texas. Five other saildrones were successfully launched this summer from the coast of Jacksonville, Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands to survey the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

NOAA will use several autonomous instruments this hurricane season to collect ocean and atmospheric data during during hurricanes. Credit: NOAA PMEL

One of the biggest challenges to hurricane forecasting is predicting rapid intensification, when hurricane wind speeds increase at least 35 mph over a 24 hour period. To fully understand how storms intensify, scientists collect data on the exchange of energy between the ocean and atmosphere in the forms of heat and momentum. However, gathering data in this dangerous environment is best accomplished by uncrewed systems.

Florida’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force meets after half-year hiatus

It was a day of sharp questions and soul-searching as Florida’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force met Thursday [Aug. 4] for the first time since February.

The official theme was a mouthful (stay with us): “Prioritization of restoration projects within Basin Management Action Plans, Reasonable Assurance Plans, or alternative restoration plans (and) policy and funding program framework for the prioritization of restoration projects.”

Unofficially, it was broader: Why, after three years of task force effort, is Florida’s water still so troubled?

The question was top-of-mind because the day before, a coalition of 12 environmental groups released a stinging progress report. Since the five-member task force issued a set of recommendations in 2019, “Ecological conditions in Florida have not improved and, in many cases, they have worsened. Lack of meaningful water quality protections have resulted in persistent harmful algal blooms, a record number of manatee deaths, and an overall decline in water quality statewide.”

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Friends of the Everglades executive director Eve Samples noted “Among the 32 metrics we tracked, only four have been implemented.” She heads one of the dozen nonprofits that compiled the report. ”So there’s a lot of progress to be made.”

Samples went through a list of the task force’s priorities, each followed by “not implemented.”

Neither Samples nor others commenting blamed the group members; rather their frustration was with government, the Legislature and the agencies charged with carrying out the mandates of each.

Florida’s algae bloom response called too limited, too slow

'I don’t think legislators are going to really endorse bigger sticks in this situation.'

When it comes to environmental protection and conservation, Florida government can end up on the side that posits it’s better to allow pollution, and try to do something about it on the back end, than prevent that pollution in the first place.

And that’s causing a serious problem getting a handle on the state’s algae bloom affliction.

“I don’t think legislators are going to really endorse bigger sticks in this situation,” said Mike Parsons, a Florida Gulf Coast University professor and state Blue-Green Algae Task Force member, during the Task Force’s latest meeting.

Without political will to hold polluters accountable, people and organizations collaborating on dealing with blue-green algae proliferation — especially and including the state government — have to run through a series of next-best-thing ideas to put into effect.

Task Force members met with experts and the larger public to reframe the conversation on their challenges, and discuss project prioritization policies, at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.

Video of August 4th Blue-Green Task Force Meeting »

Study: Most rainwater on Earth contains PFAS exceeding safe levels

New research from Stockholm University shows that PFAS in rainwater around the world are exceeding safe levels. Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are chemical pollutants, often called “forever chemicals” present in many everyday items, like food packaging and clothing. The chemicals leach into the environment, affecting everything from the air we breathe to even rainfall.

The study, published in Environmental Science & Technology, tested four selected perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs): perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS), perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorohexanesulfonic acid (PFHxS), and perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA) in rainwater, soil, and surface waters in different locations globally.

The researchers concluded that PFOA and PFOS levels in rainwater “greatly exceed” the Lifetime Drinking Water Health Advisory levels from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The study also noted that all four of the tested PFAAs in rainwater were often above the Danish drinking water limits, and PFOS levels were usually higher than the Environmental Quality Standard for Inland European Union Surface Water.

Rainwater wasn’t the only problem, either. “Atmospheric deposition also leads to global soils being ubiquitously contaminated and to be often above proposed Dutch guideline values,” the study said.

As such, the authors said there is really no way to avoid these chemicals on Earth anymore.

New boater rules set after completion of emergency dredge on Beer Can Island

Restricted areas on the north end of Longboat Key will only allow swimmers, kayakers and paddleboarders.

The emergency dredging project of Longboat Key’s Canal 1A near Beer Can Island has been completed.

Over the past three weeks, the crews have been working to reopen the passage between the lagoon to the west and Sarasota Bay to the east for wildlife access, tidal flushing and boats.

The town used previously granted permits from state and federal agencies to dredge about 1,500 cubic yards of beach-compatible sand from the waterway.

The crews that excavated the sand were directed to place it on a mound temporarily. The sand will then be moved to the Gulf side of the bridge.

In a “Talk of the Town” segment with Town Manager Tom Harmer, Public Works Department Director Isaac Brownman met on the newly created mound of sand on the area also known as Greer Island. They discussed the ins and outs of the project and what the department saw for the future of the area.

NOAA High Tide forecast predicts an increase in coastal flooding

ST. PETERSBURG – George Daoud lives in the Shore Acres area of St. Pete where his home was completely flooded during Tropical Storm Eta in 2020.

"The water came in from this side, this side, and that side so we have flooding coming from the front and the back," said Daoud.

His home is right next to Tampa Bay so he’s installing two sump pumps in his yard to pump out the water fast, and he may soon need it.

NOAA just released their High Tide forecast which predicts the Tampa Bay area will see 1 to 4 days of high tide flooding between now and next Spring.

Scientists said that's more than twice what it was 20 years ago.

NOAA scientists said sea level rise is to blame, which they predict will rise by another foot in the next 20 years. They say by 2050, high tide flooding events will rise to 70 to 100 days a year in the Tampa Bay area.

Manatee County aims to improve water quality through oyster restoration projects

MANATEE COUNTY – Over the next few years, Manatee County will embark on a large-scale oyster restoration project in the Manatee River. The hope is to enhance water quality long term.

The county wants to get the community involved in the process. Through partnerships with Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, Tampa Bay Estuary Program, and START or Solutions to Avoid Red Tide, they’re able to help get oyster shells from your dinner plate back into the water to serve a new purpose as a “vertical oyster garden.”

After oyster shells go through a six to eight-month quarantine period at Robinson Preserve, volunteers will assemble the shells into vertical oyster gardens.

“They are built by volunteers. We take shells and just stack them along a stainless steel wire,” said Manatee County environmental specialist Shaun Swartz. “The idea is that we attach this under docks and over time, marine life will aggregate on these vertical oyster gardens.”

Swarts showed 8 On Your Side how the string of oyster shells transforms once underwater for an extended period of time, becoming home to crabs, worms, snails, and more oysters.

Shining example: Tampa Bay’s water quality is declining after a half-century of gains

Political will made Tampa Bay one of the nation’s shining examples of how a region could come together — with local, state and federal government working with citizens, NGOs and industry to clean up water pollution. Unprecedented cooperation over decades culminated in Tampa Bay becoming a national model for restoration and the success of the Clean Water Act.

But today, Tampa Bay is again plagued by fecal and industrial pollution and other dangers. Seagrass levels in the Bay peaked in 2016 at more than 42,000 acres. Now that number has dipped to 35,000 acres. Manatees, which had returned to the Bay alongside seagrass, were taken off the endangered species list in 2017. Now they are dying in record numbers. Algae blooms over the last five years have led to some of the worst fish kills in Tampa Bay since the 1970s.

On the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act of 1972, Tampa Bay is still a model for what political will, cooperation and regulation can achieve. It is also an example of the limitations of the half-century-old law amid weak state pollution control; intense population growth; and climate change.

UPDATE: No-Swim Advisories LIFTED for 4 Manatee County beaches

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The Manatee County Health Department retested water at the beaches listed below on August 1st and all were found to have Enterococci levels in acceptable range. Results »


Original notice:

Per a press release from the Department of Health (DOH) Manatee today, no-swim advisories have been issued for the following Manatee beaches:

  • Bayfront Park North (near northernmost access to the park)
  • Manatee Public Beach North (near Lifeguard Station Tower 1)
  • Coquina Beach North (near Lifeguard Station Tower 5)
  • Palma Sola South: The no-swim advisory issued for Palma Sola South on July 25 remains in effect. Palma Sola South is located along Manatee Avenue West near Palma Sola Bay.

A no-swim advisory is issued when it is thought that contact with the water at the site could make beachgoers sick. DOH-Manatee received test results from samples taken at all four beaches on July 26 that show an elevated level of Enterococci bacteria. The advisories will be in effect until the waters meet Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) safety guidelines.

Other beaches located in Manatee County are not under advisory. Additional information about the Healthy Beaches program can be found by calling (941) 714-7593 or by visiting the Florida Department of Health’s Florida Healthy Beaches page.

Another research study implicates nutrient pollution in exacerbating red tides

New research finds that human pollution influences the severity of red tides more directly than scientists previously understood. The connection sheds light on the need for better water-quality monitoring statewide — and ultimately, to reduce the nutrient pollution flowing into Florida’s waterways.

While red tides occur naturally, scientists have long debated the degree to which they are worsened by high levels of nutrients such as nitrogen from human sources agricultural and urban. Scientists had previously found correlation between so-called nutrient loads and red tide. But the new research offers some of the strongest evidence yet that humans directly influence the severity of the toxic blooms.

The study focuses on the Caloosahatchee River in Southwest Florida, which carries water and pollutants from Lake Okeechobee as it flows west to the Gulf of Mexico.

In the past, scientists looked for a direct relationship between nitrogen and red tide. But excess nitrogen doesn’t cause red tide — it exacerbates it, an effect that can take weeks. Looking for a short-term correlation did not implicate pollutants.

Millions of gallons of Piney Point stormwater will be released into Tampa Bay

Officials say the water has accumulated during the rainy season and is not contaminated, but environmental groups are not convinced the discharge won't impact the health of the bay.

Manatee County commissioners this week gave a green light to the design and service agreement of a new facility that will treat contaminated water from Piney Point before it’s injected into a deep well that is under construction.

But before that work begins, officials must contend with current issues at the site.

Since the beginning of the year, 27 inches of rain have accumulated in one of the gypsum stacks at the former Piney Point phosphate processing plant, and the plan is to pump that stormwater into Tampa Bay.

Last year, 215 million gallons of wastewater were discharged from the site into Tampa Bay because a leak at one of the plant's reservoirs threatened to cause a catastrophic breach.

"It would not be nearly as problematic as last year," said David Tomasko, executive director of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program.

"What came out last year was liquid fertilizer, basically. That being said, it's still roughly equivalent to adding about a hundred bags of lawn fertilizer to Tampa Bay and we're not really in a healthy place right now in lots of lower Tampa Bay."

A recent study shows that release likely made a subsequent outbreak of red tide much worse.

Tomasko says despite the disaster, Tampa Bay is still healthier than it was in the 1970s.

"But if we don't get our act together and completely shut down Piney Point and do a better job with stormwater and do a better job with our wastewater infrastructure, what we suffered last year could become more common," Tomasko said. "We don't want to become the next Indian River Lagoon."

The stormwater that has accumulated sits on top of a layer of mud and silt that originally came from the dredging of Port Manatee.

EPA Announces $132 Million for National Estuary Programs from Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

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EPA releases guidance on how the agency will administer the program

WASHINGTON – On Jul. 26, 2022, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced an unprecedented investment of $132 million from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law over the next five years for important work to protect and restore estuaries of national significance, funding projects to address climate resilience, prioritize equity, and manage other key water quality and habitat challenges across 28 estuaries along the Atlantic, Gulf and Pacific coasts and in Puerto Rico. EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan highlighted the historic investment during a visit to Caño Martín Peña tidal channel in the San Juan Bay Estuary system as part of his Journey to Justice tour visit to Puerto Rico.

The announcement includes guidance for NEPs on how EPA will administer program funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The guidance provides key information, including equity strategies, reporting requirements, and flexibility to the NEPs to address the priorities in their watersheds that are defined by local, city, state, federal, private and non-profit stakeholders. EPA expects NEPs to accelerate Comprehensive Conservation Management Plan implementation, develop strategies and practices that enable these program areas to be resilient and adapt to changing climate conditions, and make investments that ensure water quality and habitat benefits of this program are realized by disadvantaged communities.

New law requires the state to hit certain cleanup levels of toxic ‘forever chemicals’

Lawmakers warn that “these are forever chemicals that are within our environment now, and are going to create a major environmental disaster."

The use of PFAS, short for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances that are a possible carcinogen, has spread to a variety of products that touch daily life: non-stick coatings, food products, air particles and foams.

Researchers continue to discover new ways that PFAS enter our environment and bodies.

HB 1475 and companion bill SB 7012 now legally require the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to set state rules for target cleanup levels of PFAS. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law on June 20. It took effect immediately.

There are currently over 12,000 known variants, with PFOA and PHOS being the two most commonly tested chemicals by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Rep. Toby Overdorf, R-Stuart, cosponsored this bill alongside Rep. Lawrence McClure, R-Plant City, and said that a set of mandated rules from the state’s DEP would ensure municipalities cooperated with, at least, state regulations in managing levels of PFAS.

“These are forever chemicals that are within our environment now, and are going to create a major environmental disaster … If we do not deal with those things now, then we really face some big issues in the future,” Overdorf said.

He stated that while the bill was waiting for the governor’s signature, the federal government came out with temporary, updated advisories of PFAS in drinking water, which he said came in great timing for HB 1475.

Florida’s fertilizer use is affecting beach water quality

If clean water is Florida’s ‘No. 1 issue,’ here’s why keeping grass green isn’t helping

While sources of pollution are many, and the vast majority come from commercial and industrial sources, experts say there’s one piece of the puzzle that many Floridians can help solve.

Some fertilizer that keeps lawns green contains contain high levels of nitrogen or phosphorous — two nutrients known to influence harmful algae blooms. Through careless application or heavy rainfall, those nutrients can eventually make their way into local waters. There, they act as a food source that help fuel the blooms. The state and local governments have taken steps to try to prevent that from happening, like enacting controversial bans during the summer rainy season.

But a Bradenton Herald analysis shows Florida’s tracking system does not provide an accurate picture how much fertilizer is used in the state, and by whom. A request for data on the breakdown of commercial versus residential use of fertilizer raised more questions than it answered.

You can help track Tampa Bay terrapins – with your phone

The Tampa Bay Estuary Program wants people to keep an eye out for diamondback terrapins

The diamondback terrapin is an elusive turtle to spot, but avid explorers in Tampa Bay may see them often.

The Tampa Bay Estuary Program is asking anyone in the Tampa, Clearwater, and St. Petersburg areas to record terrapin sightings and send them to Heinrich Ecological Services. Along with photo or video evidence of the tiny turtles, the program asks that turtle trackers send GPS coordinates of their find.

“GPS coordinates can be captured by using your preferred navigation app and placing a pin at the location of the sighting. Be sure that the pin is saved so you can reference the coordinates in your email to the folks at Heinrich Ecological Services,” TBEP wrote in a press release.

According to the National Park Service, these yellow-spottted terrapins are the only turtle species that naturally live in costal estuaries. You may spot one while kayaking, or exploring a mangrove.

TBEP Executive Director Ed Sherwood said interested tracking participants can look for turtles anywhere in the Tampa Bay watershed. That includes areas such as Weedon Island Preserve, Clam Bayou, and Indian Rocks Nature Preserve.

“The diamondbacks are important because they are unique to the estuary ecosystem and they are under threat,” Sherwood said.

Contact Heinrich Ecological Services at 727-599-1843 or email george@heinrichecologicalservices.com.

Sign up now for the Great Bay Scallop Search

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Tampa Bay Watch is recruiting volunteers to participate in the Great Bay Scallop Search by snorkeling selected sites within Boca Ciega and Lower Tampa Bay for elusive bay scallops.The goal of the event is to monitor and document the health and status of the bay scallop population. The Great Bay Scallop Search will take place on August 20th.

Read more about the Scallop Search

Tampa Bay Watch mainly recruits volunteers with shallow draft boats, but has limited spots for canoes and kayaks. Also accepted are registrations from snorkelers without boats, but participation depends on a boater having room for you aboard their vessel.

Sign up fast for this popular event and help Tampa Bay Watch tally up the bay scallop population in Tampa Bay!

FAU study assesses climate warming, water management impacts on West Florida's continental shelf

Scientists conducted a study that provides an assessment of the potential effects of climate warming and water management of the West Florida Shelf dynamics during two particular events that affect its hydrology through the lens of a very high-resolution model.

The continental shelf is the submerged extension of a continent and as such it is at the crossroad of terrestrial, oceanic and atmospheric influences. This confluence is the lead driver of the high biological productivity that often characterizes the continental shelf regions. Their productivity is not only critical to the ecosystems that it sustains but also to the livelihood of coastal communities such as tourism, fishing, aquaculture and more.

Anthropogenic climate change is expected to have profound implications on shelf dynamics as changes in local atmospheric circulation, heat, and evaporative fluxes can significantly affect the balance between surface fluxes, horizontal transports and vertical mixing. In addition, changes to freshwater discharge from the continent whether by land management, climate driven rainfall or human-made modified freshwater discharge, have large impacts on shelf dynamics and may mitigate or exacerbate changes associated with climate.

One region where these changes are particularly evident is the Gulf of Mexico. The west Florida coast is under the influence of a significant number of freshwater inputs. They drain fresh water from precipitation (direct or delayed, local or regional) from rivers, streams, lakes, and canals into the near shore, majorly contributing to the estuarine properties of West Florida Shelf waters. This fresh water usually expands westward and southward over the shelf, and contributes to the riverine properties of the inner shelf waters.