Water Quality equal to Boston Harbor’s RAW SEWAGE dumping

Source: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2013/aug/11/move-over-fertilizer-septic-tank-drainage-also/

Investigation: Move over fertilizer; septic tank drainage also contaminating Indian River Lagoon

Study found nutrient levels in Indian River Lagoon as high as Boston Harbor’s when raw sewage was dumped there

By Scott Wyland
Posted August 11, 2013 at 4 a.m.

 

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU TC Palm for writing this article and making it front page news on Sunday.  But let’s lead with the big fact –

Harbor Branch has concluded that the contamination levels in Indian River Lagoon are comparable to that of Boston Harbor/Storrow River when the city was dumping RAW SEWAGE into the water. 

Does this not freak anyone else out??  I lived in Boston for eight lovely years, I boated about in the Storrow.  Any time the water splashed on you – you panicked.  You immediately dried yourself off.  I remember advertisements for volunteers for harbor and fens clean up – one looking for volunteers to help clean up the “human debris”  aka bodies.  We’re comparable to that????? Hello freak out button.   I can’t even explain how horrible the water conditions were there.  It’s also alarming that we’re polluting on the level of one of the largest cities in the US (note: they’ve made major efforts for clean up, kudos Boston).  The population in Okechobee is 5600.  The affected towns along the river are also clearly not Boston si

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This chart shows the dissolved inorganic nitrogen levels between 2011 and 2012 in the Indian River Lagoon. Dissolved inorganic nitrogen feeds algae blooms in the lagoon.

An angler launches a boat from his Sebastian waterfront home and zooms across the Indian River Lagoon to where his favorite sea grass bed was once teeming with fish he could almost grab with his bare hands.

But the sea grass and fish are gone. Clumps of algae now mottle the sandy bottom in the nearly barren, tea-colored water.

Harlan Franklin glances at several dolphins frolicking in the distance, a majestic sight for many people but a frustrating one for him. He would rather see fish.

Franklin, a former fishing columnist, blames the runoff funneled through canals into the lagoon for killing the sea grass. Septic tanks that leach into canals, groundwater and the lagoon contribute to the pollution, he said, though he’s not sure how much.

“I moved here to fish,” said Franklin, who has lived near the lagoon since 2006. “It’s a major disappointment.”

Researchers at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce have found sewage contaminating the entire 156-mile lagoon. Indian River County’s levels are comparable to Boston Harbor’s when raw sewage was dumped there, a new water analysis shows.

Despite growing evidence that septic tanks play a role in the lagoon’s degradation, most elected leaders are hesitant to tackle this part of the problem, largely because many property owners oppose increased septic regulations, a Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers investigation found.

Some scientists and regulatory agencies point to fertilizers as the main source of the nutrient runoff generating heavy algae in the lagoon. But Harbor Branch professor Brian LaPointe believes sewage carries more of the nutrients spurring algae growth.

“It’s really unclear how much fertilizer is reaching the lagoon,” LaPointe said. “But one septic tank on 4 acres — that’s enough to create a nutrient problem.”

Algal blooms block sunlight that sea grass needs to thrive. As the algae decompose, they deplete oxygen, which can suffocate sea grass and fish, turning clear, biodiverse waters into a murky dead zone.

Local treatment plants discharge some effluent, though most wastewater in the lagoon comes from septic tanks, said LaPointe, who has studied sewage impacts on waterways for 30 years.

There are about 120,000 septic systems on the Treasure Coast, the newspaper investigation found. As many as half were installed before stricter regulations were enacted in 1983, making them more likely to drain sewage into groundwater that ends up in the lagoon, according to data from the counties and Harbor Branch.

No one knows how many systems affect the lagoon, and recordkeeping is sketchier on older septic tanks that could cause the most harm.

One thing is certain: sewage taints the estuary.

LaPointe’s research team took a total of three lagoon-wide samples in 2011 and 2012 and found nitrogen isotopes in the algae, an element directly linked to sewage. Elevated levels of ammonium and nitrate also were detected, LaPointe said, noting anything above 3 parts per million indicates sewage.

This chart shows nitrogen isotopes in microalgae from sewage impacted coastal waters.

He called the findings a smoking gun.

All three counties on the Treasure Coast showed at least 5 parts per million. Indian River County had as much as 9 parts per million, putting it on par with troubled water bodies such as Boston Harbor, according to the research.

“I was taken aback by that,” LaPointe said. “We don’t just have a problem, we have a serious problem.”

OWNERS RESIST

North America’s most biodiverse estuary is losing some of its wildlife.

Much of the red algae, known as gracilaria, has a toxic residue LaPointe and other researchers think might have killed 145 manatees, more than 50 dolphins and about 300 pelicans in the lagoon earlier this year in Brevard County. Manatees munched on the stringy algae when it overtook sea grass, their normal dietary staple. Dolphins and pelicans eat fish that ingest the algae.

Sea grass is a vital part of the lagoon’s food web, feeding small fish and mussels larger creatures eat. An estimated 47,000 acres of sea grass has died north of Fort Pierce since 2007, experts say. In areas where it has vanished, most manatees and many fish species have left in search of better pickings, creating dead zones.

Aside from nutrients — such as nitrogen and phosphorous — sewage also contains coliform bacteria, viruses, prescription drugs and anything else flushed down the toilet, LaPointe said.

A conservationist criticizes what he says is public leaders’ reluctance to impose measures to keep septic sewage from harming the lagoon’s ecosystem.

“They have been neglecting, ignoring these septic systems,” said Richard Baker, president of the Pelican Island Audubon Society in Indian River County. “It’s very frustrating that we don’t see more actions taking place. There’s a lot of evidence that groundwater is carrying sewage into the lagoon.”

One option would be to install public sewer lines in areas that don’t have them and order nearby septic tank users to hook in, Baker said. Another would be toughening codes to require faulty systems to be fixed or scrapped.

Property owners are some of the staunchest opponents to government telling them what to do with their septic systems, especially if the changes cost money. Elected leaders tend to align with their constituents.

Replacing a tank and drainfield costs between $5,000 and $7,000 depending on the size of the home, according to vendors. If soil must be replaced, the cost of trucking in sand can bump the price to $10,000 or more.

“You start telling people they got to pay that, they’re going to tell you to stuff it,” said Franklin, who’s hooked to county sewer but is sympathetic to neighbors with septic tanks.

In 2003, Indian River County attempted to connect residents in Wabasso and Pine islands to county sewer and water lines. County officials backed off when residents complained they couldn’t afford the costs, estimated at $5,000 or more.

SEEKING SUBSIDIES

Indian River County Commissioner Tim Zorc, who wants to restore the lagoon’s health, believes a surgical approach — targeting subpar septic tanks — is less divisive than trying to overhaul an entire area such as the barrier island.

“We want to be practical,” Zorc said. “You have to prioritize your areas. Not all systems have to be replaced.”

Newer septic tanks have better filtration and funnel less solid waste to underground drainfields, which means less sewage would leach into groundwater and the lagoon, said Zorc, a longtime builder.

Still, even well-functioning systems can pollute the lagoon if they were built too close to the water, Zorc said. In that case, the household should connect to a central sewer.

The main snag is cost, Zorc said.

Baker said there are loan programs that let people pay for sewer connections over time at a lower interest rate. So fees should not be a barrier, he said.

County and city programs differ.

County residents close enough to sewer lines to hook up would pay could pay the $2,800 connection fee over five years at a 5.75 percent interest rate, said Cindy Corrente, county utilities manager.

About 3,000 households in Vero Beach’s service area are on septic, but only 10 have access to city sewer, so the rest would need to pay $15,000-plus to have new lines installed, said Rob Bolton, the city’s water and sewer director.

These customers could spread the payments throughout 20 years while paying interest at about the prime rate, Bolton said.

Grants also might be available to help homeowners pay for upgrades or to hook to a municipal sewer if it protects a major water resource, Zorc said, adding he will ask water management officials, state lawmakers and congressional leaders about possible grants.

However, state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said he’s not inclined to change people’s methods for sewage disposal or pursue state and federal grants to pay for the changes. He said he voted to repeal the state law requiring septic tank inspections, believing it was undue government intrusion.

Negron, who spearheaded a state Senate committee to study the lagoon’s ills, said he wants to concentrate on restoring the Everglades and countering the harmful effects of Lake Okeechobee releases. Still, he is willing to listen to LaPointe, whom U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, invited to speak about septic pollution at the committee’s Aug. 22 meeting in Stuart.

AGING SYSTEMS

Septic systems installed before 1983 cause the most concern.

Aside from aging, the systems can be 25 feet from waterways — some are closer — and the drainfields that hold waste can be 6 inches above groundwater.

State codes enacted in 1983 require the systems to be set back at least 50 feet from a waterway and the drainfield to be at least 2 feet above groundwater. However, the old systems — some of them installed in the 1960s — were grandfathered in. Even if they’re replaced, the owners can keep the 25-foot setback from surface water, said Cheryl Dunn, Indian River County’s environmental health director.

If well-maintained, the average septic system works properly for about 18 years, Dunn said.

Dunn said her health agents don’t look at a septic system unless someone complains, usually because of a stench. A failing system leaks long before it emits foul odors, she said.

“That’s the problem with septic systems,” Dunn said. “They’re put into the ground and forgotten.”

SEWAGE BUILD-UP

Lagoon sewage is the worst in Indian River County, especially during the rainy season.

Heavy storm runoff funneled through the main relief canal combined with a lack of incoming saltwater cause sewage levels to swell, experts say.

Tests show the nutrients that feed algal blooms were the highest when salinity was the lowest, and it coincided with water control districts releasing a high volume of stormwater, LaPointe said.

Dumping stormwater here has a similar effect, though on a smaller scale, as Lake Okeechobee’s freshwater being released into the St. Lucie River, LaPointe said. Increased stormwater carries more sewage, he said, noting the nitrogen isotopes — a chief sewage indicator — spiked to 9 parts per million during the wet seasons.

Another lagoon researcher said the water is often stagnant, allowing nutrients to build up.

Much of the lagoon north of Fort Pierce is enclosed, and the Sebastian Inlet is too small to flush it out adequately, said Grant Gilmore, senior scientist for Estuarine, Coastal and Ocean Science, a Vero Beach research firm.

The county also has thousands of septic systems in low areas near the lagoon, which itself is troublesome, LaPointe said.

In the coming year, a Harbor Branch student will trace the sources of the lagoon’s sewage. That will include looking at canals that link the lagoon to areas with septic systems.

LaPointe and Franklin both say urbanization has dealt a double blow to the lagoon.

Marshes that captured and filtered runoff were replaced with subdivisions that drain more waste into the lagoon, they say.

Franklin slows his boat as he cruises through a manatee protection zone not far from his house. He grumbles that the slow zone is pointless because there are no more manatees here.

“I’m 84, and they’re not going to fix this in my lifetime,” he said.

Click here to see a graphic showing dissolved inorganic nitrogen levels, which feed algae blooms in the lagoon.

Click here for a chart showing nitrogen isotopes in microalgae from sewage impacted coastal waters.

Click here for a chart that represents the amount of macroalgae recorded in the Indian River Lagoon during 2011 and 2012. It also shows the amount of macroalgae represented when when sewage is present.

 

Factoids:

SEPTIC SYSTEM PERMITS

Indian River County:37,000, roughly half issued before 1983. Of the 900 systems on the barrier island — where they’re more likely to be near waterways — 747 are more than 30 years old

St. Lucie County:45,000, about 18,000 date back before 1983

Martin County: 40,000, officials didn’t know how many predate 1983

 

OLDER VS/ NEWER SEPTIC SYSTEMS

Before 1983:

• Septic systems could be 25 feet from waterways, and some were allowed to be closer.

• Drainfields that hold waste can be 6 inches above groundwater at seasonal high.

• Roughly half of Florida’s 2.7 million septic systems were installed before 1983.

 

1983 and later:

• Septic systems must be at least 50 feet from a waterway

• Drainfields must be at least 2 feet above groundwater at seasonal high.

• Pre-1983 systems grandfathered in.

Source: Florida Department of Health

 

INSPECTIONS

A law passed in 2010 required homeowners to inspect septic systems at their expense every five years and called for health officials to ensure all 2.7 million systems statewide were checked every five years. If serious flaws were found, such as leaky tanks, the owners would have to repair or replace the systems.

The law stirred an outcry.

Homeowners, tea party leaders and other critics pressured the Legislature into repealing the law in 2012. Counties were put in charge of inspections and can choose not to do them. Indian River and St. Lucie counties do no routine inspections. Martin County inspects about 120 systems yearly, a fraction of its inventory.

Algae Releasing Toxins

Source: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2013/aug/06/algae-samples-st-lucie-river-test-positive-toxins/

 

MARTIN COUNTY — Tests by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection have confirmed toxins in the blue-green algae blooms covering the St. Lucie Estuary.

Even before the toxins were confirmed, the Florida Department of Health in Martin County urged residents to avoid contact with algae in the entire estuary, from the St. Lucie Canal to the St. Lucie Inlet.

“Now, knowing that the algae is releasing toxins, we’re continuing that advisory,” said Bob Washam of the county health department.

In late July, concentrations of Microcystis aeruginosa — a type of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, that can produce toxins — began showing up in blooms in the estuary.

Washam said late Tuesday afternoon the toxins were found in samples from three sites in the estuary: Hoggs Cove, in the area where the Rio community and the town of Sewall’s Point meet; Pendarvis Cove in Palm City; and off Harbor Point Drive in the Snug Harbor area of Stuart.

The toxins in Microcystis aeruginosa can be harmful to people and pets. Exposure to water containing toxins may cause nausea and vomiting if ingested and rash or hay fever symptoms if touched or inhaled.

Toxins in the algae can kill small animals in the estuary, such as shrimp and crabs.

In late July, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission lab found Microcystis aeruginosa in all seven samples collected by the health department. However, further tests by the Department of Environmental Protection were necessary to confirm the presence of toxins.

In a related matter, the health departments in both Martin and St. Lucie counties reported results of recent tests for enteric bacteria.

St. Lucie health officials urged residents Tuesday to avoid contact with the North Fork of the St. Lucie River from River Park Marina at Prima Vista Boulevard south to Martin County. Testing revealed higher than normal levels of enteric bacteria. The four locations sampled were River Park Marina, Veterans Park, Kitching Cove and waters near Harbour Ridge. The advisory will remain in effect until results show consistent readings in the good range.

Martin County announced Tuesday afternoon levels of enteric bacteria at the sandbar in the Indian River Lagoon between Sewall’s Point and Sailfish Point had returned to the “good” level in tests Monday.

Washam said the department is still warning people to avoid contact with water at the popular weekend gathering spot for boaters.

The bacteria — which may come from stormwater runoff, pets, wildlife and human sewage — can cause upset stomach, diarrhea, eye irritation and skin rashes.

“We want to have a few weeks of ‘good’ results before we say the sandbar is safe,” Washam said. “Besides, it’s in an area where blue-green algae has been found, so people should stay out of the water.”

Other sample sites near the Roosevelt Bridge and Sandsprit Park in Stuart and Leighton Park in Palm City remain in the “poor” range and are also part of the advisory.

Bacteria levels around the Roosevelt Bridge have been “poor” every week since June 17, according to the health department. At Sandsprit Park, the bacteria levels have been “poor” since July 1.

Washam said bacteria levels at the Stuart and Jensen Beach causeways are in the “satisfactory” range, and the areas are considered safe for contact. Ocean beaches throughout the county are in the good range.

The current algae blooms and hikes in bacteria levels are more common when a combination of conditions — nutrients, low-salinity, warm water and sunlight — occur.

Local runoff from many days of rain and discharges of nutrient-rich water from Lake Okeechobee have contributed the first two criteria. The Lake O releases began May 8. On Monday, nutrient-rich freshwater has been flowing through the St. Lucie Lock into the estuary and Indian River Lagoon at a rate of almost 3.8 billion gallons of water a day.

WHAT TO KNOW

Here’s what you need to know about blue-green algae, also called cyanobacteria, that has been reported in the St. Lucie Estuary and the Indian River Lagoon:

Some species produce toxins that can make humans and animals sick, causing stomach and intestinal illness, respiratory distress, allergic reactions, skin irritations, liver damage and neurotoxic reactions.

Swallowing even small amounts of toxin can result in flu-like symptoms including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. In large amounts, toxins can damage the liver, kidneys and the nervous system.

Swimming or wading in a bloom can result in skin irritation, hives, blisters and rashes.

Inhaling toxins can result in hay fever-like symptoms such as itchy eyes, sore throat and congestion.

Because of their size, children and pets are at greater risk for poisoning.

If you or your pet is exposed to toxins, rinse immediately and thoroughly with fresh water and soap.

To report illness from exposure, call the Florida Poison Information Center at 800-222-1222.

Source: Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute

 

CLICK HERE for a video of the algae causing rashes and allergic reactions
http://www.tcpalm.com/videos/detail/wptv-toxic-algae-causing-rashes-and-lesions

When politics ruin the environment

 

 

From: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2013/aug/04/all-lagoon-committee-members-have-taken-big/
All lagoon committee members have taken Big Sugar money

 

File photo
Lake Okeechobee

PHOTO BY DEBORAH SILVER // BUY THIS PHOTO

File photo Lake Okeechobee

Each Florida senator tasked with addressing the policies that pollute the Indian River Lagoon has benefitted from Big Sugar donations.

All eight members of a new state Senate panel on the harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges into the lagoon have accepted campaign cash from sugar’s biggest players within their last two elections. Sen. Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican who convened and will chair the panel, is the committee’s biggest beneficiary of sugar donations.

Three of the committee members didn’t take sugar money in the 2012 election cycle, but received checks from Big Sugar in their second-most recent elections — either 2008 or 2010, since senators serve four-year terms on a staggered schedule.

Even with three senators abstaining last election, committee members took in at least $69,250 combined from sugar. That doesn’t include what they accepted through seven no-limit political committees, which totals $828,500 since 2008.

POTENTIAL CONFLICT

The Select Committee on Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin is tasked with writing a report on potential policy and budget changes to aid the ailing lagoon. Those suggestions could end up in a bill or the budget next legislative session, which starts in March.

Environmental advocates argue Lake Okeechobee discharges should flow naturally south toward the Everglades, right through sugar lands. Instead, the water is released east into the St. Lucie Estuary and west to the Caloosahatchee River via canals. The nutrient-laden freshwater can be harmful for marine wildlife and vegetation, and can produce algae blooms toxic to humans.

Sugar critics also contend the companies don’t pay their fair share to clean up the River of Grass, and taxpayers foot the bill.

“It really should shock the conscience of the community to have such a big lobbying industry going on all the time,” said Karl Wickstrom, coordinator of Stuart-based Rivers Coalition Defense Fund.

NO SURPRISE

Nathaniel Reed, a Jupiter Island resident and Everglades Foundation vice president, said the sugar love shouldn’t come as a surprise. The industry hasn’t sprinkled cash solely to those on the new. Its influence spans the entire statehouse and beyond.

“They own the Legislature to the extent that they donate to every single leading member,” Reed said.

U.S. Sugar Corp. and Florida Crystals Corp., the two biggest sugar players, gave candidates, committees and parties millions of dollars in 2012 through various related companies, subsidiaries and executives. Republicans received more, but they also hold majorities in both legislative chambers and occupy the Governor’s Mansion.

Each campaign account check is limited to $500 for a primary election, $500 for the general. Some lawmakers received 30 or more $500 donations from a bevy of differently named companies and individuals, each ultimately under the sugar umbrella. The checks featured names of railroad companies, citrus producers, international exporters and homemakers, but the money stems back to powerful sugar conglomerates and executives.

NEGRON: NO INFLUENCE

The biggest sugar cash poured into lawmaker-operated political committees that don’t face contribution limits. Negron and Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, share two fundraising groups that brought in $405,000 combined from sugar since 2010. A Negron committee accepted the biggest single check, $150,000 from U.S. Sugar.

Benacquisto, who represents a Gulf Coast region similarly bombarded by lake releases, received at least $23,750 in sugar money last election. The Senate majority leader’s campaign account total is the highest on the lagoon committee.

Negron said campaign checks don’t determine how he votes.

For instance, Negron was the lone senator to vote against HB 999, which blocked lawsuits on 30-year, no-bid leases for sugar farmers in the northern Everglades. Gov. Rick Scott has signed the bill into law.

“I think my voting record shows that whether it’s the insurance industry, agricultural community, whatever group it is, I will weigh each issue on its pros and cons and make the best judgment that I believe is possible,” Negron said during a June forum on the lagoon at the Stuart News.

FINDING SUGAR DONORS

Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers sifted through state campaign finance records and found dozens of sugar-related donors, almost all of which trace back to U.S. Sugar Corp. or Florida Crystals Corp. Here is a look at how some donations are in the industry’s interest, but don’t indicate ties to sugar at first glance.

South Central Florida Express

Subsidiary of U.S. Sugar; short line railroad with 156 miles of track, 14 locomotives, 950 railcars and 54 employees; hauls sugar cane, fertilizer, lumber, paper and citrus products

Donated to Negron, Benacquisto, Montford, Grimsley, Dean (2008), Hays (2010)

Donated about $55,250 in 2012 state elections

St. Lucie River Co. Ltd.

Limited partnership listed in state incorporation and campaign finance records at two West Palm Beach addresses used by Florida Crystals; listed as partner of Closter Farms Inc., which includes a Fanjul sugar family member as chairman/director; described as “sugar” in certain contribution records

Donated to Negron, Benacquisto, Hays (2010), Dean (2008)

Donated about $10,500 in 2012 state elections

Florida Pioneer Investments

Listed in campaign finance records at the same West Palm Beach address as Florida Crystals; includes a Fanjul sugar family member as director

Donated to Benacquisto; Dean (2008); Alliance for a Strong Economy, a Negron committee; Floridians for Better Leadership, a Montford committee

Donated about $91,500 in 2012 state elections

A SUGARY LAGOON COMMITTEE

Here is a look at how much sugar money state senators on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee committee have received:

Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart (chairman)

Raised for 2012 election: $692,731

At least $15,500 from sugar interests

$690,000 to unlimited contribution committees from sugar interests:

Alliance for a Strong Economy (shared with Benacquisto)

$345,000 from sugar interests since 2008

Freedom First Committee

$235,000 from sugar interests since 2009

Protect Our Liberty (shared with Benacquisto)

$60,000 from sugar interests since 2011

Florida Conservative Majority

$30,000 from sugar interests since 2010

Florida Conservative Action Committee

$20,000 from sugar interests since 2012

Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee (vice chair)

Raised for 2012 election: $344,967

$7,500 from sugar interests

$100,000 to unlimited contribution committee, Floridians for Effective Leadership, since 2010

Sen. Charles Dean, R-Inverness (vice chair)

Raised for 2012 election: $113,225

$0 directly from sugar interests (two donations from committees with large sugar contributions)

Raised for 2008 election: $460,644

$10,500 from sugar interests

$10,000 to unlimited contribution committee Nature Coast Conservative Coalition from Alliance for a Strong Economy (large recipient of sugar money; see Negron)

Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring

Raised for 2012 election: $914,449

At least $19,500 from sugar interests

$38,500 to unlimited contribution committee, Saving Florida’s Heartland, from sugar interests since 2008

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers

Raised for 2012 election: $729,846

At least $23,750 from sugar interests

$405,000 to unlimited contribution committees from sugar interests:

Protect Our Liberty (shared with Negron)

$60,000 from sugar interests since 2011

Alliance for a Strong Economy

$345,000 from sugar interests since 2008

Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach

Raised for 2012 election: $343,566

$3,000 from sugar interests

Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa

Raised for 2012 election: $66,913

$0 directly from sugar interests

Raised for 2010 election: $56,838

$1,000 from sugar interests

Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla

Raised for 2012 election: $220,335

$0 directly from sugar interests

Raised for 2010 election: $396,142

$15,500 from sugar interests

Source: Florida Division of Elections

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This makes me so sick. “Years of waiting ahead”

My thoughts:

I am literally sick to my stomach at the thought of this being a 10 year project.  While it is a realistic timeframe, these conditions are not something that the river can sustain for another decade.

ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY-FOUR BILLION GALLONS OF WATER

That’s how much water is dumped YEARLY from Okeechobee into our estuary.  It’s killing every living creature in sight, some of whom have never left the lagoon and will certain all be killed off by the time the red tape around this water divergence gets lifted.

One of the wild dolphin feeding moments I captured on camera. Photo by Lindsey Auclair

Un-fun fact: the dolphins of Indian River Lagoon spend their entire lives in the lagoon.  The population once numbered 700, a staggering 10% have already been killed by our pollution this year.  They’ll all be gone.

Does that sink in?  

ALL of the dolphins in our estuary will be gone.  

The dolphins that are being found dead are so emaciated they must have been starving for an extended period.  You’ve all seen the photos, it’s horrific.

This got me thinking about some of my experiences with our lagoon dolphin.  Every.single.time. I’ve been out on our boat, we’ve seen dolphin.  Well that is, until now.

The last few times we were out fishing, the dolphins literally swarmed the boat waiting for our catch-and-release fish to be dropped back into the water.  They ate every one we gave them.  One dolphin repeatedly came right up to the boat, waited patiently for the fish to be unhooked and let us drop it right into his or her mouth.

At the time, I thought this was adorable.  Now, it’s overwhelmingly depressing.  I had no idea they were starving.  I thought they were just clever.  Now I know they were fighting to survive on a night I was just out for a sunset cruise.  Maybe you don’t care about dolphin (which you should by the way, who doesn’t care about dolphin?), but what about the recreational sporting shop owners who make their living showing off the gorgeous dolphin, manatee and wildlife?  What about the fishing guides who can’t book a charter in root beer brown water and feel right charging for a trip they know won’t produce any fish?  What about the kids who want to go tubing at Ski Island and can’t because of the bacteria?  What about the fish that you once were able to catch in the backyard and now

1) can’t find. Surprise: they’re gone!

and 2) can’t eat. Surprise: they’re toxic!

The list of travesties goes on and on.  And that’s why I am sick to my stomach about about a ten year plan.  In ten years, nothing will be left to save.

And all this in a body of water called “an estuary of national significance” for its once unparalleled diversity.  What’s more, now the pollution from the runoff is causing a bacteria harmful to humans, a toxic algae as it were.   With effects such as; hay fever, rashes, diarrhea, vomiting, burning eyes, etc etc etc.

Yet somehow law makers, the Army Corps of Engineers and even our Governor are OK with this?  It makes me want to scream.

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Originally found here: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2013/aug/05/years-of-waiting-ahead-for-opponents-of-lake/

Years of waiting ahead for opponents of Lake Okeechobee discharges

By Tyler Treadway
Posted August 5, 2013 at 1:36 p.m., updated August 5, 2013 at 4:54 p.m.

TROPICAL FARMS — The 5,000-plus people who gathered here Saturday near the St. Lucie Lock and Dam demanding an end to discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary have a wait on their hands.

Getting the water now heading east to the St. Lucie and west to the Caloosahatchee estuary to flow south instead will take at least 10 to 15 years.

“I may not be around by then,” said Mark Perry, executive director of the Florida Oceanographic Society in Stuart, “but my kids will be. That’s why I refuse to give up hope; that’s why I tell people, ‘Don’t give up. Keep the pressure on.’ ”

The Army Corps of Engineers releases water from Lake O into the estuaries whenever heavy rainfall in southern and Central Florida, and the potential for rainfall, threaten the Herbert Hoover Dike.

Most recently, the Corps began releasing water through the dam May 8, most of it rain runoff in the St. Lucie Canal watershed.

The influx of fresh water has removed practically all the salinity from the naturally brackish estuary, killing oysters and seagrass and allowing coliform bacteria, which can’t survive in salty water, to thrive. Since late July, potentially toxic blue-green algae has been blooming in the estuary, a result of phosphorus and nitrogen in the water.

“The immediate outlook is pretty dismal,” Perry said. “There’s so much water coming into Lake Okeechobee and nowhere for it to go.”

Here’s a look at some of the short-term and long-term proposals to eliminate, or at least alleviate, the discharges.

SHORT-TERM

Perry and other have suggested levels of the lakes above Lake Okeechobee be raised to keep some of the water out of Lake O and thus out of the estuary.

“The water levels in the chain of lakes along the Kissimmee River are kept at a certain height by the Corps of Engineers and the water management district,” he said. “But if they could go above those levels by just a foot, even half a foot, all that water wouldn’t get dumped on us.”

Perry said stormwater treatment areas and water conservation areas south of the lake also could hold more water to help alleviate the discharges.

“Right now they’re not letting any water go south,” he said, “and that’s frustrating.”

In an email titled “Setting the record straight — Lake O water releases” sent Aug. 2, the Corps calls the idea that water facilities north and south of the lake aren’t being utilized a myth.

Canals and other structures north and south of the lake can’t be kept at maximum depths, the Corps stated, because of the threat of tropical storms.

“ … (A) heavy rain could generate runoff that can’t be discharged through the canals, resulting in street flooding and backup of water into yards, fields and possibly homes.”

Ernie Barnett, interim executive director of the water district, said last week about 25,000 acres for sugar in the 650,000-acre Everglades Agricultural Area already has been flooded. All of it, however, is fallow farmland already out of production.

An Aug. 22 state Senate committee headed by Stuart Republican Sen. Joe Negron will look into the possibility of renting farm land to provide short-term storage of water to keep it from being sent to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.

“Putting it anywhere is better than putting it in the estuary,” Perry said.

LONG-TERM

Kevin Powers of Stuart, vice chairman of the South Florida Water Management District Board of Governors, called a 12,000-acre project including a reservoir and stormwater treatment areas under construction along the C-44 Canal connecting the lake and the estuary “the closest thing we’ve got to getting some big relief for the estuary. ”

Still, the earliest the C-44 project could be complete is 2017; and that’s if the water district builds the stormwater treatment area at the same time the Corps, which is tasked with overall construction, builds the reservoir. Otherwise, completion won’t be until 2020 or 2021.

The project, estimated to cost between $750 million and $1 billion, will clean phosphorus and nitrogen out of the canal before it reaches the estuary and the Indian River Lagoon beyond; but the project won’t stop huge amounts of fresh water from pouring into the estuary.

The Central Everglades Planning Project, a $2 billion initiative to use publicly owned land to divert more water from Lake O to the Everglades, will take at least 10 years to complete and account for only a portion of the water dumped east and west from Lake O.

According to Perry, the project would be able to move south about 65.2 billion gallons of water each year.

But, Perry added, the St. Lucie Estuary gets an average of about 143.4 billion gallons of water in discharges from Lake O every year. And almost 326 billion gallons are sent west to the Caloosahatchee every year.

The project needs to be included in the federal Water Resources Development Act, which generally passes once every seven years, by Dec. 31. Everglades advocates worry about missing that deadline, since the water district and Corps still haven’t agreed on a first draft of a plan.

A proposal to complement that project and eliminate the Lake O discharges altogether calls for buying 21,000 acres in the Everglades Agricultural Area and building a 159-billion-gallon reservoir. It would take at least as long, and cost as much, as the Central Everglades project, but the two could done simultaneously.

The proposal, often referred to as Plan 6 in reference to an early plan to create a flow way from Lake Okeechobee to the south, also would cost about $2 billion.

Neighborhood association panel makes Indian River Lagoon water quality a priority

By Susan Burgess
Posted July 16, 2013 at 4 a.m.

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Bob Bruce minces no words when he talks about the current condition of the once-pristine Indian River Lagoon.

“It’s declining and we don’t want a cesspool in our backyard causing property values to become depressed, especially the ones fronting on the lagoon,” said Bruce, a former county Planning and Zoning Board chairman who co-chairs the Indian River Neighborhood Association’s Water and Lagoon Committee with Debby Ecker.

The committee is adamant about telling local governments they want the lagoon’s sea grasses to return, fishing to improve, and the lagoon’s economic and recreational values restored.

Well known for its interest in managing growth in Indian River County, the nearly 7,000-member association added the Indian River Lagoon’s degrading water quality to its priorities in March.

“They are a pretty influential group,” said County Commissioner Tim Zorc, who invited Bruce to represent the association on his 20-member Indian River Lagoon Working Group. “It will be great to work with them.”

The association, which represents about 300 smaller organizations, works to preserve the quality of life and natural resources in Indian River County.

“We saw there was an opportunity for people to pull together and propose remedies,” said Ecker, a former Audubon board member and local activist. “This brought together a number of interests, in terms of preservation of natural resources because the lagoon makes such an important contribution to our lives.”

PRIORITIES

Three priorities top the committee’s list: leaky septic tanks; stormwater runoff that carries fertilizer and pesticides to the lagoon; and stormwater runoff from roadways that washes grass clippings from roadsides and medians, as well as oil, gas and other toxic substances into the lagoon.

The easiest to fix may be fertilizer usage, Ecker said. On July 2, the Indian River County Commission agreed to adopt fertilizer regulations drafted by the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Stormwater and septic tank pollution, together with the loss of 47,000 acres of sea grasses, has driven fishing guides to the Fort Pierce and Sebastian inlets, where tidal flushing improves the water quality, said Brian Carman, a fishing guide, committee member and the association’s former executive director.

Fishing guides like him have seen a decline in fishing and water quality since 2009, he said.

“It’s been like that for over a year now.”

NEXT STEPS

The committee plans to see what Zorc’s group does before deciding whether it should present the County Commission with a separate or combined list of problems and possible solutions.

“The committee wants to take a direct look at what we can do and what ideas we can bring to local governments,” Carman said. “The association is an advocacy group. So government has to do this.”

Solutions to some problems, such as leaky septic tanks, could prove costly, Carman said.

“But we can ask local governments to look into ways to find funding to ease the burden on property owners.”

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