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

Water-Related News

Venice reassures residents about PFAS compounds in drinking water

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The City’s Drinking Water and PFAS

What are PFAS? Per-and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS), also commonly known as “forever chemicals,” are byproducts of the manufacturing processes used to make non-stick items, waterproofing, and stain-resistant products. They are also found in firefighting foam. The major concern is that these compounds are being found in water sources near manufacturing plants and firefighter academies. Medically, exposure to PFAS over long periods of time can increase the risk of thyroid cancer, weaken childhood immunity, and other ailments.

What does this mean for public drinking water systems?

Public water systems will have three years to complete the initial monitoring requirements. They must inform the public of the level of PFAS measured in their drinking water and they must implement solutions to reduce PFAS in their drinking water to levels below the standards within five years. Currently, there are readily available solutions on the market now – granulated activated carbon, ion-exchange, and reverse-osmosis. The City Currently uses Reverse Osmosis to treat your drinking water.

What is the Utilities Department doing regarding PFAS?

The City of Venice is committed to providing meaningful information to address potential concerns to its customers related to PFAS, the forever chemicals. The information provided below is intended to explain some of the important background information needed to understand specific actions the Utilities Department has been taking to address PFAS and other recent news related to PFAS.

In 2013, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) began to consider regulating these compounds in drinking water as part of their required Unregulated Contaminant Testing program. In this program, utilities are required to test their water for groups of contaminants that the EPA is considering creating rules and monitoring levels for. Recently the EPA has passed directives for all municipalities to begin testing cycles for 6 PFAS compounds and have set maximum contaminant levels (MCL) for each. States have the option to accept these levels or to set ones for themselves that are lower and thus more restrictive.

The Venice Utilities Department has been closely monitoring all of these coming changes for years. We tested our drinking water as required during EPA’s Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR)-3 testing cycle in 2013. We again tested our drinking water going to our customers and the raw water coming into the Water Treatment Plant in 2020 to have updated results to share with customers. During both testing events the levels of PFAS in our drinking and raw water were found to be below detectable limits (BDL). BDL means that the levels of PFAS were below the outside laboratories’ ability to detect any contaminants in the water with currently available technology.

Sarasota County to host public meeting on climate-related flood, storm surge study

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SARASOTA COUNTY – Sarasota County residents are invited to a July 23 public meeting to learn the findings of a study focused on the threat flooding and sea level rise could pose to county assets.

The meeting will showcase highlights from the county’s Vulnerability Assessment and Resilience analysis, a state-funded project to look at public infrastructure and identify possible projects aimed at reducing risks and potential funding avenues.

“By planning for these vulnerabilities, we aim to enhance the resilience of our coastal systems and infrastructure, to safeguard our economy and reduce future costs,” said Sara Kane, sustainability and resilience manager with Sarasota County UF/IFAS Extension and Sustainability.

Sarasota County features miles of coastline and waterways that attract and benefit residents, visitors and businesses alike. Officials here, as in many other coastal areas, are working to safeguard these social and economic benefits against the risks posed by flooding, sea level rise, storm surges and other climate-related stressors.

Part of that effort has included completing the vulnerability study, launched in 2023 and funded through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Resilient Florida grant program.

Attendees can join the 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. meeting in person or online to learn key study findings, including focus area priorities—such as locations where flooding or storm surge threaten a wide range of buildings and other infrastructure—and explore adaptation strategies. The meeting also will offer information about the Resilient Florida program.

The in-person meeting is set for the Sarasota County Extension office at Twin Lakes Park, 6700 Clark Road, Sarasota, with light refreshments available. Learn more and register to attend—in person or online—at www.eventbrite.com/e/916573133917.

For more information, visit Source: Sarasota County »

State of Florida updates stormwater regulations

Governor Ron DeSantis signs updates to Florida stormwater regulations.

Governor of Florida Ron DeSantis signed SB7040 which updates environmental statutes with a number of standards recommended by the Department of Environmental protection.

The signed legislation lays out regulations that developers must comply with. Applicants seeking permits from the state must provide information through designs and plans that meet performance standards as well as meet other requirements under the revised rules.

Applicants must also demonstrate compliance with the rule’s performance standards by providing reasonable assurance through modeling, calculations, and supporting documentation that satisfy the provisions of the revised rules.5

According to an article, the legislation sets new minimum standards for stormwater treatment systems. It requires that they achieve at least an 80% reduction of the average annual post-development total suspended solids load, or a 95% reduction if the proposed project is located within an area with a watershed that contains Outstanding Florida Waters (OWF) or one located upstream.

The bill also clarifies provisions relating to grandfathered projects, or projects that have started before the bill was signed.

The bill also states that entities implementing stormwater best management practices also regulated under different provisions of the law are not subject to duplicate inspections for the same practices, and allows alternative treatment standards for redevelopment projects in areas with impaired waters.

These updated regulations come weeks after DeSantis singed the state budget that cut about $205 million in stormwater, wastewater and sewer projects.

Historic rainstorm poses first storm management test of the year to Sarasota

Tuesday’s historic rainstorm posed the first test of the year for the county’s stormwater management protocol — and county staff said the infrastructure was up to the task.

Flash flooding brought on by the heavy rainfall of the Invest 90L tropical system submerged local roadways and businesses in eight inches of water at its peak Tuesday, overwhelming the area due to its sudden intensity. But ongoing recovery efforts demonstrate that the county, per staff, is where it needs to be ahead of hurricane season.

Some of Sarasota County’s stormwater infrastructure involves open pipes through which runoff is funneled to the Gulf, but other drainage pathways are covered by gates and more susceptible to clogging. Though these drains were initially overwhelmed with debris, they cleared out when the rain tapered off around 9 p.m. Tuesday.

Sarasota County Public Works Director Spencer Anderson attributed the buildup to an almost year-long period between sizeable rain events. Landscaping and debris, he said, have sat stagnant for that time, and he hopes this first rain of the year has cleared some of that buildup for drainage systems for storms later this summer.

SBEP: Historic rainfall deals Sarasota Bay water quality a setback

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June 20, 2024 – Director's Note from Dave Tomasko

Yesterday, I sent out a Director’s Note about the good news we are seeing, in terms of the bay’s recovery. It is true that our bay’s water quality has improved over the past few years, and that we are likely to see a substantial increase in seagrass coverage when our 2024 maps come out sometime early next year. That is not by chance, it is the result of spending over $300 million on wastewater upgrades and regional stormwater retrofits.

But it’s also true that our watershed holds more people per square mile than Biscayne Bay, and that when we get hit by rainfall amounts like what we received last week, the bay’s response is not going to be good. Below are two photos supplied to me by Rusty Chinnis. On the left is what it looked like at the 10th Street Boat Ramp, in downtown Sarasota, during that rain event. Notice the water pouring over the sidewalks, overwhelming the stormwater collection system. The photo on the right is a close-up of what that urban stormwater runoff looked like. Note the gray, gritty look to the water mass – this is what a big storm will bring.

Over the last few days, I have received comments from many fishing guides – including Rusty Chinnis, Captain Scott Moore, and my neighbor Kyle Eldridge, about bad-smelling and foul-looking water, and also fish kills. Yesterday, Dr. Abbey Tyrna from Suncoast Waterkeepers went out on the bay and found fish kills across the northern mainland shoreline of Sarasota Bay, with the worst conditions centered around the area of New College and the Crossley Estate. It might not help that a large area of uplands had recently been cleared just inshore from New College’s shoreline with the bay – creating a large area of newly exposed and non-stabilized sediment right next to the bay. But that’s not the only active construction site along our shoreline, at all. Abbey found low levels of dissolved oxygen in the water, which is the most likely cause of the dead fish noted across the upper bay - Suncoast WaterKeepers collecting data in Sarasota Bay following fish kill (msn.com).

Research finds dolphins with elevated mercury levels in Florida and Georgia

In a study with potential implications for the oceans and human health, scientists have reported elevated mercury levels in dolphins in the U.S. Southeast, with the greatest levels found in dolphins in Florida's St. Joseph and Choctawhatchee Bays.

Dolphins are considered a "sentinel species" for oceans and human health, because like us, they are high up in the food chain, live long lives, and share certain physiological traits with humans. Some staples of their diet, such as spot, croaker, weakfish and other small fish, are most vulnerable to mercury pollution and are also eaten by people.

The study, which appears in the journal Toxics, drew no conclusions about Florida and Georgia residents' mercury levels or the potential health risks to humans. It did, however, cite previous research by a different group of researchers that found a correlation between high mercury levels in dolphins in Florida's Indian River Lagoon and humans living in the area.

"As a sentinel species, the bottlenose dolphin data presented here can direct future studies to evaluate mercury exposure to human residents" in the Southeast and other potentially affected areas in the United States, the authors of the study in Toxics wrote.

EPA is asked to set blue-green algae toxin standards for Florida

Federal environmental officials had recommended criteria in 2019 for two of the most common cyanotoxins, but advocates and the mayor Stuart say Florida never implemented them, nor explained their decision not to do so.

Florida’s lakes, rivers, springs and estuaries have some of the nation’s worst toxic algae blooms, which can threaten the health of people and wildlife, while costing local economies hundreds of millions of dollars.

The blooms are said to be fueled by nutrient pollution, water-management decisions and climate change.

Now, the Center for Biological Diversity, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, Calusa Waterkeeper, Friends of the Everglades, Florida Wildlife Federation, and the city of Stuart have asked the federal government to set limits on blue-green algae toxins found in Florida waters.

The EPA had officially recommended criteria in 2019 for two of the most common cyanotoxins: microcystins and cylindrospermopsin.

States are not required to adopt the EPA recommendations, but they are supposed to explain their reasoning for not adopting them, and the Center for Biological Diversity said the state has not done that.

Florida agriculture fuels algae blooms — how much remains unclear.

The Blue-Green Algae Task Force wants data on the state's strategy for curbing farm-related nutrient pollution.

Nutrients from fertilizers and animal waste can move from Florida farms to waterways, fueling harmful algal blooms. But assessing farms’ nutrient pollution – and gauging the success of the state’s efforts to reduce it – remains a significant challenge.

That was one of the main takeaways from the Blue-Green Algae Task Force’s meeting on June 4 at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research & Education Center – Suwannee Valley. The Task Force convened at the center in Live Oak to learn about the science behind Florida’s strategy to manage nutrient pollution from agriculture, the state’s second-largest industry.

The lynchpin of this strategy is a set of tools and techniques known as Best Management Practices, or BMPs. The goal of BMPs is to keep nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus in the soil where they can boost crop growth – and keep them out of water where they can supercharge toxic algae that threaten public health, wildlife and local economies.

Examples of BMPs include using precision irrigation systems, cover crops and controlled release fertilizers. Florida growers in water-impaired regions must either implement BMPs or demonstrate their compliance with state standards through water quality monitoring. The state also offers cost-share assistance to bring BMP investments, such as new equipment, within farmers’ financial reach.

But just how much these practices are reducing nutrient pollution from Florida farms is unclear – and something the Task Force would like to know.

Volunteers needed to help monitor bay health

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The summer Eyes on Seagrass citizen science program runs July 6th - 21st!

The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program is looking for volunteers with boats to help survey sites in Sarasota Bay. All training and gear will be provided.

What is Eyes on Seagrass?

The Eyes on Seagrass Program is a bi-annual citizen science event in partnership with Florida Sea Grant, Mote Marine Laboratory, and Sarasota and Manatee counties to measure macroalgae (i.e. seaweed) and seagrass coverage. The program was started in Charlotte Harbor and expanded in 2021 to cover Sarasota Bay in response to a data gap in macroalgae monitoring. During a sampling window in April and July, participants travel to various locations throughout Sarasota Bay to collect information on macroalgae and seagrass. Results are then integrated into the Sarasota Bay Ecosystem Health Report Card.

Frequently asked Questions

  • Do I need a boat to participate?
    Most likely yes (or team up with someone who has a boat). Almost all of the sites are reachable only by boat.
  • Can I participate if I've never done it before?
    Yes! Anyone can participate! We will have in-person training. You can also read the sampling instructions and watch the training video to learn how it's done. Students can earn community service hours for participating.
  • How deep are the sites?
    Seagrass grows in shallower areas in our bay. Sample sites typically are between 2ft and 5ft deep.
Please visit the link below for more information and to sign up!