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

Water-Related News

Hudson Bayou Watershed restoration project honored

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In January 2020, SBEP, Sarasota County, the City of Sarasota, and the Sarasota School Board with funding support from the Southwest Florida Water Management District completed the Hudson Bayou In-Stream Restoration and Water Quality Improvements project. This initiative integrated multiple habitat and water quality improvement features into two main canals of Hudson Bayou located at Sarasota High School. In December 2019, the project was awarded Public Works Project of the Year for the environmental category by the American Public Works Association (APWA) Suncoast Chapter.

This seven-year project aimed to enhance stormwater drainage and storage, reduce pollutant and sediment loading, preserve tree islands, and improve native habitat. Partners started the planning process in December of 2013. By May 2019, all funds were secured to begin construction. The final elements were completed in January 2020.

Visit the link below to learn more about the individual elements of the project and how they work together to improve water quality and enhance habitat.

Bradenton sewage leak spills 800K gallons into Sarasota Bay

More than 1.2 million gallons of sewage spilled from a force mainline and more than 800,000 gallons of it made its way into Sarasota Bay, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

In a public notice of pollution released Wednesday, state officials said the spill originated around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday after an excavation contractor working on a project at the intersection of 34th Street West and 60th Avenue West broke a force mainline.

The spill flowed into nearby stormwater drains and into a retention pond.\“A mixture of pond water/wastewater then overflowed from the pond into stormwater piping that eventually flowed into Sarasota Bay,” the state reports.

The lift stations feeding the mainline were shut down and “numerous” tanker and vacuum trucks were deployed, but officials say the leak was not able to be stopped until 6:15 p.m., nearly six hours after the initial break.

The damage was repaired and the system went back online about 10:30 Tuesday night.

DEP reports that the final volume of sewer water that spilled was 1.2 million gallons, with a total of 810,000 gallons flowing into the retention pond, “and ultimately to Sarasota Bay.”

Recovery of the wastewater is ongoing.

DEP said warning signs in the affected areas of Sarasota Bay have been posted, and affected homeowners in the area have been notified.

DEP staff is collecting samples in the bay, as well as the retention pond, “to evaluate the impact of this event to surface water.”

New Englewood Water District will have 1,100+ customers

ENGLEWOOD — The Englewood Water District can be a harbinger for what growth lies on the horizon.

Various developers in various stages of development are preparing to build 1,120 residential units within the water district service area in the near future.

The water district’s 44.5 square-mile service area includes all of Manasota Key, Colonial Road and Manasota Beach Road south to Buck Creek, east to Winchester Boulevard and West Villages in North Port.

Both Sarasota and Charlotte counties require developers within the water district to reserve water and sewer capacity before plans can move through the pipeline.

North Port Utilities receives awards for water treatment

Florida Water Environment Association Presents North Port Utilities with Three Awards

The City of North Port Utilities garnered three prestigious awards from the Florida Water Environment Association (FWEA) at their annual awards conference. This year’s recognition was unusual, in that the FWEA’s scheduled conference in Orlando was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, however, the awards were presented in a virtual ceremony conducted through Zoom.

North Port’s Wastewater Treatment Plant, and the team that manages the facility, were the recipients of the coveted Earle B. Phelps Award for outstanding water quality and service. Established in 1964, the Earle B. Phelps Awards, are given annually by the FWEA to recognize the wastewater treatment facilities which have maintained the highest removal of major pollution causing constituents prior to discharging the treated effluent.

The City of Northport WWTP is a 7 MGD plant currently permitted for 5 MGD. It is a Modified Ludzack-Ettinger (MLE) facility consisting of screening, grit removal, anoxic basins, fine bubble aeration, secondary clarification, deep bed tertiary filters, chlorine disinfection, and sludge thickening. The plant produces public access reclaimed water quality effluent and a waste byproduct. The facility has one 2 1/2 million gallon reclaimed water storage tank. Sludge treatment and disposal consists of aerated sludge holding tanks followed by on-site dewatering by means of a centrifuge and hauling to a DEP permitted facility.

Commission approves $1M for Florida Gulf Coast wetland projects

WASHINGTON - As we celebrate American Wetlands Month, hundreds of bird species will benefit from $160 million in funding for various wetland conservation projects in North America. The funding was approved by the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, which is chaired by U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt.

Of the approved funds, the Commission allocated $22.1 million under the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and its partners to conserve or restore more than 160,000 acres of wetland and associated upland habitats for waterfowl, shorebirds and other birds for 22 projects in 15 U.S. states. Partners will match these grants with an additional $50 million.

“These dollars are from our great conservationists – the hunters and anglers who purchase migratory bird stamps,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “These efforts support local economies and wildlife in numerous ways. As the country continues to reopen, access to outdoor spaces is more important than ever, and we are doing our part to maintain public access and conserve natural habitats.”

One Florida project will receive funding. The Gulf Coast Watersheds Conservation will receive $1 million to restore and acquire 6,671 acres of wetlands and hardwood forest in Florida’s Gulf Coast area. These watersheds are critical in supporting a variety of migratory bird species.

Report: Tampa Bay, Sarasota-Bradenton metros most at risk for storm surge

As Florida prepares to enter its hurricane season on June 1, Tampa and Bradenton have ranked among the metropolitan areas most at risk for storm surges.

In a report from CoreLogic, an Irvine, California-based provider of property data, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater ranked as the third most at risk for single-family residences and the fifth most at risk for multifamily. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton ranked as the eighth most at risk metro for single-family residences and came in at No. 11 for multifamily residences.

The metros were ranked on two categories:

  • The numbers of residences at risk
  • The estimated reconstruction cost value (RCV), which is calculated using the combined cost of construction materials as well as equipment and labor assuming total (100 percent) destruction of the property

The Tampa metro has 466,444 single-family residences at risk of storm surges with an estimated cost of $83.42 billion in RCVs. For multifamily residences, the Tampa metro has 12,068 at risk with an estimated RCV of $3.29 billion.

The Bradenton metro has about 266,719 single-family residences at risk with an estimated RCV of $53.76 billion. For multifamily, the Bradenton metro has 3,248 residences at risk with an estimated RCV of $0.87 billion.

Flood insurance discounts available for Sarasota County residents

County residents can continue receiving discount on flood insurance

Thanks to a collaborative effort within the community, Sarasota County retained a Class 5 rating with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), qualifying residents to receive a maximum 25 percent discount on their annual flood insurance premiums for another three years.

The Community Rating System (CRS) program prepared the FEMA audit. The results of the audit were received by the county April 1, 2020. Sarasota County received 3,605 community credits to retain a Class 5 rating, which enabled citizens to continue to receive up to a 25 percent annual discount on their NFIP insurance.

This rating recognized Sarasota County as a safer community based on the best practices for flood prevention and activities performed beyond minimum requirements and resulted in savings for citizens.

The CRS program promotes education and outreach, as well as provides assistance with accurate insurance ratings.

"This savings is a tangible result of the flood mitigation activities your community implements to protect lives and reduce property damage," according to the letter from FEMA that announced the county's results.

The collective annual reduction in premiums for Sarasota County residents is over $7 million a year.

The county has taken many steps to reduce flood loss in the community since 1992 and successfully maintained a Class 5 rating in the CRS program since 2007.

Rainy season and hurricane season are just around the corner. Now is the time to consider purchasing flood insurance for "peace of mind."

"Anywhere it rains it can flood. Sarasota County is proud of the work that goes into maintaining this rating, making the community safer and bringing a financial savings to our citizens," Sarasota County Public Utilities Stormwater Community Rating System Specialist Donna Bailey said.

For more information about flood zones and flood insurance call 941-861-5000.

Learn more about Sarasota County's Flood Protection Program »

SWFWMD “Splash! Grants” bring water education to students

The Splash! school grant program provides up to $3,000* per school to enhance student knowledge of freshwater resources issues. Public and charter school teachers of grades K-12 are eligible to apply. 

As the school year comes to a close, so does another successful season of the District’s Splash! school grant program. This year the District awarded 65 Splash! grants to K-12 educators to help enhance and support water education activities. In total the grants engaged more than 20,000 students and adults.

For many educators, the Splash! grant program enables them to give students hands-on experiences that otherwise would not occur. This may include a field study at a local waterway, building and maintaining a water-conserving garden, conducting a water conservation outreach campaign and more.

In providing feedback on this year’s grant, one teacher at South Sumter Middle School stressed the importance of receiving grant funds.

“The Splash! grant is an integral part of my curricular goals each year since other funding is unavailable. It is only through programs like Splash! that I can dedicate the time and effort to educate our students on ways to protect and conserve water resources in our state.”

Applications for the 2019-2020 school year will be available in July and are due August 31, 2019. No exceptions will be made.

The District is grateful to be able to provide support to educators through the Splash! grant program, helping to inform and inspire our future decision makers and leaders. To learn more about the Splash! grant program click here.

*Grants are awarded based on available funding.

Fertilizer restricted season returns June 1st

Sarasota County reminds the community to skip using nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers on lawns and landscapes from June 1 through Sept. 30, as part of an effort to keep the community's waterways healthy.

Enacted in 2007, the fertilizer restriction ordinance reduces the nutrients in stormwater and helps to protect natural habitats in area waterways that receive runoff from our stormwater system.

According to Sarasota County Air and Water Quality Supervisor John Morgan, the frequency and amount of rain we experience during the summer months causes fertilizer to be washed away before it can be absorbed into the landscape. The nutrients found in fertilizer, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus, add to what is already a nutrient rich environment in our local water bodies. Excessive nutrients contribute to algae blooms, diminish water quality and threaten aquatic life.

"Using proper landscape maintenance techniques can help us maintain healthy waterways," Morgan said, adding, "This is truly a community effort, one that impacts beaches, estuaries and more. By working together, we can protect this beautiful place we call home."

Familiarizing yourself with the regulations is important if you are doing your own lawn care or hiring a trained lawn care professional. The following tips will help keep your yard looking great during the summer:

  • Use only fertilizers with zero nitrogen and zero phosphorous.
  • Apply iron, found at most garden centers, as an effective and environmentally friendly alternative to keep lawns green during the summer.
  • Use compost to enrich the soil.
  • Buy plants adapted to Florida's hot and humid climate.
  • Mow higher to encourage deep roots that resist fungus and pests.
  • Make sure grass clippings are swept or blown back into the yard, or recycled in a compost pile. Do not allow grass clippings to be washed into storm drains.
  • If you're using a lawn care service or contractor, take a few minutes to talk with them about these tips, along with fertilizer restricted season.
  • Adhere to watering restrictions; even-numbered addresses water only on Tuesday and odd-numbered addresses water only on Thursdays.
  • Remember irrigation is prohibited between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily, learn more about water restriction here.

To learn more about air and water quality in Sarasota County, or for more tips on how to keep the county's waterways healthy, call the Sarasota County Contact Center at 941-861-5000 or visit scgov.net.

State of Florida approves Sarasota County conservation deal

State leaders have agreed to acquire more than 5,000 acres of land in Sarasota County for conservation.

Environmentalists have long had their eyes on Orange Hammock Ranch in North Port because of its proximity to other preserved lands in the Myakka River watershed.

Christine Johnson, president of the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast, says the property is a pristine habitat.

“It not only has wetlands that help filter water for the drinking water supply of the city of North Port, but it also has globally imperiled habitat called Dry Prairie on it,” she said. “It's been impeccably maintained and is also home to many imperiled species like the indigo snake, the gopher tortoise, and the scrub jay. It's even been known to have panther come across it."

Officials approved acquiring the property for $21 million through the Florida Forever Conservation program with the Conservation Foundation of the Gulf Coast pledging to contribute $1.5 million through fundraising. The nonprofit has until June to raise the money.

Smelly Sarasota County tap water linked to algae bloom

Sarasota County officials say the algae bloom is typical this time of year and the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority is treating it with activated charcoal to counter odor and taste issues.

SARASOTA COUNTY — Sarasota County water customers may have noticed a slight odor and taste difference in their tap water over the past few days.

Officials say that was caused by a recent algae bloom in the Peace River. Sarasota County customers use, on average, about 21 million gallons of water per day, and 15 million gallons a day comes from the Peace River/Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority.

Dave Cash, assistant director of public utilities for Sarasota County, said Wednesday that increased water temperatures prompted more algae growth in general.

“It’s typical in Southwest Florida this time of the year,” Cash said. “As the water temperature increases and conditions change in late spring, it’s not unusual to have algae blooms in large bodies of water.

“It’s safe to drink; it meets all standards. It’s a taste and odor issue only,” he later added. “What we get from them is finished water, and we receive and deliver it to our retail customers.

Study eyes red tide’s effects on humans

SARASOTA — A new study into the neurological effects of red tide on humans could lead to a simple test to determine if an illness is caused by the deadly algae’s brevetoxins.

A significant red tide bloom was visible from the air over Anna Maria Island, Longboat Key, and parts of Sarasota Bay on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018. The Herald-Tribune flew over the barrier islands to investigate the harmful algal bloom in a Heli Aviation helicopter. Dead fish speckled the discolored water near Bradenton Beach. [Herald-Tribune staff photo / Carlos R. Munoz]

Nearly a dozen researchers from the Roskamp Institute in Sarasota have begun a study with a $400,000 federal grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to advance their work on brain health.

The nonprofit group has studied the causes and potential cures for neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease, multiple sclerosis and Gulf War Illness. Their work has led to novel treatments clinically tested in Europe and the U.S.

Sargassum seaweed could return to Florida’s beaches in coming weeks

A burgeoning field of burdensome sargassum is making its way from the eastern Caribbean to South Florida with researchers estimating an early July arrival depending on winds and current.

The bloom of brown macroalgae is not expected to be the deep onslaught experienced in the record-breaking year of 2018, but a University of South Florida forecast is calling for an amount similar to 2015 — an above-average year that saw Palm Beach County beaches blanketed well into December.

Chuanmin Hu, a University of South Florida oceanography professor who publishes a monthly sargassum forecast based on satellite observations, said the floating rainforest could reach the Florida Straits next month. From there, it would hitch a ride in the Gulf Stream current north.