Water-Related News

Health Advisory Issued for CYPRESS POINT BEACH Due to High Bacteria Levels

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January 27, 2023

TAMPA – The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County has issued a public health advisory for Cypress Point Beach due to high bacteria levels. This should be considered a potential risk to the bathing public, and swimming is not recommended. Samples taken, were above the threshold for Enterococci bacteria. The beach will be re-sampled in a week.

Cypress Point Beach is located north of I-275 and west of the Veterans Expressway.

When re-sampling indicates that the water is within the satisfactory range, the advisory will be lifted.

About Health Advisory for High Bacteria Levels

An advisory is issued when the beach action value is 70.5 or higher. This is set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County has been conducting coastal beach water quality monitoring at nine sites once every two weeks since August 2000, and weekly since August 5, 2002 through the Healthy Beaches Monitoring Program.

The water samples are being analyzed for enteric bacteria (enterococci) that normally inhabit the intestinal tract of humans and animals, which may cause human disease, infections, or rashes. The presence of enteric bacteria is an indication of fecal pollution, which may come from storm water runoff, pets and wildlife, and human sewage. The purpose of the Healthy Beaches Monitoring Program is to determine whether Florida has significant coastal beach water quality problems.

Please visit the Florida Department of Health's Beach Water Quality website. To review the beach water sampling results for reporting counties, click on a county name.

FWC conducts workshop to explore ways to help pelicans at Sunshine Skyway fishing pier

Thousands of pelicans had to be rescued from possible death by becoming entangled in fishing lines and hooks in the past several years. A compromise between bird advocates and fishermen is in the works.

Environmental groups asked federal wildlife officials to step in after more than 2,300 pelicans had to be rescued in the past two years from becoming entangled in fishing lines at the Sunshine Skyway south pier.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is trying to solve the problem. During a virtual workshop Wednesday night, they tried to reach a compromise between anglers and advocates for the pelicans.

"We genuinely appreciate the ethical fishermen who are embracing these compromises and working together in a really positive way, and we agree on several points," Kate McFall, Florida state director for the Humane Society of the United States, said during the virtual meeting. "But the most important changes we have to see are the closing of the very end of the pier, prohibiting the multi-pronged hooks and lastly to require that anglers have a normal Florida fishing license from the FWC."

Some bird advocates want fishing banned in the busy winter months. And other want the state to hire full-time rescuers that are available to help anglers when they have entanglements.

Several fishermen said they believe educating anglers about the problem would be more beneficial to the birds than banning fishing gear.

Robert Olsen said more regulations are not a solution.

"I fish the Skyway pier frequently and I've never caught a pelican. But if I did, I don't know what to do in that case," Olsen said. "So I believe that a permit should be required, with the education of what to do involved in obtaining that permit for every angler that fishes the Skyway pier."

A fisherman who identified himself only as "Ed" supports a compromise.

"There needs to be some kind of rule, as you're trying to set forth, for these birds so we can protect these birds," he said. "At the same time, I think as a fisherman there has to be some kind of a give and take for both sides, as I think you're trying to do at this point."

Wildlife officials will give their recommendations at an upcoming meeting of the board of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Hillsborough County lifts once-a-week lawn watering restriction for south county residents

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In case you missed it, South County water restrictions were lifted in the midst of the New Year holiday

Nearly two years after implementing a one-day-a-week watering restriction for South County residential and commercial properties, Hillsborough County lifted the restriction on Jan. 1, 2023.

All properties in unincorporated Hillsborough County using potable (drinking) water for outdoor irrigation, including properties south of the Alafia River, are now on standard year-round, twice-a-week watering days and standard times. View year-round watering days and times, watering rules, and conservation tips. Hillsborough County residents and business owners should take a few minutes to check and reset their automatic sprinkler systems to prevent watering on the wrong day or time.

In January 2021, Hillsborough County adopted the one-day-a-week temporary ordinance for users in South County to help improve potable water pressure. The ordinance, which was scheduled to be lifted in January, was not due to drought conditions or water supply concerns.

During the temporary ordinance, Hillsborough County Water Resources completed two projects to help alleviate potable water pressure in South County. In addition, the South County Potable Water Transmission Main?is being constructed from the Triple Creek area to the Balm and Sun City Center areas to facilitate increased pressure and reliability. This project will add 11.5 miles of new pipeline to expand system capacity, and it is scheduled to be completed in early 2024.

Hillsborough County reminds users in unincorporated areas that watering is limited to twice per week for most sources, uses, and methods. Watering restrictions continue to be enforced. For property owners in unincorporated Hillsborough County, violating the restrictions could mean a $100 fine for the first offense, $200 for the second, and up to $500 for a fifth and succeeding violations. Nonpayment will result in a summons to appear before a code enforcement special magistrate, and the possibility of

In Tampa Bay, community members help local governments with environmental stewardship

Tampa’s inaugural Green Team, the first city-sponsored environmental stewardship program AmeriCorps has funded in Florida, has 20 members.

Working primarily in city parks, they will maintain and restore the urban tree canopy that provides shade, beauty, clean air and protection against rising temperatures and extreme heat in a city that just finished its hottest year on record. They will clear litter and debris from stormwater drains to help with water quality and keep trash out of the streets, the river and the bay. They will also maintain green infrastructure like rain gardens and bioswales that help protect against flooding and improve water quality.

The Green Team is part of a recent effort by some local governments to recruit community service workers and volunteers to help tackle environmental issues.

Pinellas County and, more recently, St. Pete Beach have both launched Adopt-A-Drain programs for volunteers to inspect and clear storm drains near where they live. The Pinellas County program is a partnership with the UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County and currently has 10 volunteers working to inspect and maintain 75 drains with equipment provided by the program.

The Pinellas County program initially launched with funding from a Tampa Bay Estuary Program Bay Mini-Grant. Natural resources agent Lara Milligan says county government and UF/IFAS have continued the program “because we see great potential in it.”

Tampa continues to plug away at leaky water and sewer pipe fixes

A recent rash of water main breaks highlights the long run ahead for a massive overhaul of the city’s aging underground infrastructure.

TAMPA — After the cold snap around Christmas, water pipes started bursting around Tampa — 50 times in one week in Florida’s third-largest city.

As streets were closed to repair the breaks and residents were inconvenienced, officials said that the water coming from the city’s shallow reservoir on the Hillsborough River had cooled to under 50 degrees. All that cold water rushing into city water lines caused havoc, in no small part because many of those lines are so old, some dating back more than a century.

The city is entering the fifth year of a 20-year program to fix its aging pipes. The $2.9 billion program, dubbed PIPES (Progressive Infrastructure Planning to Ensure Stability), will also overhaul the city’s sewage and water plants and their distribution systems.

So far, 115 pipe projects are in construction, procurement, design or nearing completion at an estimated cost of $1.2 billion, according to city data.

USF engineering-led team awarded $2.5M federal grant for coastal harmful algal bloom research

USF engineers awarded $2.5 million federal grant to expand harmful algal bloom research along Florida coasts

Engineers from the USF College of Engineering are leading a team of scientists across the state in the development of a new, state-of-the-art system that allows water districts to better predict and manage harmful algal blooms.

The $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers allows USF to work with researchers from the University of Florida and the South Florida Water Management District to address harmful algae blooms in Lake Okeechobee, St. Lucie River and Caloosahatchee River watersheds.

“Harmful algae blooms cause many negative environmental, health and economic effects throughout the state,” said principal investigator Mauricio Arias, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering. “This three-year grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers supports the development of new state-of-the-art water quality data and models to better predict and manage harmful algae blooms in this vitally important and environmentally sensitive ecosystem.”

Harmful algae blooms occur when rapid growth of algae leads to an accumulation of individual cells that discolor water and often develop floating mats that produce unpleasant odors and may negatively impact fish, birds and other wildlife.

The research team will take a multidisciplinary approach to fill any knowledge gaps by utilizing tools that model water resources and water quality, physical oceanography and will engage with end-users.

“The goals of this project are to generate actionable knowledge and develop a tool that will allow managers to better predict and manage harmful algae blooms in Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee River watersheds,” said Wendy Graham, director of the University of Florida Water Institute.

Tampa Bay Water awards 5 local organizations Source Water Protection Mini-grants

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CLEARWATER – Tampa Bay Water will distribute $23,950 in grant funds to help Tampa Bay area nonprofits protect the region’s sources of drinking water. The utility is partnering with the Florida Aquarium, Florida Botanical Gardens Foundation, Hillsborough County Council PTA/PTSA, Tampa Bay Kayak Anglers and Tampa Bay Times Newspaper in Education program on projects that protect and restore sensitive waterways, and educate families, teachers, students and residents through environmental education programs.

“Our community plays an important role in keeping our drinking water sources clean and safe,” said Brandon Moore, Tampa Bay Water’s public communications manager. “Partnering with organizations that share common environmental goals helps us reach more people and helps to ensure that we have clean, safe water supplies for generations to come.”

Tampa Bay Water will fund five organizations through its Source Water Protection Mini-grant program.

  • The Florida Aquarium will use $8,000 in grant funding for workshops to inform educators about various sources for our drinking water supply in the Tampa Bay area and the importance of protecting our watersheds. Workshops will provide opportunities for educators to interact with inquiry-based activities that can be used with students and other audiences that they teach. Activities will support important watershed and drinking water source concepts for students and teachers alike. The project’s main goal is to provide outreach to the broader Tampa Bay community through educators and their students.
     
  • The Florida Botanical Gardens Foundation will use $3,000 in grant funding to install interpretative signage panels along the elevated Wetlands Walkway in the Florida Botanical Gardens located in Pinellas County. The sign topics will relate directly to wetlands and why they are important to the water cycle and ecosystem. The objective of the project is to increase awareness and stewardship of Florida’s wetlands and source waters. The Florida Botanical Gardens has thousands of visitors each year who will experience the Wetlands Walkway and educational signage.
     
  • The Hillsborough County Council PTA/PTSA will use $2,250 in grant funding for an art competition following the same standards as the National PTA’s Reflections program with the theme “Protecting Our Water.” Every year the National PTA hosts the Reflections program for all PTA units throughout the United States. Students submit their completed works of art based on a theme and participate in appropriate division for their grade. Students will conduct research about water protection and decide how to represent the theme in a work of art. The artwork will be displayed at an arts festival for the Reflections program. The project’s main goal is to raise awareness of ways in which we can protect our water in the Tampa Bay region.
     
  • Tampa Bay Kayak Anglers will use $8,000 in grant funding to educate Hispanic communities of Tampa Bay about the importance of our region's water supply through outings and community clean ups that are delivered in their language and cultural representation. The grant funding will support several community clean-ups along paddle trails, waterways and coastal areas. The project seeks to promote learning about our region’s drinking water supply and taking action to help protect it.
     
  • The Tampa Bay Times Newspaper in Education program will use $2,700 in grant funding to build upon existing curriculum resources by creating an original, Florida Standards-aligned teacher guide on source water protection. The teacher guide will focus on engaging students by integrating current events and issues pertaining to the environment and water topics. The grant funding will support a series of educator professional development workshops, both in-person and virtual, focused on showing teachers how to incorporate source water protection resources, themes and activities into existing curricula. The project’s main goal is to provide Tampa Bay teachers with a comprehensive suite of resources to teach about source water protection.

About the Source Water Protection Mini-grant Program

Tampa Bay Water’s Source Water Protection Mini-grant program is an important component of the utility’s outreach and education efforts for source water protection. A major line of defense in protecting drinking water sources is public awareness and support. Non-profit groups, schools and community groups are eligible to apply for mini grants ranging from $2,000 to $10,000. Funds for these activities are approved by the Tampa Bay Water’s Board of Directors each year through its budget. Eligible projects must relate to protecting regional drinking water supplies such as education programs, workshops, exhibits, school activities, awareness campaigns and environmental cleanups.

Recent cold fronts were good news for Tampa Bay’s red tide situation. At least for now.

As the head of Florida’s red tide research center said: Conditions have improved, but “there’s still red tide around.”

ST. PETERSBURG — Under Karen Henschen’s microscope, a single drop of ocean water comes to life.

Popcorn-colored cells float around like butterflies. They dart, then pause, then dart again. An entire world teems with motion in an amount of water that would barely cover the face of a penny.

“What we’re looking at here are Karenia brevis cells, which are what cause Florida’s red tide,” said Henschen, a research associate at the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg. “They’re beautiful, they’re healthy and they’re eating well. In short, they’re surviving.”

That may be good news for the algae species, but not for humans.

Tampa Bay Water approves ‘blue route&rsquo for southern pipeline segment

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CLEARWATER – On Jan. 23, 2023, Tampa Bay Water’s board of directors selected the final route segment for the new South Hillsborough Pipeline, which will carry additional water to southern Hillsborough County once completed in 2028.

At its September meeting, the board selected the “blue” route for Segment A and considered Segment B, but deferred action to allow Hillsborough County additional time to review the route studies. At today’s meeting, the board approved the “blue” route for Segment B, which together with Segment A, represents the lowest cost route, estimated at $417 million.

The new South Hillsborough Pipeline will be approximately 26 miles long, up to 72 inches in diameter and will carry up to 65 million gallons per day (mgd) of additional drinking water to the southern Hillsborough service area. It will start at the Tampa Bay Regional Surface Water Treatment Plant in Brandon, connect to Hillsborough County’s Lithia Water Treatment Plant and end at the County’s new connection point at Balm Riverview and Balm roads.

Segment B connects to Segment A near Fish Hawk Boulevard, just west of Fish Hawk Creek. It heads south to Boyette Road, then intersects Balm Boyette Road and continues south to Hillsborough County’s new connection point at the intersection of Balm and Balm Riverview roads.

Tampa Bay Water’s engineering consultants will now complete a final design to determine the specific location of the pipeline within the approved route corridor, estimate the final cost and determine the schedule for Segment B. Construction of Segment A of the pipeline is scheduled to begin in late 2024 or early 2025 and be completed in early 2028.

Tampa Bay Water’s engineering consultants analyzed a total of 10 routes (five northern segments and five southern segments), which resulted in a shortlist of three top-ranked consolidated routes. The routes were evaluated against 11 selection criteria, which included non-cost factors such as public inconvenience, safety, environmental impacts and permitting, as well as project cost.

For more information about the project, please visit tampabaywater.org/shp.

No debate anymore: Climate change makes extreme weather worse, federal scientists say

Scientists at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) delivered a clear message: Climate change is — unequivocally — making extreme weather events worse.

South Florida has always been hot, rainy and vulnerable to hurricanes. So it’s understandable that some longtime residents remain skeptical that climate change is doing anything to make the region’s age-old problems any worse.

But scientists at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) delivered a clear message Monday at the American Meteorological Society’s annual meeting in Denver, Colorado: Climate change is — unequivocally — making extreme weather events worse.

In fact, scientists can now go a step further and show that specific weather disasters were more likely or more damaging because we live in a hotter climate. At the meeting, scientists presented case studies of heat waves, droughts, and extreme rainfall events that were influenced by climate change over the past two years in the U.S., South Korea, China and other countries. A collection of these studies was also published Monday in a special report from the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

Florida’s emergency chief seeks changes in disaster response

Florida’s emergency-management director wants lawmakers to make changes to help with disaster preparation and response, pointing to issues that have arisen as the state recovers from Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole.

Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie this week asked lawmakers to reduce the amount of time people have to remove damaged boats from waterways and to provide uniform requirements for local governments about debris-removal contracts. He also wants to tweak a new relief fund and shield from public records the names of people harmed by disasters.

“What we’re talking about is media outlets. We’re talking about lawyers, attorneys, those that are seeking to try to start making money off of disaster survivors and victims,” Guthrie told members of the Senate Select Committee on Resiliency as he described the proposed public records exemption.

Researchers look at ways to control Red Tide

While most research on red tide is focused on what causes it and how to track its path, new funding sources are making it possible for investigators to take a deeper look at actually controlling red tide.

A team with researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, Mote Marine Laboratory, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the University of Central Florida, and the University of South Florida has the funding they need to field test a potential new treatment that has been very successful in China.

Finding a way to control red tide is important for Tampa Bay – and Florida’s west coast – because events can cause massive environmental and economic losses. Just in 2021, more than 3.9 million pounds of dead sealife were collected during a red tide event by Pinellas, Sarasota, Manatee and Hillsborough counties.

The technology being studied now is called clay flocculation. Clay particles are applied to waters infested with Karenia brevis, the algae which causes red tide. The cells become enmeshed in the clay and fall to the sea floor. Initial results from a small field test in July 2021 showed that it killed about 75% of the red tide cells in two hours. Despite the high kill rate, the levels of the K. brevis toxins decreased only slightly.

Key Florida lawmaker focuses on shifting from septic tanks to sewer systems

The chair of the Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee said a “big focus” will be getting homes and businesses off septic systems.

A Republican senator who oversees environmental spending said this week he wants to continue efforts to shift properties from septic tanks to sewer systems to try to help protect waterways.

Sen. Jason Brodeur, a Sanford Republican who chairs the Senate Agriculture, Environment and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, said a “big focus” will be getting homes and businesses off septic systems.

“As we look at the nutrients that are continuing to leach into our waterways, particularly inland, we want to make sure that we're doing all we can to support those municipalities, to make sure that those (nutrients) are not continuing to move into our water bodies and jeopardizing either our wildlife or our recreational opportunities,” Brodeur said during a subcommittee meeting Thursday.

This year’s state budget includes $557 million for water quality improvements, with $125 million aimed at helping with such things as septic conversions and upgrades.