Water-Related News

Precautionary Boil Water Notice Rescinded for Ruskin Customers

Water Leak That Impacted Some Ruskin Customers Also Repaired

The Hillsborough County Water Resources department today rescinded a precautionary boil water notice that affected customers in an area of Ruskin.

The precautionary boil water notice that was issued on Feb. 19 for Hillsborough County's potable water system that impacted customers in the area of East College Avenue and 15th Street S.E. in Ruskin is no longer in effect for any resident or commercial business.

The notice was lifted today after bacteriological sampling showed the water meets quality standards. The boundary for the precautionary boil water notice was south of East College Avenue and west of 15th Street S.E. For the area south and west of the Little Manatee River, the southern boundary was Universal Drive, and the western boundary was U.S. 41.

Hillsborough County Water Resources issued the precautionary boil water notice on Friday after the minimum water pressure in the County's water distribution system dropped below the regulatory level while work crews were working in the area of 410 E. College Ave. in Ruskin to repair a water line leak.

The Water Resources department also repaired the water line leak at 410 E. College Ave. in Ruskin that contributed to some customers potentially experiencing lower water pressure last week.

Click here to view a map of the impacted area.

Customers who have questions can call Hillsborough County Water Resources at (813) 744-5600.

TBEP announces Tampa Bay water quality test results

Bay Managers Continue to Observe Concerning Trends in Old Tampa Bay

  • The Tampa Bay Estuary Program (TBEP) reports on water quality annually to improve management of the bay;
  • Summertime algae blooms were again observed in Old Tampa Bay;
  • Data collection was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in missing data for the months of April and May; and,
  • Water quality in all other bay segments remained favorable for seagrass growth, a key indicator of the bay’s health.

For the sixth consecutive year, Old Tampa Bay has exceeded chlorophyll-a targets. Chlorophyll-a is a measure of microscopic algae in the water column that can contribute to shading and die-offs of seagrasses, a key indicator of water quality health. Bay managers have linked elevated chlorophyll-a levels to a harmful algal bloom of Pyrodinium bahamense. The summertime recurrence of this alga comes despite numerous investments by local partners to reduce nitrogen pollution.

Pyrodinium has puzzled those charged with protecting and restoring Tampa Bay for at least a decade, because it has not responded to traditional pollution control measures and favors the Old Tampa Bay segment. Cary Lopez, Assistant Research Scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), and her team have been conducting research to help bay managers understand what actions can be taken to reduce the severity of blooms in the future. Lopez describes the complex factors driving blooms as “the balance of cellular growth and cellular loss...too much growth, you’re going to have a build up of biomass that results in higher chlorophyll in Old Tampa Bay.” Her research has inspired bay managers to look at ways oysters and clams may be used to increase cellular loss through filter feeding.

The COVID-19 pandemic also caused challenges for bay managers in 2020. Scientists were unable to collect field measurements during the months of April and May, when water clarity is typically better. As a result, the yearly water quality scorecard prepared by the TBEP presents water quality trends without data from those months.

The scorecard (link below) shows that all other areas of Tampa Bay had sufficient water clarity to allow sunlight to penetrate to the bay bottom and support the growth of underwater seagrasses. Improving water quality throughout the bay has has been a hallmark achievement of the TBEP, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. TBEP and its partners are committed to additional work in Old Tampa Bay to get this portion of Tampa Bay back on track.

FBI issues cybersecurity outline for water treatment plants

ST. ALBANS, VERMONT — A four-page joint advisory from the FBI, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the EPA and Multi-State Center for Internet Security has been circulated among Vermont officials outlining how to avoid cyberattacks.

The document comes two weeks after a cyberattack on a drinking water system that serves 15,000 people outside of Tampa, Florida, was infiltrated. The attackers attempted to increase the amount of lye from 100 parts to 11,000 parts per million.

The document recommends following “Cyber Hygiene” and recommends steps such as keeping software up-to-date, implementing “independent cyber-physical safety systems,” and using randomized alphanumeric passwords, the St. Albans Messenger reported.

Florida celebrates sea level rise planning tool after years ‘behind the curve’

A recent law requires builders to think about climate change for some publicly funded projects.

One year after the Florida Legislature passed a bill considered its first direct confrontation of climate change in years, the state is moving closer to making the policy’s promises a reality.

The Department of Environmental Protection is crafting a rule that will lay out a standard for considering sea level rise before starting construction on some publicly funded projects along the coast. It is supposed to take effect July 1, and agency officials said this week they aim to hone a draft version by April 1.

“The whole idea is to raise the floor, and the floor on planning was absolutely nothing,” said José Javier Rodríguez, a former state senator from Miami who pushed the original legislation.

Department of Environmental Protection secretary Noah Valenstein said in a meeting last month that the measure will mark the first time Florida sends “a uniform signal across the state of what sea level rise projections should be used over what time periods.”

The rule will require Sea Level Impact Projection (or SLIP) studies to be finished before builders break ground on projects that receive state funding and fall in specific areas especially vulnerable to flooding near the shore. It will cover structures like houses, parking garages, piers, water treatment plants and bridges, but not smaller items like gazebos and beach walkovers, or seawalls and breakwaters meant to combat erosion.

McIntosh Park upgrades will have stormwater benefits too

McIntosh Park is officially getting two miles of trails as well as a wildlife viewing observation tower.

The park, which lies on 363 acres at 775 East Knights Griffin Road, has long been a passive recreational park. The goal is to transform it into a facility that both highlights the beauty of nature and offers unique experiences for those who attend. Approximately 120 acres of the park have been used as stormwater treatment from the City of Plant City’s canal system via an agreement with SWFWMD.

It opened to the public in 2015 and had rudimentary trails cut into the grass at the site. Over the past month, massive changes have furthered the immense upgrade to the land. The current construction all lies under Phase 1 of the project. Trail paths have been cleared at the site and a surface material will be applied to make it more convenient to walkers. The city is building two miles of trails as well as an observation tower at the property.

...

The city wants McIntosh to become a method of developing an integrated water management solution for the community. It essentially will act as stormwater treatment, which will balance the water supply via a natural habitat preserve. The city aims to expand the wetlands on the property and improve the hydrology of the area so “the stormwater that is routed offline in the southeastern corner will be treated and reduce 3,000 pounds of nitrogen and 1,500 pounds of phosphorus from the Hillsborough River,” according to the city.

Red Tide is present in southwest Florida again

From the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission:

Current Conditions

The red tide organism, Karenia brevis, persists in Southwest Florida. Over the past week, K. brevis was detected in 34 samples. Bloom concentrations (>100,000 cells/liter) were observed in seven samples from Lee and Collier counties. Recent satellite imagery (2/15; NOAA, USF) indicates the presence of chlorophyll patches along and/or offshore of Lee, Collier, and Monroe counties. One Northwest Florida sample had background levels of K. brevis. Additional details are provided below.

  • In Southwest Florida over the past week, K. brevis was observed at very low concentrations in Sarasota County (in one sample), background to very low concentrations in Charlotte County (in four samples), background to medium concentrations in Lee County (in 17 samples), and very low to medium concentrations in and offshore of Collier County (in 11 samples).
  • Samples from Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, and Monroe counties did not contain red tide.

Fish kills suspected to be related to red tide were reported over the past week in Southwest Florida in Lee County; a fish kill was also reported in Collier County. For more details, please visit: https://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/health/fish-kills-hotline.

Respiratory irritation was reported over the past week in Southwest Florida in Lee County. For current conditions, please visit: https://visitbeaches.org.

Forecasts by the USF-FWC Collaboration for Prediction of Red Tides for Pinellas to northern Monroe counties predict net northern transport of surface waters and minimal net movement of subsurface waters in most areas over the next four days.

Good times roll for outdoor exploring at Camp Bayou

Habitat restoration, expanded hours worthy of celebrating

It may not be New Orleans, but locals longing for Bayou Country this week of Mardi Gras can venture to Hillsborough County's Camp Bayou Nature Preserve & Outdoor Learning Center.

The 160-acre site along the Little Manatee River was acquired under the Jan K. Platt Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program (ELAPP) in 1990. It is part of a system of connected conservation lands, including Little Manatee River State Park, that protect habitat along the banks of the Little Manatee River.

Don't let the name fool you: There's no camping at Camp Bayou, but it's a great place to spend a day paddling, bird watching, hiking, and enjoying nature.

Here's what's new with Camp Bayou:

  • The former location at the end of 24th Street that provided river access daily for kayak and canoe launching is now closed for habitat restoration.
  • The addition of on-site County staff Monday through Wednesday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the expansion of nature center hours from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Thursday through Sunday, means the kayak and canoe launch inside the nature center compound is now open seven days a week so visitors can continue to enjoy daily river access.
  • In addition to habitat restoration, the County's Conservation & Environmental Lands Management staff will conduct land management activities such as invasive plant removal.

Other highlights of Camp Bayou worthy of exploring are the Outdoor Learning Center and Paleo Preserve Fossil Museum.

The Outdoor Learning Center:

  • Offers a variety of field trip and nature education programs, including a monthly guided paddle on the Little Manatee River.
  • Is operated by volunteers and supported by local donors.
  • Has a wonderful collection of natural history materials and many native artifacts.
  • Volunteers are knowledgeable about the natural and human history of the area.

The Paleo Preserve Fossil Museum:

Provides an amazing glimpse into Florida's long-ago past through a collection of more than 20,000 fossils uncovered from the Leisey Shell Pit in Ruskin.Specimens include mastodon, saber-toothed cat, bear, giant crocodile, and many more, some of which lived almost 2 million years ago in a very different Florida.

Florida DEP to communities: Please assess your sea-level rise risk

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection says local governments need to know their risk for sea-level rise. Some agencies are already making their own projections. The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact estimates by 2040; seas will rise in some South Florida communities by more than three feet.

"We've been challenged with issues of sea-level rise for more than a decade. It's just been a very hot topic the last 15 or so years," says Jennifer Jurado. She's Broward County's Chief Resiliency Officer and represented the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact during a meeting today with lawmakers.

Randy Deshazo is Director of Planning and Research at the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council. He says the area has seen 8 inches of sea-level rise since 1946.

"The projections that we are using assume sea-level rise about 2.5 feet by 2045 up to 3.5 feet by 2060; this puts a lot of our critical infrastructure under threat," Deshazo says.

Noah Valenstein heads the state's Department of Environmental Protection. He says the governor's proposed Resilient Florida Program earmarks funds to help address those concerns.

Governor: More than $5.7M coming to Tampa Bay area for storm, disaster preparedness

A total of $75 million will be awarded to communities and counties throughout the state.

TALLAHASSEE — More than $5.7 million will be coming to the Tampa Bay area from the state to help local governments and communities better prepare for future storms and potential natural disasters, the governor's office announced Wednesday.

A total of $75 million will be distributed to 30 communities across Florida through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity's Rebuild Florida Critical Facility Hardening Program, the governor's office said.

The DEO program "allows local governments to increase the resiliency of critical facilities that serve a public safety purpose for local communities," according to the governor's office.

Tampa Bay area grants include:

  • Hillsborough County ($1,029,000) – harden the roof, all doors and windows, and install an emergency back-up generator at the Hillsborough County All People’s Life Center.
  • Pasco County ($57,521) – install new hurricane shutters at the Pasco County Mike Fasano Regional Hurricane Shelter.
  • Polk County ($1,060,000) – replace the roof of a special needs shelter and mitigate against future storms at the Polk County Specialty Care Clinic.
  • City of New Port Richey ($572,005) – replace the roof, windows, doors, generator, HVAC, and EIFS system at the city of New Port Richey’s Fire Station 1.
  • City of Winter Haven ($778,800) – replace the roof, windows, and doors at the city of Winter Haven’s Fire Station 2.

SWFWMD scheduling prescribed fires in Hillsborough County

Setting prescribed fires in controlled settings can reduce the risk of wildfires burning out of control, as many Floridians witnessed during the state’s wildfire emergency in 2017.

That’s why the Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) will be conducting prescribed burns now through March on the Lower Hillsborough Flood Detention Area (LHFDA) in Hillsborough County.

The LHFDA is located south of Cross Creek Boulevard between U.S. Highway 301 and Morris Bridge Road near Thonotosassa. Approximately 150 acres will be burned in small, manageable units.

Some major benefits of prescribed fire include:

  • Reducing overgrown plants, which decreases the risk of catastrophic wildfires.
  • Promoting the growth of new, diverse plants.
  • Maintaining the character and condition of wildlife habitat.
  • Maintaining access for public recreation.

The District conducts prescribed fires on approximately 30,000 acres each year.

Click here to see aerial footage from a prescribed fire in the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve where District land management staff burned 320 acres.

Congress moves to invest in the nation’s estuaries   

Reauthorizes the National Estuary Program to recover and grow coastal economic economies and ensure resilient coastal communities

ST. PETERSBURG – Congress reaffirmed its support and strong commitment to the National Estuary Program a time tested, non-regulatory program that enables communities to restore and protect the bays and estuaries they call home. The Tampa Bay Estuary Program (TBEP) is one of 28 “estuaries of national significance” along every coast that will benefit directly from legislation approved by Congress. It was strongly supported by Senators Rubio and Scott and most of Florida’s House delegation including Representatives Bilirakis, Buchanan, Castor, Crist and Steube from the Tampa Bay region.

The Protect and Restore America’s Estuaries Act, with strong bipartisan support and unanimous approval from the Senate, was signed into law on January 13, 2021. The Act reaffirms support for the work of the National Estuary Program, and nearly doubles the annual funding limit to $50 million. Under the new law, each NEP could receive as much as $1 million each year. The TBEP works with our communities at the local level to protect the coastal resources essential for tourism, commerce, storm protection, clean water and marine-based food supply such as fisheries and aquaculture. Increasing threats from pollution, harmful algal blooms, accelerating land loss, and risks to biodiversity threaten the vitality of estuaries across the country, and are a growing concern.

“These actions demonstrate a clear recognition by Congress of the economic and environmental value of our nation’s estuaries and coasts,” said Lexie Bell, Chair of the national nonprofit Association of National Estuary Programs, established in 1995 to bring the National Estuary Programs together for collaboration and shared learning.

Rep. Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and the original sponsor of the bill introduced in July 2019 said, “Estuaries nurture a vast array of marine life, filter pollutants from rivers before they reach the sea, and are the natural infrastructure that protects human communities from floods and storms. As extreme weather events increasingly threaten these nurseries of the sea, I’m very proud this important legislation was signed into law, so these critical waterways will continue to be protected.”

Senators Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Cassidy of Louisiana, and Carper of Delaware were instrumental in securing passage of the bill, and are long time champions of estuaries and coastal protection.

“In addition to funding innovative research, restoration, and community-based grant opportunities, the National Estuary Program ensures that the management plans governing nationally significant estuaries consider the effects of a changing climate and continuing coastal development. Thereby, enabling the development and implementation of appropriate adaptation strategies for the future benefit of Tampa Bay,” said Ed Sherwood, TBEP Executive Director. “We are greatly appreciative of the strong support from our Senators and Representatives for the important work being done in our estuaries through our program and in collaboration with many public and private partners across all sectors in the region,” said Sherwood.

Last year, with input from its many public and private sector partners, the TBEP updated the Tampa Bay watershed habitat management plan.

Governor proposes $1 billion for local resilience programs

Gov. Ron DeSantis says he is establishing a Resilient Florida program that will make $1 billion in grants available for local governments over four years.

The governor announced the program Thursday as he unveiled his state budget proposal for the coming fiscal year.

DeSantis says the grants are aimed at helping local governments adapt to more frequent flooding, intensifying storm events and sea level rise.

“We believe that this makes a lot of economic sense when you look at how an insurance market would view property insurance, and to see that Florida is leading in trying to get ahead of some of these impacts.”

The governor called for $625 million for Everglades restoration and water resources, a central issue of his administration. He also recommended $50 million for springs.

Florida Conservation Voters’ Carson Mitchell says the money doesn’t do enough.

“As we know, Florida is woefully behind in planning for climate change. So the governor’s commitment to invest a billion dollars in resiliency funding for local governments to better plan and prepare for sea level rise and flooding is welcome and necessary. But at the same time the governor has failed to invest in or lead in reducing our reliance on dirty fossil fuels.”

Mitchell says a transition to clean renewable energy is a better solution.

The Legislature will take up DeSantis’ budget proposal in March.

Hillsborough Sheriff dive team part of enhanced Super Boal security

TAMPA – In the water behind the Tampa Convention Center, members of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office have been in the water preparing for Super Bowl LV.

As the big game grows closer, law enforcement is stepping up its security efforts on land and in the water.

Michael Lemoine operates a boat rental business at the marina and spoke with members of the dive team.

“They came over and said we are going to be in the water for about an hour in this little section right here and keep an eye out for us if you will and so we just made sure none of our boats got too close to where they were,” Lemoine explained.

“Every day I’ve been down here I’ve been seeing the policemen on the horses, I’ve seen dive teams in the water checking out the sea walls and the docks,” he added. “The police force is out here and I feel like they are stepping up their game and doing a good job for sure.”

The dive team also inspected the area near Julian B. Lane Park on the Hillsborough River. The park is the location of the Super Bowl Experience. The dive team was also seen in the water at bridges going over the Hillsborough River.