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

Water-Related News

Herbicide Application on Little Lake Conway (NE Finger Canals), 5/17

The Environmental Protection Division will be performing an aquatic plant herbicide treatment on 5/17/19.

This treatment is part of an ongoing effort to manage algae in the canals.

WATER USE RESTRICTIONS:
 •  DO NOT USE FOR ANIMAL DRINKING SUPPLY FOR 1 DAY.
 •  DO NOT USE FOR IRRIGATION WATER SUPPLY FOR 2 DAYS.

Please direct any questions to the Environmental Protection Division at 407-836-1400.

Could global warming lead to quieter hurricane seasons? Experts say yes, with a caveat

If there is any positive to come out of global warming it could be this: Its effects may work to reduce the number of Atlantic hurricanes we see in the future, according to the nation’s leading storm scientists.

That comes with a (significant) caveat. Experts say warming-induced sea level rise means the wall of water that surges into coastal areas during hurricanes will get more deadly and destructive with each storm that hits, especially in places like south Louisiana.

Hurricane experts gathered in New Orleans from Monday to Thursday last week for the National Hurricane Conference, an event focused on hurricane preparedness. The closing panel on Wednesday (April 24) focused on storm forecasting and our changing climate.

Dr. Christopher Landsea, science and operations officer at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, noted hurricanes “are natural heat engines,” relying on moisture and heat to grow. One might assume global warming would boost the strength and frequency of storms. But models show global warming may actually increase the speed and dryness of trade winds that cut across the lower Caribbean and into the Atlantic Ocean, a factor that could work to “tear hurricanes apart” in the future, he said.

Trump to ease drilling rules sparked by 2010 gulf oil spill

The Trump administration is poised to relax offshore drilling requirements imposed in response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster that killed 11 people in 2010 and unleashed the worst oil spill in U.S. history.

The Interior Department will unveil its final plan Thursday to ease some of the mandates, following industry complaints they are unwieldy and expensive, said two people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named before a formal announcement. The White House Office of Management and Budget said it had completed a review of the drafted regulation on Monday, clearing it for a final release.

The measure is set to ease requirements for real-time monitoring of offshore operations and mandated third-party certifications of emergency equipment that can be summoned as a last resort to block explosive surges of oil and gas flowing up from wells. Many of the final changes were already outlined in a proposal released last year.

Trump administration officials previously cast the changes as a surgical revision of the Obama-era rule, arguing the rewrite would better align with voluntary industry standards, decrease downtime on rigs and lead to more than $900 million in oil industry savings over the next decade.

Lawmakers introduce bill forcing EPA to set legal limit for all PFAS in drinking water

A bipartisan bill introduced in the House today would require the Environmental Protection Agency to set a health-protective legal limit in drinking water for the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS, which contaminate a rapidly growing roster of hundreds of public water systems nationwide.

The Protect Drinking Water from PFAS Act (H.R. 2377), authored by Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.), would amend the federal Safe Drinking Water Act to require EPA chief Andrew Wheeler to set a Maximum Contaminant Level, or MCL, for all PFAS chemicals within two years. The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) and Dan Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.).

There are currently no federally enforceable standards for PFAS chemicals in drinking water. In February, Wheeler released the Trump administration’s toothless “PFAS Action Plan,” which failed to set a clear timeline for implementing a drinking water MCL for PFAS chemicals.

“If the EPA won’t do its job and help communities stop the flow of PFAS-contaminated water into homes, schools and businesses, Congress must force them to act,” said Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president for government affairs. “Refusing to tackle this drinking water crisis head-on, while millions of Americans are being exposed to these dangerous chemicals, clearly shows the Trump administration will not clean up this mess unless it’s forced to by law.”

New EPA document tells communities to brace for climate change impacts

The Environmental Protection Agency published a 150-page document this past week with a straightforward message for coping with the fallout from natural disasters across the country: Start planning for the fact that climate change is going to make these catastrophes worse.

The language, included in guidance on how to address the debris left in the wake of floods, hurricanes and wildfires, is at odds with the rhetoric of the EPA’s own leader, Andrew Wheeler. Just last month, Wheeler said in an interview with CBS that “most of the threats from climate change are 50 to 75 years out.”

Multiple recent studies have identified how climate change is already affecting the United States and the globe. In the western United States, for example, regional temperatures have increased by almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1970s, and snowmelt is occurring a month earlier in areas, extending the fire season by three months and quintupling the number of large fires. Another scientific paper, co-authored by EPA researchers, found that unless the United States slashes carbon emissions, climate change will probably cost the United States hundreds of billions of dollars annually by 2100.

‘You can call him our water czar’: Nikki Fried names Florida’s new water policy director

Florida's got a new "water czar," agriculture commissioner Nicole "Nikki" Fried announced Wednesday.

Chris Pettit, who has worked for years in water management districts and county water utilities, will replace Steve Dwinell, who retired as water policy director for the state's Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Office of Agricultural Water Policy.

Fried said Pettit and his office will work to develop and implement best management practices, known as BMPs, for agriculture. BMPs, which have been criticized in the past for not being enforced, aim at lowering and maintaining nutrient runoff from farming operations. The nutrient runoff is a key source in the development of the red tide and blue-green algae that choked Florida's coasts and waterways last summer.

Herbicide Application on Lake Tibet, 5/16

The Environmental Protection Division will be performing an aquatic plant herbicide treatment on 5/16/19.

This treatment is part of an ongoing effort to manage emergent/floating vegetation on the lake.

WATER USE RESTRICTIONS: NONE.

Please direct any questions to the Environmental Protection Division at 407-836-1400.

Herbicide Application on Lake Irma, 5/14

The Environmental Protection Division will be performing an aquatic plant herbicide treatment on 5/14/19.

This treatment is part of an ongoing effort to manage emergent vegetation and hydrilla in the SW canal.

WATER USE RESTRICTIONS:
 •  DO NOT USE FOR ANIMAL DRINKING SUPPLY FOR 1 DAY.
 •  DO NOT USE FOR IRRIGATION WATER SUPPLY FOR 5 DAYS for residents in the SW canal.

Please direct any questions to the Environmental Protection Division at 407-836-1400.

Florida's new chief science officer started off as a surfer dude

Florida's new chief science officer didn't start out as a scientist. Instead he was a surfer dude.

Thomas Frazer, named to the post created by Gov. Ron DeSantis last month, was born and raised in the quintessential surf city of San Diego. When he was 8, he bought his first board — a Lightning Bolt — and spent as much time riding the waves as he could.

That's what led him to become an expert on water pollution.

"It seemed like I was on the water every day," he told an interviewer in 2016. "When you are a surfer, you learn about water quality at an early age. You know that when you get an earache after surfing, that it is probably because of runoff."

Frazer, 54, is the director of the University of Florida's School of Natural Resources and Environment and has a Ph.D. in biological science from the University of California. He will continue to hold that $176,775-a-year position while also occupying the $148,000-a-year science officer post. Experts say it appears to be the first such state-level position in the nation.

New EPA document tells communities to brace for climate change impacts

The Environmental Protection Agency published a 150-page document this past week with a straightforward message for coping with the fallout from natural disasters across the country: Start planning for the fact that climate change is going to make these catastrophes worse.

The language, included in guidance on how to address the debris left in the wake of floods, hurricanes and wildfires, is at odds with the rhetoric of the EPA’s own leader, Andrew Wheeler. Just last month, Wheeler said in an interview with CBS that “most of the threats from climate change are 50 to 75 years out.”

Multiple recent studies have identified how climate change is already affecting the United States and the globe. In the western United States, for example, regional temperatures have increased by almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1970s, and snowmelt is occurring a month earlier in areas, extending the fire season by three months and quintupling the number of large fires. Another scientific paper, co-authored by EPA researchers, found that unless the United States slashes carbon emissions, climate change will probably cost the United States hundreds of billions of dollars annually by 2100.

Ron DeSantis announces newly-formed Blue-Green Algae Task Force

Gov. Ron DeSantis has placed a special emphasis on Florida's environment since taking office, and Monday was one more step in the direction to clean up the state's waterways.

At the Nathaniel P. Reed Hobe Sound National Wildlife Refuge, DeSantis named the five members of the state's newly-formed Blue-Green Algae Task Force.

"The focus of this task force is to support key funding and restoration initiatives and make recommendations to expedite nutrient reductions in Lake Okeechobee and downstream estuaries," DeSantis said. 

Algae bloom spreads across St. Johns River

"When I first reported this, it was pea soup!" That's how Sam Carr described the algae bloom in the St. Johns River by his dock in San Mateo in Putnam County. He first noticed it in early April.

He's lived on the St. Johns River for 50 years.

"It was really thick," he remembered.

Wednesday, Carr looked at the St. Johns River in downtown Palatka.

The algae bloom wasn't as bad there, but he could still see it. At Carr's home where the algae are in chunks, he can even smell it.

"I could tell it was affecting me. It gave me a headache," he said.

The water management district has been testing the St. Johns River since people started filing reports of algae concerns this month. So far the results have shown toxins.   

Florida disasters command huge share of state spending

Disasters which rocked Florida last year are now complicating efforts to finalize a new state spending plan, with Hurricane Michael recovery and work to ease toxic water outbreaks commanding a huge share of the $90-billion budget.

TALLAHASSEE — Disasters that rocked Florida last year are now complicating efforts to finalize a new state spending plan, with Hurricane Michael recovery and work to ease toxic water outbreaks commanding a huge share of the $90 billion budget.

As a result, money for schools is tight. Some hospitals are facing cuts.

And even the tax-break package the Republican majority traditionally touts has been downsized to make money available for environmental work across the state and rebuild the devastated eastern Panhandle.

But with some $2.5 billion certain to be committed to last year’s twin disasters, some still wonder, is it enough?

“I think truth be told, when you look at some of our infrastructure, wastewater and storm-water problems — as long as we have discharges of raw sewage in the tens of thousands of gallons — we have not fully addressed the problem,” said Rep. Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast.

“It’s going to be a multi-year, very expensive project,” he added.

Indeed, data analyzed by GateHouse Media-Florida shows state waterways have been fouled by some 980 million gallons of wastewater over the past decade, with sewage spills occurring at the rate of six per day.

Court orders EPA to reevaluate Obama-era power plant wastewater rule

A federal appeals court is sending the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) back to the drawing board over its wastewater regulations in a ruling that compares them to a Commodore 64 home computer.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled on Friday that the EPA’s 2015 power plant wastewater pollution rule was not stringent enough, siding with environmentalists.

Circuit Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan ruled in favor of various environmental groups that portions of the wastewater rule regulating legacy wastewater and liquid from impoundments were “unlawful.”

“The Clean Water Act ... empowers the Environmental Protection Agency to promulgate and enforce rules known as 'effluent limitation guidelines' or 'ELGs.' ... For quite some time, ELGs for steam-electric power plants have been, in EPA’s words, 'out of date.' ... That is a charitable understatement,” Duncan wrote in his ruling.

“The last time these guidelines were updated was during the second year of President Reagan’s first term, the same year that saw the release of the first CD player, the Sony Watchman pocket television, and the Commodore 64 home computer. In other words, 1982."

As oceans rapidly warm, an urgent need to improve hurricane forecasts

Better hurricane forecasts require near-real-time, deep-ocean monitoring

In the past two hurricane seasons, record-breaking floods have engulfed our coastal zones in the Carolinas and Texas as storms have drawn more water and grown larger from rapidly warming oceans.

As the climate system continues to warm, we will need better prediction systems so we can prepare vulnerable coastal areas for bigger, wetter and faster-strengthening hurricanes. Hurricane season is just six weeks away.

Recent studies confirm that warming of the world’s oceans is taking place faster than previously estimated — as much as 40 percent faster than the United Nations estimated in 2015.

Research confirms that roughly 93 percent of the warming from man-made greenhouse gases is going into the world’s oceans. About two-thirds is absorbed in the ocean’s top 700 meters, noted Zeke Hausfather, a climate scientist at Berkeley Earth. This is the layer from which hurricanes draw much of their energy.

Orange County celebrates Earth Day with debut of new water quality improvement project

Volunteer

To celebrate Earth Day weekend, on April 20, 2019, Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings and Orange County District 6 Commissioner Victoria P. Siplin participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony to debut the new Lake Lawne Water Quality Improvement and Reuse Pond at Barnett Park in Orlando. Officially, Earth Day is April 22, 2019.

The pond is designed to remove 650 pounds of nitrogen and 110 pounds of phosphorus annually from Lake Lawne to help prevent algae blooms. Nutrient-enriched stormwater from the pond will be used to irrigate nearby plantings to cut dependence on freshwater resources.

The $2 million project had a total of 75 percent of its overall costs reimbursed through state and local grants. Partners include the St. Johns River Water Management District and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The Orange County Environmental Protection Division worked with both Orange County’s Parks and Recreation Division and Public Works Department to complete the project.

The Earth Day festivities kicked off with community volunteers, including those from CHEP USA and students from the University of Central Florida, installing trees and shoreline plants along the new canal and pond.

Volunteers also labeled storm drains in the adjacent neighborhood to remind residents “only rain in the drain,” in order to help diminish pollutants from making their way into waterways.