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

Water-Related News

EPA aims to finally knock out Lake County’s Tower Chemical Superfund site

EPA's Superfund is mounting a project costing as much as $18 million to turn the ground beneath Lake County's Tower Chemical site into a massive rock.

A local company that brewed bug killer for the region’s formerly robust citrus industry used DDT as an ingredient. That recipe at Tower Chemical spit out an unwanted mess, including dicofol, another pesticide, and a nasty concoction, DCBP. The deadly, discarded stuff, all in the greater DDT family, was flushed into a pit dug into an old sinkhole that percolated way down to the Floridan Aquifer. The pollution, exacerbated by a burn pit, churned along for more than 20 years until Tower Chemical was shuttered in 1980. Its owner, a Lake County environmental authority, fled the country.

In 1983, the defunct plant was added to the nation’s list of hazardous sites that, having no responsible party on hand, were eligible for restoration by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund program. Tower’s history is storied, including from when a spill lethally poisoned a path to Lake Apopka. But EPA officials are dialing up an enormous and costly project they hope will put the plant’s legacy to bed. It’s all suddenly possible thanks to cash from last year’s federal infrastructure act.

“We’ve spent about $9 million out there so far,” said Rob Pope, EPA’s project manager for the Tower Chemical site, referring to years of investigation and removal of poisonous top soils. The next step could cost as much $18 million, a figure that might have remained beyond reach indefinitely. “I don’t have a time for when it would have been funded without the infrastructure act,” Pope said.

The 15-acre Tower Chemical site is midway between Winter Garden and Clermont, in Lake County just west of Orange County and a jog north of State Road 50. Until the start of this century, the Tower Superfund property was a weedy, rural setting next to a quiet blacktop, County Road 455. In several stages of studies and cleanups, EPA removed soils soaked with pesticide constituents and covered the area with a layer of clean dirt 12 feet deep. A scattering of neighbors were unplugged from well water and hooked to city water. With the immediate dangers of Tower Chemical addressed, the site’s infamy as a horror show of liquid death faded.

UPDATE: Lake Alert for Lake Sue EXTENDED 

OCAlert logo

Recent lab results from follow-up samples collected by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection from Lake Sue were determined to have potentially unsafe concentrations of toxins present. As a result, Lake Sue will be closely monitored by the City of Orlando, FDEP, Orange County and the City of Winter Park.

The FDEP will collect samples for analysis at a future date (possibly 4-6 weeks) determined by the FDEP for Lake Sue and will provide updates on any possible detection of algae toxins as reported on the FDEP Algal Bloom Reporting dashboard (https://floridadep.gov/AlgalBloom).

Please continue to refrain from irrigating and recreating on the lake, including swimming, fishing and boating until further notice.

For additional information & questions:


Original Notice:

ORLANDO – The Florida Department of Health in Orange County has issued a Health Alert for the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins in Lake SUE. This is in response to a water sample taken by the Florida Depart6ment of Environmental Protection on May 26, 2022. The public should exercise caution in and around Lake SUE.

What is blue-green algae?

Blue-green algae are a type of bacteria that is common in Florida’s freshwater environments. A bloom occurs when rapid growth of algae leads to an accumulation of individual cells that discolor water and often produce floating mats that emit unpleasant odors.

Some environmental factors that contribute to blue-green algae blooms are sunny days, warm water temperatures, still water conditions and excess nutrients. Blooms can appear year-round but are more frequent in summer and fall. Many types of blue-green algae can produce toxins.

  • Do not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski or boat in waters where there is a visible bloom.
  • Wash your skin and clothing with soap and water if you have contact with algae or discolored or smelly water.
  • Keep pets away from the area. Waters where there are algae blooms are not safe for animals. Pets and livestock should have a different source of water when algae blooms are present.
  • Do not cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms. Boiling the water will not eliminate the toxins.
  • Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe. Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts and cook fish well.
  • Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.

Is it harmful?

Blue-green algae blooms can impact human health and ecosystems, including fish and other aquatic animals.

For additional information on potential health effects of algal blooms, visit floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/aquatic-toxins.

Find current information about Florida’s water quality status and public health notifications for harmful algal blooms and beach conditions by visiting ProtectingFloridaTogether.gov.

Protecting Florida Together is the state’s joint effort to provide statewide water quality information to prioritize environmental transparency and commitment to action.

What do I do if I see an algal bloom?

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection collects and analyzes algal bloom samples. To report a bloom to DEP, call the toll-free hotline at 855-305-3903 or report online.

To report fish kills, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute at 1-800-636-0511.

Report symptoms from exposure to a harmful algal bloom or any aquatic toxin to the Florida Poison Information Center, call 1-800-222-1222 to speak to a poison specialist immediately.

Contact your veterinarian if you believe your pet has become ill after consuming or having contact with blue-green algae contaminated water.

If you have other health questions or concerns about blue-green algae blooms, please call the Florida Department of Health in Orange County Algal Bloom Information Line at 407-723-5216. You may also visit orange.floridahealth.gov for more information.

UPDATE: City of Orlando lifts LAKE ALERT for Lake Silver

Orlando seal

LIFTED: Lake Alert for Lake Silver

Based on the latest results from City of Orlando staff sampling Lake Silver on July 1, 2022, the Lake Alert for Lake Silver has been lifted.

At this time, there are no toxins present in Lake Silver, but blooms may still occur.

There are always risks that could be associated with swimming, recreating, or irrigating in and from water with algal blooms, please use your own caution.

If you see a visible bloom present, please report it to the FDEP Algal Bloom Dashboard, which can be found here: floridadep.gov/AlgalBloom.


Original Lake Alert Notices below

June 15, 2022

UPDATED Information- A Lake Alert for Lake Silver was issued on January 31, 2022, due to a potentially unsafe concentration of toxins present in the lake. City of Orlando Stormwater staff have been continuously monitoring Lake Silver since the Lake Alert was issued. This message is to provide an update on the status of the lake.

The results from the latest sampling event performed by City of Orlando staff on June 15, 2022, indicate there are no toxins present in the lake at this time. However, out of a preponderance of caution, the City is electing to keep the Lake Alert in effect until city staff performs one (1) additional sampling event to ensure the bloom subsides and the lake does not produce additional toxins. Lake Silver will continue to be closely monitored by City of Orlando staff. The lake will be resampled again at the end of June, after the sampling event, we will provide another update. At this time, the Lake Alert remains in effect until further notice.

Please continue to call the Lake Alert number, 407.246.2220, for the most up-to-date information regarding your lake. During weekdays, the City's Lake Alert website, orlando.gov/lakealert will also have the latest information.

On January 31, 2022, City of Orlando Streets and Stormwater staff tested water samples from Lake Silver and determined that potentially unsafe concentrations of toxins are present in the lake. As a precaution, we are advising everyone to refrain from swimming, recreating and irrigating in/from Lake Silver until further notice.

For reference, cyanobacteria/blue-green algae are always present in the water, however, not all bacteria have the ability to produce toxins. Toxicity is hard to predict because a single species of algae can have toxic and non-toxic strains. Nothing can be done to treat algae blooms without causing massive fish kills. In the coming weeks, the city will continue to monitor Lake Silver. Once we obtain more information on the status of the lake, we will continue to update this Lake Alert.

UPDATE: Lake Alert EXTENDED for Lake Mann

OCAlert logo

July 1st, 2022:

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) recently tested follow-up water samples collected from Lake Mann near the Gilbert McQueen boat ramp.

It was determined that potentially unsafe concentrations of toxins are still present in the lake.

As a precaution, we are advising everyone to continue to refrain from swimming, recreating and irrigating in/from Lake Mann until further notice.


Original notices follow:

June 14, 2022

UPDATED Information – A Lake Alert was issued for Lake Mann on March 23, 2022 due to potentially unsafe concentrations of toxins present in the lake. City of Orlando Stormwater staff have been continuously working with Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) on monitoring and sampling Lake Mann since the Lake Alert was issued. This message is to provide an update on the status of the lake.

The results from the latest sampling event performed by FDEP staff on May 26, 2022, which can be found here: floridadep.gov/AlgalBloom, indicate there are no toxins present in the lake, but a bloom is still present. As a cautionary measure, the City is electing to keep a Lake Caution in effect to ensure the bloom subsides and the lake does not produce additional toxins. Lake Mann was sampled again by FDEP on June 13, 2022. The City of Orlando will provide another update when we receive the results from this sampling event. At this time, the Lake Caution remains in effect until further notice.

Please continue to call the Lake Alert number, 407.246.2220, for the most up-to-date information regarding your lake. During weekdays, the City's Lake Alert website, orlando.gov/lakealert will also have the latest information.


On March 23, 2022, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) tested water samples from Lake Mann, taken by the Gilbert McQueen boat ramp, and determined that potentially unsafe concentrations of toxins are present in the lake. As a precaution, we are advising everyone to refrain from swimming, recreating and irrigating in/from Lake Mann until further notice.

For reference, cyanobacteria/blue-green algae are always present in the water, however, not all bacteria have the ability to produce toxins. Toxicity is hard to predict because a single species of algae can have toxic and non-toxic strains. Nothing can be done to treat algae blooms without causing massive fish kills. In the coming weeks, the city will work closely with Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to monitor Lake Mann. Once we obtain more information on the status of the lake, we will continue to update this Lake Alert.

Please encourage your neighbors to register for the Lake Alert at orlando.gov/lakealert so they too will get important information about Lake Mann directly.

In the meantime, as we stated above, the city would advise refraining from swimming, recreating and irrigating in/from the lake until further notice.

Herbicide Application on Lake Bass, 6/30

OCAlerts logo

The Environmental Protection Division will be performing an aquatic plant herbicide treatment on 6/30/2022.

This treatment is part of an ongoing effort to manage lilies around the lake.

WATER USE RESTRICTIONS: NONE.

There are NO fishing or swimming restrictions.

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

UPDATE: Herbicide Application on Lake Anderson, 6/30 CANCELLED

OCAlerts logo

UPDATE 6/30/2022: Today's herbicide treatment on Lake Anderson has been cancelled and will be rescheduled.


The Environmental Protection Division will be performing an aquatic plant herbicide treatment on 6/30/2022.

This treatment is part of an ongoing effort to manage Hydrilla around the lake.

WATER USE RESTRICTIONS: NONE.

There are NO fishing or swimming restrictions.

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

Herbicide Application on Little Lake Conway (Backacre Canal), 6/29

OCAlerts logo

The Environmental Protection Division will be performing an aquatic plant herbicide treatment on 6/29/22.

This treatment is part of an ongoing effort to manage hydrilla and salvinia in the Backacre Canal.

WATER USE RESTRICTIONS:
•  DO NOT USE FOR ANIMAL DRINKING SUPPLY FOR 1 DAY.
•  DO NOT USE FOR IRRIGATION WATER SUPPLY FOR 5 DAYS.

There are NO restrictions on swimming or fishing.

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

These restrictions ONLY apply to the area in red here below:

Treatment Area

Herbicide Application on Lake Pearl West, 6/28

OCAlerts logo

The Environmental Protection Division will be performing an aquatic plant herbicide treatment on 6/28/2022.

This treatment is part of an ongoing effort to manage submerged vegetation in the lake.

WATER USE RESTRICTIONS:
•  DO NOT USE FOR ANIMAL DRINKING SUPPLY FOR 1 DAY.
DO NOT USE FOR IRRIGATION WATER SUPPLY FOR 5 DAYS.

There are NO fishing or swimming restrictions.

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

New law directs DEP to set up PFAS cleanup rules, as feds issue advisory

Scientists have detected the substance in nearly everyone tested, and the effects aren’t yet fully understood.

Florida is beginning to tackle the cleanup of a family of once-everyday chemical substances about which federal regulators sounded the alarm last week.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday signed legislation (HB 1475) that asks the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to immediately begin to adopt statewide rules to clean up perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances. The compounds with a mouthful of a name, commonly shortened to PFAS, were once used in products ranging from firefighting foams to nonstick frying pans. Now, environmental and health studies say they’re far more dangerous than thought as recently as 2016.

Florida’s legislation, filed by Dover Republican Rep. Lawrence McClure, requires DEP to adopt statewide cleanup levels for PFAS in drinking water, groundwater and soil by 2025. Those rules would have to go through the Legislature for ratification.

Although the United States no longer produces PFAS, they were common in the aerospace, medical and construction industries and more dating back to the 1950s. They were also a common substance in firefighting foam. Today, they can be imported in goods such as carpet, paper and packaging, and plastics.

Governor signs bill putting all soil and water board seats on the ballot days before qualifying

The new law creates last-minute pressure on all board members, even those in the middle of their terms, to qualify.

Florida now has stricter membership qualifications to serve on the boards of the state’s Soil and Water Conservation districts, and only days to qualify thanks to a measure Gov. Ron DeSantis signed this week.

The law (SB 1078) requires candidates for Soil and Water Conservation District boards, a volunteer public office, to either be agriculture producers working or retired after at least 15 years of work or be employed by an agriculture producer. The legislation underwent several iterations during this year’s Regular Session as St. Augustine Republican Sen. Travis Hutson continuously tweaked the bill after receiving significant pushback from interested parties.

The measure took effect immediately when the Republican Governor signed it late Wednesday night as part of a trio of bill signings. Friday marks Florida’s qualifying deadline for the 2022 election, creating last-minute pressure on all board members, even those in the middle of their terms, to qualify.

Hutson’s original draft would have abolished the districts altogether. He said he heard pushback in his district that they were ineffective. But after hearing support for the districts, he amended the measure to limit membership so there would be more involvement from the agricultural community.

The law also explicitly states all board member seats shall be up for election this year before returning to staggered four-year terms.

UPDATE: Lake Alert LIFTED for Lake Arnold

Orlando seal

June 15, 2022

LIFTED: Lake Alert for Lake Arnold

Based on the latest results from City of Orlando staff sampling Lake Arnold on June 15, 2022, the Lake Alert for Lake Arnold has been lifted. At this time, there are no toxins present in Lake Arnold, but blooms may still occur. There are always risks that could be associated with swimming, recreating, or irrigating in and from water with algal blooms, please use your own caution. If you see a visible bloom present, please report it to the FDEP Algal Bloom Dashboard, which can be found here: floridadep.gov/AlgalBloom.


Prior Lake Alerts follow:

UPDATED Information – A Lake Alert for Lake Arnold was issued on February 25, 2022, due to a potentially unsafe concentration of toxins present in the lake. City of Orlando Stormwater staff have been continuously monitoring and sampling Lake Arnold since the Lake Alert was issued. This message is to provide an update on the status of the lake.

The results from the latest sampling event on May 18th, 2022, indicate there are no toxins present in the lake at this time. However, out of a preponderance of caution, the City is electing to keep the Lake Alert in effect to ensure the bloom subsides and the lake does not produce additional toxins. The lake will be resampled in June, and once the results are obtained, we will provide another update.

Please continue to call the Lake Alert number, 407.246.2220, for the most up-to-date information regarding your lake. During weekdays, the City's Lake Alert website, orlando.gov/lakealert will also have the latest information.

Algae FAQs


On February 25, 2022, the City of Orlando staff tested water samples from Lake Arnold and determined that potentially unsafe concentrations of toxins are present in the lake. As a precaution, we are advising everyone to refrain from swimming, recreating and irrigating in/from Lake Arnold until further notice.

For reference, cyanobacteria/blue-green algae are always present in the water, however, not all bacteria have the ability to produce toxins. Toxicity is hard to predict because a single species of algae can have toxic and non-toxic strains. Nothing can be done to treat algae blooms without causing massive fish kills. Due to this, the city will work closely with Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to closely monitor Lake Arnold. The city staff will continue to routinely test the lake, but the city's tests will only provide an update on the presence of toxins. The official toxin determination is obtained from FDEP's laboratory data, and until the levels are deemed safe by state standards, the Lake Alert will remain in effect.

UPDATE: City of Orlando extends LAKE ALERT for Lake Silver

Orlando seal

 

June 15, 2022

UPDATED Information- A Lake Alert for Lake Silver was issued on January 31, 2022, due to a potentially unsafe concentration of toxins present in the lake. City of Orlando Stormwater staff have been continuously monitoring Lake Silver since the Lake Alert was issued. This message is to provide an update on the status of the lake.

The results from the latest sampling event performed by City of Orlando staff on June 15, 2022, indicate there are no toxins present in the lake at this time. However, out of a preponderance of caution, the City is electing to keep the Lake Alert in effect until city staff performs one (1) additional sampling event to ensure the bloom subsides and the lake does not produce additional toxins. Lake Silver will continue to be closely monitored by City of Orlando staff. The lake will be resampled again at the end of June, after the sampling event, we will provide another update. At this time, the Lake Alert remains in effect until further notice.

Please continue to call the Lake Alert number, 407.246.2220, for the most up-to-date information regarding your lake. During weekdays, the City's Lake Alert website, orlando.gov/lakealert will also have the latest information.


Original Lake Alert Notice below

On January 31, 2022, City of Orlando Streets and Stormwater staff tested water samples from Lake Silver and determined that potentially unsafe concentrations of toxins are present in the lake. As a precaution, we are advising everyone to refrain from swimming, recreating and irrigating in/from Lake Silver until further notice.

For reference, cyanobacteria/blue-green algae are always present in the water, however, not all bacteria have the ability to produce toxins. Toxicity is hard to predict because a single species of algae can have toxic and non-toxic strains. Nothing can be done to treat algae blooms without causing massive fish kills. In the coming weeks, the city will continue to monitor Lake Silver. Once we obtain more information on the status of the lake, we will continue to update this Lake Alert.

Orange County DOH issues Health Alert for Lake Ivanhoe

Florida DOH logo

ORLANDO – The Florida Department of Health in Orange County has issued a Health Alert for the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins in Lake IVANHOE. This is in response to a water sample taken by the Florida Depart6ment of Environmental Protection on May 26, 2022. The public should exercise caution in and around Lake IVANHOE.

What is blue-green algae?

Blue-green algae are a type of bacteria that is common in Florida’s freshwater environments. A bloom occurs when rapid growth of algae leads to an accumulation of individual cells that discolor water and often produce floating mats that emit unpleasant odors.

Some environmental factors that contribute to blue-green algae blooms are sunny days, warm water temperatures, still water conditions and excess nutrients. Blooms can appear year-round but are more frequent in summer and fall. Many types of blue-green algae can produce toxins.

  • Do not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski or boat in waters where there is a visible bloom.
  • Wash your skin and clothing with soap and water if you have contact with algae or discolored or smelly water.
  • Keep pets away from the area. Waters where there are algae blooms are not safe for animals. Pets and livestock should have a different source of water when algae blooms are present.
  • Do not cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms. Boiling the water will not eliminate the toxins.
  • Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe. Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts and cook fish well.
  • Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.

Is it harmful?

Blue-green algae blooms can impact human health and ecosystems, including fish and other aquatic animals.

For additional information on potential health effects of algal blooms, visit floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/aquatic-toxins.

Find current information about Florida’s water quality status and public health notifications for harmful algal blooms and beach conditions by visiting ProtectingFloridaTogether.gov.

Protecting Florida Together is the state’s joint effort to provide statewide water quality information to prioritize environmental transparency and commitment to action.

What do I do if I see an algal bloom?

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection collects and analyzes algal bloom samples. To report a bloom to DEP, call the toll-free hotline at 855-305-3903 or report online.

To report fish kills, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute at 1-800-636-0511.

Report symptoms from exposure to a harmful algal bloom or any aquatic toxin to the Florida Poison Information Center, call 1-800-222-1222 to speak to a poison specialist immediately.

Contact your veterinarian if you believe your pet has become ill after consuming or having contact with blue-green algae contaminated water.

If you have other health questions or concerns about blue-green algae blooms, please call the Florida Department of Health in Orange County Algal Bloom Information Line at 407-723-5216. You may also visit orange.floridahealth.gov for more information.

SJRWMD grants over $1 million to 10 projects to help protect water resources

SJRWMD logo

PALATKA – On June 14th, the St. Johns River Water Management District Governing Board approved the execution of ten contracts that will provide local growers with over $1 million in cost-share funds. Together, these projects will reduce water use by 102 million gallons per year and reduce nutrient loading in the region.

“These projects help assure the sustainability of agriculture within the region while protecting our natural resources,” said St. Johns River Water Management District Executive Director Mike Register. “We appreciate the continued commitment of our board to provide local farmers and growers with funding to help implement water conservation and nutrient reduction projects.”

Applications were reviewed for eligibility and to ensure they satisfy the goals of the program. Eligibility criteria includes compliance history, cost-effectiveness, location and enrollment in the best management practices program through the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The ten projects that will receive funding are:

  • Banack Family Limited Partnership, Indian River County
  • Wild Goose Farms/Bartlett Berry, Lake County
  • Cherrylake, Inc., Lake County
  • Clonts Farms, Inc., Seminole County
  • Hammond Groves, Indian River County
  • Sanders Trinity, LLC, Volusia County
  • Sun Ag, LLC, Indian River County
  • Total Ag Care, LLC, Orange County
  • Underhill Ferneries, Inc., Volusia County
  • Hagstrom Floral, Volusia County

Projects include conversion from overhead irrigation to drip irrigation, pump automation, and precision fertilizer application equipment with GPS. In addition to conserving water, these projects are anticipated to reduce total nitrogen loading by 4,578 pounds per year and total phosphorus loading by 963 pounds per year. These nutrients help fuel algal blooms, so reducing the amount entering waterbodies is the key to water quality restoration.

The Districtwide Cost Share program provides up to 75% of the project costs, not to exceed $250,00 for engineering, design, construction and implementation costs of the project. Applicants are expected to cover project maintenance costs for the life of the project. Since 2015 the District’s agricultural cost-share program has funded nearly 130 projects that help reduce water use and nutrient runoff.

To learn more about the District’s cost-share program, visit www.sjrwmd.com/localgovernments/funding/agricultural-cost-share/#2022-agricultural-cost-share.

Full Lake Herbicide Application on Lake Ola, 6/6

OCAlerts logo

The Environmental Protection Division will be performing a full lake aquatic plant herbicide treatment using Avast (fluridone) on June 6th. This treatment is part of an ongoing effort to manage hydrilla in the lake. This treatment will be the second of three "bump" or "booster" treatments to maintain the desired concentration of Avast.

WATER USE RESTRICTIONS:
•  Do not use treated water to irrigate turf/lawns for 14 days from day of treatment.
•  Do not use treated water to irrigate ornamental plants, hydroponic crops, greenhouse/nursery plants or any food crops until the concentration of Avast is less than 1ppb.
     This concentration will be determined by routine water sampling and quantitative testing (FasTEST) by SePRO Corp.
•  There are no restrictions on consumption of treated water for potable use by pets or other animals.
•  There are no restrictions on the use of treated water for recreational purposes, including swimming and fishing.

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

Rights of Nature lawsuit pits 2 lakes, 2 creeks and marsh against developer in Lake Nona

An unusual lawsuit sets up a courtroom showdown between local and state authorities over the untested legal idea that nature has inalienable rights to exist and flourish.

Wielding for the first time the voter-approved Orange County charter amendment intended to protect county waterways, environmentalists recently sued to stop a developer from filling in 115 acres of wetlands for a mammoth project near Lake Nona.

The lawsuit filed in circuit court was unusual because the plaintiffs include two lakes, two creeks and a marsh. The case sets up a courtroom showdown between environmental groups and business interests over the legal idea that nature has inalienable rights to exist and flourish, a concept upheld in some foreign countries but as yet untested in U.S. courts.

The lawsuit, which also lists environmental activist Chuck O’Neal and “other affected Orange County waters” as plaintiffs, asks a judge to block the state from issuing dredge and fill permits to developers of a 2,000-acre mixed-use project known as “Meridian Parks Remainder.” O’Neal said the waterways will be polluted and irreparably harmed if the permits are granted. Orlando attorney Steven Meyers, who filed the lawsuit and helped draft the charter amendment, said the case is the first enforcement action in the nation using a rights-of-nature concept.

“There have been a handful of other cases filed in the United States where supporters tried to validate a similar ordinance, but this is the first time it’s been used to actually try to stop development.”

The case will be watched closely not only in Central Florida but around the state because of the controversial legal theory, said Lee Steinhauer, director of government affairs for the Greater Orlando Builders Association and Apartment Association of Greater Orlando.