CWC currently pursues the following main initiatives:
Investment in Restoration of the Indian River Lagoon makes solid business sense for our community’s economic well-being as well as to preserve our quality of life.
About Lagoon Restoration
The Indian River Lagoon is in crisis along with most of Florida’s estuaries.
Restoration will require a substantial investment in stormwater and wastewater collection and treatment systems. Recurring cost-share funding from the State of Florida is urgently needed for local governments to implement water restoration projects.
The stakes are high. Consider two “yardsticks:”
The Indian River County Appraiser’s department estimates the investment in our homes and businesses to be worth, conservatively, $22.7 billion in 2016. This sum represents much of the life savings of our community and its citizens.
A tiny 1% or 2% change in the trajectory of property values means $250-$500 million lost or gained.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, in conjunction with the East Central Florida and Treasure Coast Regional Planning Councils estimate the Indian River Lagoon drives $7.6 billion in economic value each year.
The report estimates that each $1 invested in clean water initiatives generates $33 of value.
Restrictions on application of Fertilizers
CWC supports local jurisdictions that restrict fertilizer application during the rainy season, when fertilizers are likely to wash off lawns, enter waterways and eventually end up in the Lagoon.
Indian River County
On Aug. 20, 2013, the Indian River County Board of County Commissioners approved an ordinance regulating the use of fertilizers containing nitrogen and/or phosphorus within Indian River County, Fertilizer and Landscape Management Ordinance No. 2013-012 as later amended by Ordinance No. 2013-014.
Town of Orchid
The Town of Orchid adopted the model Florida-Friendly Fertilizer Use ordinance in 2013 and 2014 as found in the Town Code of Ordinances, Chapter 58 Article II.
City of Fellsmere
The City of Fellsmere only restricts the application of fertilizer under certain circumstances, such as hurricane or conditions where there is standing water. The City of Fellsmere does not have a seasonal restriction on application of Fertilizers.
Town of Indian River Shores
The Town of Indian River Shores adopted the model Florida-Friendly Fertilizer Use ordinance in 2012 as found in the Town Code of Ordinances, Chapter 101 Article I.
City of Sebastian
On February 26, 2014, the Sebastian City Council passed a stricter fertilizer ordinance (Sec. 50-5, City of Sebastian Ordinances) modeled after the 2013 Indian River County ordinance.
City of Vero Beach
Chapter 38 of the Municipal Code of the City of Vero Beach contains a comprehensive set of restrictions on use of fertilizers, through a series of ordinances enacted in 2012 to 2014.
Safe biosolids disposal
The solid waste from sewage treatment plants should not be spread on farmland. A six-month moratorium was put in place by Indian River County after ORCA, Pelican Island Audubon Society, and the St. Johns Riverkeeper found toxic conditions with cyanobacteria levels at 4,700 parts per million (ppm) in Blue Cypress Lake last spring.
The moratorium needs to be made permanent.
Biosolids are the de-watered sewage by-product of wastewater (sewage) treatment plants. Despite the name, biosolids are predominantly water, typically containing only 20% solids.
Because they are biologically active, nutrient-rich, and contain chemical compounds as well as toxic metals, disposal of biosolids onto open land is a major threat to our waters.
Indian River County and City of Vero Beach systems responsibly dispose of their biosolids by placing them in a landfill.
Until more advanced processes are adopted, landfills remain the more responsible disposal option because liquids are confined and captured at the bottom of the pile, and do not escape into the larger environment. The captured leachate is then re-processed in the water treatment plant.
That said, in Florida–especially southeastern Florida–landfills are fast running out of space. For this reason, dumping biosolids onto open land has become the least-expensive, preferred disposal method–even if it means hauling it 100 miles or more.
If we responsibly dispose of our biosolids, how did Indian River County become a prime destination for Biosolids dumping on open farmland?
A combination of problems in Southeast Florida have combined to send biosolids waste north.
South Florida is quickly running out of space in its solid-waste landfills. Nutrient pollution in the Lake Okeechobee watershed also rendered land application of biosolids impossible.
After the Department of Environmental protection (DEP) stopped issuing biosolids disposal permits in the Kissimmee River/Lake Okeechobee Basin, Indian River County quietly became the preferred dumping ground for most of the biosolids generated by sewage plants in southeastern Florida
The impact of biosolids dumping here is vividly demonstrated by skyrocketing nutrient levels in Blue Cypress Lake, and the inevitable algal blooms on local waters.
Regulation of Biosolids
Land application of biosolids is generally allowed on farms and ranches under the “right to farm” provisions of Florida laws.
Biosolids are regulated through provisions of Chapter 62-640 of the Florida Administrative Code. Please click here for a summary of the regulations. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection awards permits for biosolids dumping under its authority as administrator of the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).
Improved methods of wastewater collection, treatment and reuse
CWC favors investment in cost-effective technologies that (1) reduce the nutrient load of municipal sewer and private septic systems, and (2) increase water supply through water recycling.
Components of CWC initiative
Water pollution arising from development is a multi-faceted problem having the largest impact on the waters of our community.
Tertiary Treatment of Reuse Irrigation Water
CWC supports a programmed phase-out of older septic systems, as well as septic systems in proximity to to the Lagoon watershed. The phase-out should give priority to the the most cost-effective opportunities to eliminate nutrient pollution sources.
About septic systems and nutrient pollution
Septic systems are a leading cause of nutrient pollution in the Indian River Lagoon, and Indian River County is home to over 33,000 individual septic system. Because of a unique combination of factors of geography, soils, and watershed, septic systems are a very poor solution to waste disposal in most of Indian River County.
Even when new–under ideal conditions–septic systems only treat between about 25% of nitrogen generated in household waste, and conditions in Indian River County are far from ideal.
Much of the developed part of the County is underlain by sediment known as “hardpan” that confines groundwater to a shallow depth. It is possible, in many places, to reach water just a few feet below the surface. The combination of high water table and sandy soils largely negate effectiveness of septic systems to treat nitrogen and phosphorus.
The high water table also creates an underground, hydrological connection between septic systems, groundwater, and receiving waterways.
This would not be as bad if it were not for our “artificial watershed”—the system of canals and ditches which are designed to move water—along with the dissolved nutrients—swiftly and directly to the Indian River Lagoon.
Nearly every home—and septic tank—is but a short distance from this system.
CWC supports the programmed phase-out of older septic systems, and systems in proximity to the Lagoon and waterways leading to the Lagoon. We advocate for the following measures:
Prioritized timeline. Cost benefit analysis to prioritize geographies that have the best “payback” in terms of cost of nutrient removal. Some Septic-to-Sewer projects are estimated to cost less than $40 per pound for removal of TN, one-fifth of the cost of the most cost-efficient stormwater treatment project.
Mandatory Connections. In order to remain cost-effective to all ratepayers, CWC advocates for a mandatory connection policy. Experience has shown that only about 10-20% of served customers will convert if voluntary, which means 80% or more of the ratepayers’ investment is “down the drain.”
Consumer Financing Options. CWC favors a “zero out of pocket” financing program for all homeowners. The County should pass along its low borrowing costs, and provide a 30-year repayment term in the form of a property-level non-ad-valorem assessment. Monthly payments would be collected on the subscriber’s water-sewer bill. If the property changes hands, the obligation would run with the title to the new owner.
Use of Optional Sales Tax. CWC favors dedicating 20% of the optional sales tax (OST) earmarked for Lagoon projects to be made available to fund a portion of Septic-to-Sewer projects.
Targeted grants. CWC favors the targeting of scarce grant awards to lower income geographies where the cost of sewer conversion is highest relative to property values and income. In many low- and low-moderate income geographies, a sewer connection exceeds annual per capital income.
Tertiary Treatment of Reuse Irrigation Water
All wastewater throughout Indian River County should be processed through tertiary treatment to reduce nutrient compounds, regardless of how the treated wastewater is ultimately released into the environment.
About Tertiary Treatment of Wastewater
Wastewater is collected by a sewer system, and delivered to one or more wastewater treatment plants to be treated for removal of contaminants.
As the name implies, tertiary treatment is a three-step sequence of wastewater treatment:
Primary Treatment. Solids settle by force of gravity, and are removed from the bottom, while grease and oils are skimmed off the top.
Secondary Treatment. Microorganisms feed off of organic contaminants, the whole of which are removed as both suspended and settled solids.
Tertiary Treatment. Wastewater is further treated for removal of nitrogen and phosphorus, prior to release into the environment as effluent or reuse irrigation water.
Effectiveness of Tertiary Treatment
Traditional “Secondary” treatment process only removes about half of the nitrogen and phosphorus found in wastewater. For reference, reuse irrigation water from a secondary process contains about fifty times (50x) the concentration of nitrogen as found in the Indian River Lagoon.
Tertiary treatment typically removes 96% of nitrogen and 98% of phosphorus compounds found in untreated wastewater. About half of the nutrient removal is accomplished in the tertiary treatment process. For more information about tertiary treatment, please click here.
There are two wastewater treatment system operators in Indian River County.
Indian River County
The Indian River County West Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant employs a system of tertiary treatment. Tertiary-treated wastewater is then discharged to a system of wetlands for further “polishing.” A portion of treated wastewater is distributed as reuse irrigation water, mostly for local mainland golf courses.
The City of Vero Beach
The City of Vero Beach operates an older wastewater treatment plant at 17th Street and Indian River Boulevard. The City system does not employ tertiary treatment. Consequently, its reuse water deliveries are high in both nitrogen and phosphorus. Most of this reuse water is used for irrigation of golf courses and individual homes on the barrier island, from John’s Island to as far south as the Moorings.
Waste Water Reclamation
Cost-effective purification of treated wastewater for industrial and consumer use has been successfully implemented in a number of systems in the US and abroad.
Singapore, a city-state of 5 million, processes water from its wastewater treatment plants through reverse-osmosis to achieve ultra-pure water that exceeds WHO and US drinking water standards. Singapore water agency PUB branded this recycled water as “NEWater.”
Reverse osmosis used to produce NEWater is similar to the process used to produce our drinking water in Indian River County.
Most of the NEWater production is directed to industrial consumers, including world-class semiconductor fabricators who need both a high quantity and high quality of water.
The portion of NEWater not used in industrial application is mixed back into surface water storage that is a source for drinking water, a strategy known as “indirect potable reuse.”
NEWater supplies 40% of Singapore current water consumption needs, and is targeting 55% of its future water supply from NEWater recycling.
NEWater prices to the consumer reflect actual capital and production costs. There are no subsidies. Not only does the technology deliver an excellent product, it does so at a price competitive with water rates in Indian River County.
Vessel Discharge prohibition
Boats should use private or municipal pump-out facilities rather than discharge their treated or untreated sewage and graywater into the Indian River Lagoon.
The State of Florida must designate the Indian River Lagoon as a “No-Discharge Zone” to have an enforceable rule.
About Vessel Discharge
The discharge of untreated sewage from boats into waters of the state is prohibited by both state law (Florida Litter Law – 403.413, F.S.) and the federal Clean Water Act.
There are areas in state waters that have been designated as No Discharge Zones (NDZ). A NDZ prohibits the discharge of any sewage, whether treated or not, from a vessel into these state waters. In Florida, there are NDZs near Fort Walton Beach and around the Florida Keys.
The Clean Water Coalition will work with state and federal elected representatives to have the Indian River Lagoon designated as a No Discharge Zone.
CWC believes that nutrient-pollution impairment of the Indian River Lagoon is sufficient evidence to require a ban as provided under Section 312(f)(4)(A) of the Clean Water Act (CWA), 33 U.S.C. 1322(f).
That said, the bureaucratic process of creating a NDZ can be lengthy and complex. In summary, we must show:
The Florida DEP must declare that the Lagoon requires enhanced protection from additional sources of nutrient pollution, and
The U. S. EPA determines that sufficient pump-out facilities are reasonably available. CWC is working to document and map local pump-out facilities by talking with local marinas, clubs, boatyards, as well as mobile pumpout services. CWC supports the upgrading of pumpout facilities at the City of Vero Beach Municipal Marina.
Having determined these two requirements, the state of Florida can ban discharges under authority of 33 U.S. Code § 1322 (f)(1), or the EPA may determine the need, and invoke a ban under § 1322 (f)(4).
Under section 312 of the CWA, vessel sewage may be controlled through the establishment of areas in which discharges of sewage from vessels are not allowed. These areas are also known as “no-discharge zones” (NDZs).
The regulations allow for four methods of securing a Type I or II marine sanitation device (MSD) while in an NDZ, including:
Closing the seacock and removing the handle;
Padlocking the seacock in the closed position;
Using a non-releasable wire-tie to hold the seacock in the closed position; or
Locking the door to the space enclosing the toilets with a padlock or door handle key lock.
For Type III devices, the following options are available:
Closing valves leading to overboard discharge and removing the handle;
Padlocking any valves leading to overboard discharge in the closed position; or
Holding overboard discharge valves closed using a non-releasable wire-tie.
Clean and secure potable water supply
There is a high risk of water shortages by 2050.
The metropolitan areas of Central and South Florida have neared their aquifer extraction limit.
According to the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Americans use 30% of their water outdoors. South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) estimates that south Floridians use 50% of their water use on landscape. Conservation and reuse measures are crucial.
CWC advocates for a clean and sufficient supply of potable water for current and future generations.