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CWC's 2019 In Review

Coalition Building: The CWC is an education and advocacy organization. It is important that the issues we address are important to our community. Therefore, we urge businesses, community organizations and neighborhood groups to become active partners with the CWC to work together to effectuate our collective mission for clean water. From January to December 2019, our partnership list has grown to just under 600 partners!

Public Education: The CWC hosted quarterly educational meetings for the public with experts on water quality issues – including:

  • January 17th - Dr. Edie Widder of Ocean Research and Conservation Association (ORCA) discussed the cyanobacteria bloom in Blue Cypress Lake that was likely caused by the land application of human sludge on pastures

  • March 28th - Dr. Duane DeFreese, Director of the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program discussed the current state of the Lagoon

  • August 15th - Dr. Jim Sullivan, Director of FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute discussed Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs)

  • October 17th - Director of IRC’s Utilities - Vincent Burke discussed the County’s Septic to Sewer Plan and Challenges. At the same meeting Executive Director of Florida Onsite Wastewater Association, Roxanne Groover informed the audience about Advanced Treatment Septic Systems that reduce the Nitrogen output by 65% or more.

John’s Island Pipeline: The CWC attended County Commission and Mosquito Control District Board meetings to speak in opposition to the installation of a pipe to carry nutrient-rich reclaimed irrigation water to the John’s Island Community on the barrier island. The CWC led public education regarding the potential hazards of this project associated with potential leakage from the proposed pipeline to be buried beneath the Indian River Lagoon. Since infrastructure already exists which crosses the Lagoon on the Wabasso Causeway and can be safely extended south to John’s Island, it was felt that a subaqueous pipe construction and operation presented an unnecessary risk to the Lagoon given the existing alternatives. CWC helped to halt this project.

Boat Discharges: There are a large number of boats with on-board toilets in Indian River County waters. The numbers vary according to the time of the year since many liveaboard boaters travel north and south as snowbirds. The state, federal and local law prohibit the dumping of untreated waste into the lagoon; however, enforcement of these laws has been intermittent at best. CWC has worked with City Staff to revise the City Marina procedures to require boaters to (a) pump out their holding tanks when checking into the Marina, and (b) pump out on a regular schedule while in residence. In addition, the City Police Department has activated a Marine Unit to be trained in proper procedures for enforcing the marine discharge regulations. We anticipate a minimum of quarterly sweeps by COVB Police in conjunction with Florida FWC, to ensure compliance and more frequent patrols by COVB Marine Unit on its own.

Biosolids: An environmental emergency occurred in western Indian River County in 2018 when the formerly pristine waters of Blue Cypress Lake began experiencing a toxic algal bloom. The land application of human sewage sludge (aka “biosolids”) on neighboring pastures was suspected of creating the problem; such biosolids application has been permitted throughout Florida for years. County Commissioner Bob Solari lead strong opposition to the practice of biosolids application; supported by the CWC, Dr. Edie Widder, St John’s Riverkeeper and others. The CWC provided numerous comments and letters to the County and State expressing concerns about land application of sewage sludge as fertilizer. A 6-month moratorium was passed by the County Commission to halt this practice in Indian River County and extended for an additional 6 months in December.

Technological Solution to Human Sludge (Biosolids) Problem: There are permanent, technological solutions to the human sludge problem that are working in other parts of the country. Biosolids may be converted into energy in closed systems with useful byproducts; distilled water and aqueous ammonia and ash containing potassium. All of the toxic portions of the waste stream can be eliminated including pharmaceuticals, plastics, and volatile organic compounds. The CWC advocated for the State of Florida to fund pilot projects to demonstrate this new technology.

Graves Bros Annexation – The CWC advocated against the annexation by the City of Sebastian of the 1,100 acres due to the anticipated negative ecosystem impacts upon the South Prong of the St. Sebastian River including water quality degradation with loss of wetlands and wildlife habitat. CWC’s principal concerns for the South Prong are as follows: (1) potential loss of cypress sloughs south and north of CR510 through direct filling of wetlands; (2) potential loss of adequate upland buffer between upland development and the South Prong wetlands; (3) potential surface and ground water impacts from stormwater and septic systems likely installed with the development of up to 3,500 homes associated with the annexation. CWC has advocated that (a) The City of Sebastian cannot allow any development on the lands buffering the South Prong slough and (b) the lands buffering the South Prong must be set aside for conservation.

Funding Water Quality Improvements: CWC worked with the Brevard Indian River Lagoon Coalition (BIRLC) to craft a set of comprehensive legislative and regulatory recommendations. These recommendations were submitted to the Governor and our legislative representatives. Financing water quality improvement throughout the State of Florida has been inadequate. The CWC/BIRLC Plan recommends restoring the Water Management Districts ad valorem tax rates to pre-2000 level which would essentially double the funding available for local governments to implement water quality improve projects. Thus far, a bill for $50 million bill has been filed to address water pollution sources in the IRL. Senator Debbie Mayfield has filed SB712 to address water pollution sources and regulations that address some of our recommendations.

Wastewater: The CWC supported the City of Vero Beach’s STEP system, the County’s expansion of municipal sewer collection and supported State bills for cost share funding to lower connection fees. The CWC recommended to State leaders that all utilities complete an Asset Management Plan to ensure sufficient capacity and infrastructure integrity to prevent sewage spills.

Your CWC Board is Involved! Members of the Board attended meetings to provide input and stay informed about water quality issues and solutions. The meetings included those led by the following agencies:

Indian River Lagoon Council Management Board, IRC County Commission, City of Vero Beach and Sebastian Councils, FDEP Basin Management Action Plan, IRC Soil and Water Conservation, Coastal Conservation Association, Indian River Neighborhood Association Lagoon Committee, Vero Beach Utility Commission, Vero Beach Planning Commission, Friends of Sebastian River, Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, Pelican Island Audubon Society, DOH Community Health Improvement Plan, Harbor Branch Lagoon Symposium, Blue Green Algae Task Force, Marine Resources Council.

The above world cloud takes words from many of the Clean Water Coalition of Indian River County's 2019 emails, publications, and other texts. It lists words which appeared more as larger. The larger the word, the more we used it. This is an interesting way to see a lot of the major issues we talked about in 2019.

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