Quarterly Meeting: February 20th, 7pm Community Church, 1901 23rd Street Vero Beach “The Effects of Climate Change on Indian River Lagoon Water Quality” Speaker: Dr. Randall Parkinson (CV here)
Dr. Parkinson of Florida International University Sea Level Solutions Center has authored many papers on coastal ecology and sea level rise. His presentation will cover the five most significant climate stressors with respect to the southeastern U.S.
changes in precipitation
sea level rise
and how failure to address them will further degrade both surface and ground water quality throughout the State of Florida. The program will conclude with a discussion of the actions necessary to protect and restore Indian River Lagoon water quality under changing climate conditions.
The meeting is free, open to the public, and is an education initiative of the Clean Water Coalition of Indian River County, a 501c(3) organization. The CWC was founded in June of 2018 to advocate for protection and restoration of the surface and ground waters of Indian River County by partnering with local businesses and other environmentally concerned organizations. The CWC recently welcomed its 600th partner.
A recent presentation on the subject of climate change by Dr. Jim Sullivan of Harbor Branch may be viewed here.
Water Quality Testing Begins!
By Mark Yanno, Chair
The Clean Water Coalition of Indian River County (CWC) was proud this year to be included in T C Palm’s “Twelve Days of Christmas” thanks to Treasure Coast writer, Tyler Treadway. The contributions received have allowed us to start weekly water sampling at three locations where citizens come into contact with the lagoon.
We are collaborating with Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI), as well as State and local governments on this new initiative. Water samples are being collected by volunteers and tested in a State certified lab to provide a baseline for presence of enterococcus bacteria – an indication of fecal pollution. High bacterial presence in recreational water is a potential health risk for those who come in contact and may cause an upset stomach, diarrhea, eye irritation and skin rashes. The Health Department has monitored the beaches for years, funded by the Clean Beaches Program. A second water sample will go to HBOI to look at planktonic algae in the water.
The weekly costs associated with this testing are being paid by contributions made to the CWC for this purpose. Donations may be sent to - The Clean Water Coalition of IRC, P.O. Box 690761, Vero Beach, Florida 32969. We are a 501c(3) organization and your generous donations are tax deductible.
Marine Committee Report by Keith Drewett, Chair
The committee has been working on 3 initiatives:
1. Establishing a Federal No Discharge Zone (NDZ) The 1972 Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of untreated sewage from vessels into the navigable waters of the USA. An NDZ would further protect the lagoon by prohibiting the discharge of all sewage whether treated or untreated. Applying for an NDZ is a complex and lengthy process and we are in the early stages of researching feasibility.
2. Enforcing current state and local regulations governing the overboard discharge of sewage from vessels The enforcement of existing restrictions on the overboard discharge of sewage from vessels has been weak. Working with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the City of Vero Beach (COVB) we have been successful in significantly increasing patrols to inspect the vessels and enforce the laws. Over the last few months eight vessels been boarded and inspected and none were found to have serious violations. We have a commitment from COVB and FWC to continue these patrols in the future. We would like to thank both FWC and COVB for the excellent cooperation in moving forward with this. In addition, under new leadership, COVB Marina pump out regulations and enforcement have been significantly improved.
3. Removing derelict and abandoned and dangerous vessels from the lagoon Another risk for pollution arises from derelict, abandoned and neglected vessels. Most vessels contain large volumes of gasoline, diesel, engine oil, and hydraulic fluids as well as sewage holding tanks. If these vessels sink, are grounded, or the interior spaces are open to the elements there is a potential for all these hazardous materials to be discharged directly into the lagoon. We have alerted FWC and the COVB to the number of vessels at risk. Recent efforts to enforce regulations allowing the removal of these vessels have been virtually nonexistent. We are working with COVB and FWC to clean up the backlog of vessels.
Kudos to Indian River County! The Indian River County Parks & Conservation Resources Division is deploying two new “secret” agents in the fight against non-native/exotic plant populations on two conservation areas that were historically utilized as citrus groves. With an increasing focus on reducing herbicide use where possible, the Parks and Conservation Division is piloting a new force against exotics, albeit through an ages’ long technique…goats! An additional force that will join this pilot project will be the Brazilian peppertree thrips (Pseudophilotrhips ichini), an insect native to Brazil. This new force is being released in Florida after more than 25 years of research and development, and is being introduced through grant funding provided by the Florida Cattleman’s Association. Together, the healthy, furry goats and the small, winged insects, are hoped to give mother-nature (and the Conservation staff), the hand needed to turn fallow grove sites into healthy, thriving ecosystems. For the full story click here.
Florida 2020 Legislature - Clean Waterways Act by Michael Walther
Indian River County is within Florida’s Senate District 17 - fortunately represented by Senator Debbie Mayfield. In 2019, Senator Mayfield sponsored a bill submitted as the Clean Waterways Act to address causes of excessive blue-green algae and red tide in all of Florida’s waters. However, the 2019 bill ultimately failed after numerous committee amendments that significantly weakened the bill – largely driven by agricultural interests seeking discretion to selectively adopt best management practices recommended by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. In addition, amendments removed requirements for water quality plans to meet Florida’s water quality goals. On October 30, 2019, Senator Mayfield filed an updated Clean Waterways Actfor consideration during the 2020 Legislative session now underway. The 91-page original bill called for significant but incremental changes to state policy; however, the bill is not expected to solve Florida’s water quality problems. The bill includes regulations and creation of a wastewater grant program to minimize nutrient loads from septic tanks and sewage treatment plants. The bill would also implement recommendations of Florida's Biosolids Technical Advisory Committee, created in 2018 after cyanobacteria bloomed on Blue Cypress Lake in Indian River County. A major limitation is that the bill relies on voluntary employment of best management practices by farms that voluntarily enroll, but does not address farms that are not enrolled. Historically in Florida and elsewhere as demonstrated in Ohio, volunteer adherence by farms to best management practices to reduce pollutants has not worked. The result is that the costs of pollution associated with agriculture production is shifted to everyone else – ultimately falling to government to clean up agricultural pollution. The Office of Economic and Demographic Research (EDR), a research arm of the Florida Legislature, recently published its Annual Assessment of Florida’s Water Resources and Conservation Lands - focused on Florida’s responsibilities under the federal Clean Water Act and the Florida Watershed Restoration Act including the total maximum daily load (TMDL) program and the basin management action plan (BMAP) program. For those impaired waterbodies with an adopted TMDL and a BMAP, EDR estimates the minimumcosts to complete planned and underway BMAP Projects at over $2.9 Billion – far more than might reasonably be funded by the 2020 Florida legislature. On January 24th, the 2020 Clean Waterways Act unanimously passed the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment, and General Government with amendments to (a) reduce the frequency and types of fertilizer records reporting for agriculture, (b) provide more protective language for local ordinances related to class B biosolids application, and (c) administrative penalties for pollution dischargers. Future amendments in the Senate are likely prior to potential adoption. A potential companion Florida House Bill for Water Quality Improvements, if passed, will also very likely lead to further changes during reconciliation. In summary, there’s hope, but much remains to be done. In light of these realities, it clear that restoring Florida waters, including in Indian River County, will require future legislative action and funding – beyond the 2020 Legislature.
The Clean Water Coalition of IRC welcomes our 600th partner – Young’s Produce Membership Chairman Charlie Pope is shown with Young’s representative Scharlima Morenty
Water Quality Tip: Cleaning out your medicine cabinet? Walgreen’s Pharmacy at 1705 US #1 will take all prescription and over the counter medications for safe disposal. Never flush medications!