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

Water-Related News

Florida needs to improve sewage systems, enviro group says

Hurricane Irma caused massive sewage overflows in Florida, prompting an environmental group to call on local communities to improve infrastructure to prevent that from happening again when the next big storm hits.

“Hurricanes are a fact of life in Florida, but sewage in our streets and bays shouldn’t be,” said Jennifer Rubiello, state director of Environment Florida. “As these storms get more severe and frequent, we have to be ready for some pretty challenging conditions. We’re not ready now.”

The Department of Environmental Protection has received more than 200 cases of sewage spills since Irma barreled through Florida 10 days ago.

Environment Florida, Florida PIRG and the Frontier Group released a factsheet Wednesday demonstrating that many of the sewer systems in the state’s biggest coastal cities were unable to handle the strong rains and winds that a hurricane like Irma delivered.

Advocates say that the bacteria and viruses in wastewater can infect humans and animals.

Fight over 'flushable' wipes D.C. says are clogging sewer systems heads to federal court

The question of whether flushable wipes — used by potty-training toddlers and people looking beyond traditional toilet paper — are clogging sewer systems will be hashed out in federal court, where a manufacturer has sued the District of Columbia over a new city law regulating when such wipes can be labeled "flushable."

Dallas-based Kimberly-Clark, which manufactures Cottonelle, Scott Naturals and Pull-Ups flushable wipes, alleges that the District law — the first of its kind in the U.S. — is unconstitutional because it tries to regulate businesses beyond the city. The company also alleges that the law violates the First Amendment because it could require companies that believe their wipes to be flushable to label their products as "do not flush."

"In seeking this court intervention, Kimberly-Clark is fighting for our consumers and standing up for our brands," company spokesman Bob Brand said in an email. "The District of Columbia has unfortunately passed a law that will severely restrict, if not eliminate, consumers' ability to purchase flushable wipes in Washington D.C."

The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, came in response to complaints from DC Water and sewer utilities nationwide that flushable wipes are jamming pumps, blocking screens and clogging equipment at sewage treatment plants. The problem costs U.S. utilities up to $1 billion annually, according to the National Association of Clean Water Agencies.

The issue drew international attention a few years ago, when a 15-ton glob of wipes and hardened cooking grease the size of a bus — and nicknamed "Fatberg" by the Brits — was discovered blocking a London sewer pipe.

Water Shortage Warning Order rescinded as groundwater levels recover

The St. Johns River Water Management District’s Governing Board voted to rescind the districtwide Water Shortage Warning Order following an extended period of increased rainfall.

The Water Shortage Warning Order was originally issued in March 2017 due to below-average rainfall and declining hydrogeologic conditions. The purpose of the order was to increase awareness for the need to conserve water during drought conditions and ensure sufficient water was available to meet the needs of people and the environment.

A brief report outlining August’s hydrological conditions was also presented, which included limited data related to Hurricane Irma, as storm-related information is still being collected and assessed.

Counties with above-average monthly rainfall include Flagler with 8.49 inches, Lake with 8.25 inches, Volusia with 7.76 inches, Putnam with 7.61 inches, Marion with 7.87 inches and Nassau with 6.87 inches. Brevard, Indian River, Okeechobee and Osceola counties received below-average monthly rainfall, resulting in a deficit of two or more inches for each county.

Water conservation for hurricane Irma recovery

All of Orange County’s nearly 800 wastewater pump stations have been restored, after more than 50 percent had been impacted by Hurricane Irma. Residents were asked to limit their water usage to reduce the impact on the wastewater system. However, However now that all pump stations have been restored, water consumption, including use of dishwashers and washing machines, may resume to normal levels.

Just after the storm, more than half of the county pump stations (446) were offline due to power disruptions in the wake of the storm. Crews and generators were in the field by 3:30 a.m. Monday, September 11, to begin restoration.

The public’s assistance reducing the amount of wastewater produced was asked to aid crews with these efforts.

Lake Jessamine and Lake Pearl
Due to power outages caused by Hurricane Irma, a sewage overflow has occurred adjacent to Lake Jessamine – located near the Conway area, as well as to Lake Pearl – located near the UCF area. Residents should avoid all contact with these lake waters and avoid recreation in the lake until further notice. Orange County Government is monitoring the situation and will perform sampling of the lake water during the next few days. An update will be provided when the lake is safe again. For questions, please contact Orange County’s Environmental Protection Division at 407-836-1400.

Wakes from Boating
Due to the high water levels in many area lakes, the Orange County Environmental Protection Division is advising residents to avoid creating wakes when boating on our lakes. Even after a hurricane has passed, our local lakes and rivers may continue to increase for several days as their watersheds drain downstream. It can take days for lakes that are landlocked or have limited discharge capacities to return to their normal water levels.

Wakes produced by ski boats, jet skis and other motorboats can cause severe erosion and damage to boat docks, seawalls and even property such as pools and other outside structures. In addition, with high lake levels, boat docks may be submerged with no visible signs of their presence at the surface. These submerged items can pose serious threats to personal safety.

Please take precautions for your own safety and respect your neighbor’s shoreline as you boat on our lakes during this time of high water levels.

Sewage Overflow: Lake Jessamine and Lake Pearl (Updated)

Update: The advisory issued below on 9/12/17 for Lake Pearl is still in effect. Recent sampling results in Pearl Lake (located near UCF) indicate that bacteria levels have not dropped to recreational standards. Samples will be taken again on Monday, September 25th and we will have results on Tuesday, September 26th.

Update: The lake advisory posted due to bacterial contamination from Hurricane Irma has been lifted for Lake Jessamine.

Please call Orange County Environmental Protection if you have questions at (407)836-1400.


Tuesday, Sep. 12:

Due to power outages caused by Hurricane Irma, a sewage overflow has occurred adjacent to Lake Jessamine – located near the Conway area, as well as to Lake Pearl – located near the UCF area. Residents should avoid all contact with these lake waters and avoid recreation in the lake until further notice. Orange County Government is monitoring the situation and will perform sampling of the lake water during the next few days. An update will be provided when the lake is safe again. For questions, please contact Orange County’s Environmental Protection Division at 407-836-1400.

Sewage Overflow: Little Lake Conway (UPDATED)

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9/22 Update: The advisory issued below on 9/14/17 for the lake is still in effect. Recent sampling results in Little Lake Conway indicate that bacteria levels have not dropped to recreational standards. Samples will be taken again on Monday, September 25th and we will have results on Tuesday, September 26th.

Due to power outages caused by Hurricane Irma, a sewage overflow has occurred adjacent to Little Lake Conway. Residents should avoid all contact with lake water and avoid recreation in the lake until further notice. Orange County Government is monitoring the situation and will perform sampling of the lake water during the next few days. An update will be provided when the lake is safe again. For questions, please contact Orange County’s Environmental Protection Division at 407-836-1400.

Sewage Overflow Alert lifted for Bay Lake, near John Young Parkway

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Update: The lake advisory posted due to bacterial contamination from Hurricane Irma has been lifted for Bay Lake (John Young Pkwy and 441 area)

Please call Orange County Environmental Protection if you have questions at (407)836-1400.

Due to power outages caused by Hurricane Irma, a sewage overflow has occurred adjacent to Bay Lake, near John Young Parkway, south of Orange Blossom Trail. Residents should avoid all contact with lake water and avoid recreation in the lake until further notice. Orange County Government is monitoring the situation and will perform sampling of the lake water during the next few days. An update will be provided when the lake is safe again. For questions, please contact Orange County’s Environmental Protection Division at (407)836-1400.

Sewage spills add to misery In hurricane-battered Florida

As if loss of air conditioning and refrigeration weren't bad enough, widespread power outages in hurricane-battered Florida are teaming with structural failures to cause another headache: sewage overflows.

Local governments have submitted well over 100 "notices of pollution" to the state Department of Environmental Protection since Hurricane Irma struck, some involving multiple spills and releases of millions of gallons of wastewater in various stages of treatment.

Officials in many cities were still scrambling Thursday to determine how much sewage had escaped, while the state warned people to steer clear of standing water.

"Floodwaters may contain not only bacteria from sanitary sewer overflows but other potential contaminants from agricultural or industrial waste," environmental protection department spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller said.

About 6 million gallons of wastewater was released from a plant on Virginia Key near Miami during a seven-hour power outage overnight Sunday that disabled its pumps — one of seven spills reported by the Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer Department. The water had gone through most of the treatment process but hadn't been chlorinated, spokeswoman Jennifer Messemer-Skold said.

Officials advised people not to swim at Miami-area beaches until waters could be tested for a variety of pollutants.

Comment period extended for the definition of "Waters of the United States"

EPA and the Army have extended the comment period by 30 days for the proposed first step of the review of the definition of "waters of the United States" to provide additional time for stakeholders to weigh in.

Background
The comment period, as now extended, will close on September 27, 2017. The proposed rule was signed by the Administrator and Mr. Douglas Lamont, senior official performing the duties of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, and posted to EPA’s website on June 27th and published in the Federal Register on July 27th. When finalized, the proposed rule would replace the 2015 Clean Water Rule with the regulations that were in effect immediately preceding the 2015 rule. The public can submit comments, identified by Docket Id. EPA-HQ-2017-0203, at regulations.gov.

Federal Register Notice
On August 16, 2017, the EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Water, Michael Shapiro, along with Mr. Douglas Lamont, senior official performing the duties of the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, signed the Federal Register notice extending the public comment period, which published on August 22, 2017.

Hurricane Irma's fury has forced closure of many Central Florida parks and trails

After days of living without power, calling roofing companies or cleaning up yard debris, many Central Floridians may be looking for a quiet place to relax and de-stress following Hurricane Irma.

But visiting a preserve or taking a hike on a nature path might not be an option for the time being. A week after Irma plowed through the region, many campgrounds, trails and boardwalks are closed because of downed trees, fallen power lines, flooding and no electricity.

In some cases, the facilities could be closed for several more weeks.

“It’s not safe to be out on the property,” said Danielle Spears, a spokeswoman for the St. Johns River Water Management District, regarding the Lake Apopka Loop Trail, which was closed after the storm. The popular nature trail follows the northern shoreline of the large lake between Orange and Lake counties for nearly 15 miles and attracts hikers, bicyclists and nature lovers throughout the state.

IMPORTANT: Post-Irma water body advisory

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Fri. 9/15/2017: Orange County is issuing an advisory for all lakes and rivers until further notice. Please refrain from recreation and contact in and around waterbodies. Many of these systems may have been adversely impacted by Hurricane Irma and there is a high potential for contamination, displaced wildlife and submerged structures.

Herbicide application on Lake Roberts, 8/22

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The Environmental Protection Division will be performing an aquatic plant herbicide treatment on 8/22/17. This treatment is part of an ongoing effort to manage emergent/floating vegetation throughout the canals and lake. WATER USE RESTRICTIONS: NONE.

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