An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

First pond atop the troubled Piney Point gypsum stack is closed

A milestone was reached Thursday, as one of the wastewater ponds atop the Piney Point phosphate plant was closed. This means the troubled plant is one step closer to being closed - forever.

State environmental officials are lauding the closure of what is called the OGS-South compartment area. It is one of four ponds atop the gypsum stack in Manatee County, where a leak in 2021 resulted in the release of more than 200 million gallons of polluted water into Tampa Bay. That was later blamed in part for one of the worst outbreaks of red tide to ever plague the bay.

To get to this point, workers had to remove 270 million gallons of water atop the gypstack, install a new liner, and cover it with soil and grass. Any new rainfall will be routed to a stormwater retention area near the bottom of the stack.

In April, an injection well was dug that will place much of the polluted water from the four ponds deep below the drinking water aquifer. Workers are injecting at least 700,000 gallons of wastewater every day. When the project is completed, about half a billion gallons will have been cleaned and drained.

"I am thankful for the progress we have seen at Piney Point to date – including the work to secure and protect the site during two hurricanes – and am encouraged as the court-appointed receiver has completed this first phase of closure work," said Shawn Hamilton, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection. "DEP looks forward to the receiver's continued work to expedite the next phase of closure and eventually the full closure of the facility."

Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered the site be closed after the 2021 spill. So far, the state has spent about $185 million toward the project.

Herb Donica, the court-appointed receiver, has estimated the closure of the entire gypstack should be completed by the end of 2024.

USF researchers secure $1.5M federal grant to reduce runoff, improve water quality

The goals of the grant are to improve water quality and reduce runoff into Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers from the University of South Florida is working to protect the environment by preventing pollution from seeping into a local stormwater pond that flows into Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

Through a three-year, $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the team, which includes the University of Florida, is installing a bio-infiltration system at Aaran’s Pond in Tampa’s University Area Community, where more than one in three residents live below the federal poverty level.

The nearby stormwater drains are filled with litter, such as cans, shoes and plastic.

According to principal investigator Professor Sarina Ergas in the USF Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, when it rains, the water washes pollutants, such as fertilizer, oil, animal waste and rotting vegetation into gutters, which then feed into an existing stormwater pond. For that reason, urban runoff is a challenging problem to address in underserved communities, especially as stormwater ponds are often full of trash and difficult to clean due to restrictive fencing and steep slopes.

“We’re calling them inert zombies due to their lack of life,” Ergas said. “If you look at the difference between a stormwater pond in a wealthy neighborhood and one in a low-income neighborhood – it’s day and night in terms of how they benefit the community.”

If those pollutants are not removed from the ponds, they eventually cascade into the Hillsborough River and Tampa Bay, which feeds into the Gulf of Mexico. Nutrients, such as nitrogen, create harmful algal blooms, kill sea grass and reduce oxygen in the water.

The team is partnering with Oldcastle Infrastructure to install four new bio-infiltration systems around the pond to improve the nutrient removal. The systems will retain and treat the runoff water with biochar, a charcoal-like material that will help reduce the nutrient pollution and increase microbial activity and plant growth.

Previous studies with biochar have taken place in the lab, making this the first time it’s used in a pond to improve water quality.

The USF team is collaborating with Mary Lusk, a University of Florida expert in stormwater ponds and their functions, to redesign the pond with the Hillsborough County Engineering and Operations Department. The plan is to plant bio-infiltration systems with shrubs and bushes along the steep slopes to provide additional filtration and make the pond more visually appealing.

Florida looks to increase number of wetland mitigation banks, credits available to developers

The state has 131 wetlands mitigation banks available today.

Mitigation credits for wetlands, while still controversial among conservationists, remain a high-demand service in Florida. Meanwhile, the state only has so much space in existing banks.

Water quality officials told Florida lawmakers they intend to open another 30 sites on top of the 131 mitigation banks already in operation in Florida. Mitigation banks today cover almost 227,500 acres of land around the state.

“The bankers are out there hustling,” said Christine Wentzel, a regulatory manager for the St. Johns River Water Management District.

Developers under Florida law may offset the impacts of projects on wetlands by buying and maintaining areas near wetlands that can be restored to serve the same ecological purpose. In a presentation to the House Water Quality, Supply and Treatment Subcommittee, Wentzel discussed how credits are calculated and defended the value of the program to the state’s ecology.

The state looks to grow the available number of mitigation banks as state and federal environmental officials navigate a changing legal environment. The U.S. Supreme Court in May issued a ruling governing what waters fall under the full legal purview of the United States.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency last month issued new guidelines based on that, but officials at the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) remain in communication about jurisdictional matters.

SWFWMD to hold virtual workshop on minimum flows for Little Manatee River


The Southwest Florida Water Management District (District) invites the public to a virtual workshop Wednesday, Sept. 27, at 5:30 p.m. The purpose of the virtual workshop is to allow for public comment on recommended minimum flows for Little Manatee River in Hillsborough County. These are the first minimum flows being established for this river system and will include both the upper (freshwater) and lower (estuarine) portions of the river.

Members of the public may join the meeting via Microsoft Teams through this link The Google Chrome browser is recommended for best compatibility with Microsoft Teams. For telephone-only participation, dial 1-786-749-6127 and when prompted enter the conference ID: 827 298 974#.

Minimum flows are limits established by the District’s Governing Board, and required by state law, to protect flowing water bodies from significant harm caused by ground and surface water withdrawals. The District’s scientists use numerous tools to collect, develop and analyze data before recommending a minimum flow. Their work is then evaluated by an independent peer review panel.

During the workshop, District staff will review the technical basis for the recommended minimum flows for Little Manatee River. A draft report for the recommended minimum flows for Little Manatee River is available for review and is posted at Visit the Minimum Flows for the Little Manatee River webpage for more information and a timeline about the process.

Also on the webpage, a virtual public comment card will be open now through Oct. 6, 2023, for the public to submit comments to the District. District staff anticipates presenting the recommended minimum flows for Little Manatee River for Governing Board approval this fall.

For more information regarding the recommended minimum flows, please contact Kym Holzwart, Lead Ecologist with the District’s Environmental Flows and Assessments Section at (352) 269-5946. Written comments regarding the minimum flows are also welcome. They can be submitted via mail or email no later than Oct. 6, 2023, to Kym Holzwart, at 2379 Broad Street, Brooksville, FL 34604-6899 or

Locals taste “brew-tiful” new beer made from recycled water at Keel Farms

The brew named “Deja Brew” can be purchased on tap and in a growler or can, at Keel Farms.

The question of what to do with approximately 400 gallons of ultra-purified, recycled water from Plant City’s Advance Water Treatment Plant was answered by Keel Farms owner Clay Keel.

Keel toured the city’s One Water Demonstration Facility several months ago with Leadership Tampa and tasted the clean, direct potable reuse (DPR) water. He thought it was good and he could make beer with it.

The wastewater does, after all, go through an advanced multi-step treatment process which involves a membrane filtration, reverse osmosis and ultraviolet/advanced oxidation process system. The resulting product is clean, clear and nutrient-free. “At Keel Farms our principles are quality, sustainability and community and this was right up our alley on sustainability and it’s also innovative,” he said.

Keel took two, 200-gallon wine tanks, filled them with the water, took them back to his brewery, and began the process of turning water into beer. “We’ve never used anything other than our well water to make beer in the last 10 years and the water that came out of this system was like distilled water, there was nothing in it,” said Keel. “It’s unique as a brewer because we could build the water to the beer as we wanted it.”

Pinellas County to hold public meeting about Anchoring Limitation Areas

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The Public Works Department of Pinellas County, Florida announces a public meeting pertaining to Anchoring Limitation Areas in Pinellas County to which all persons are invited.

Meeting Details

Date and Time: Oct. 17, 2023 at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time

Location for In-Person Attendance:

County Communications Department Building
Palm Room
333 Chestnut Street
Clearwater, FL 33756

Members of the public wishing to address the Board in person are encouraged to preregister at Preregistration is encouraged but not required. Those who have not preregistered may register when they arrive.

Pursuant to the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, any person requiring special accommodations to participate in this meeting is asked to advise Pinellas County at least five days before the meeting by contacting the Executive Assistant in Public Works at 727-464-3829.

Virtual Meeting Details

This public meeting will be live streamed at:

  • Pinellas County YouTube Channel, and
  • Pinellas County Connection Television PCC-TV.

It will be broadcast on Pinellas County cable public access channels:

  • Spectrum Channel 637
  •  Frontier Channel 44
  • WOW! Channel 18

Zoom Meeting Details

Members of the public wishing to address the Board via Zoom or by phone are required to preregister by 5 p.m. on Monday Oct. 16, 2023, by visiting Those who cannot access the registration form via the internet may call 727-464-3000 to request assistance preregistering.

Members of the public who have preregistered may attend the meeting via Zoom by visiting or by calling the Zoom webinar at one of the following numbers: 1-646-558-8656; or 1-312-626-6799; or 1-301-715-8592; or 1-346-248-7799; or 1-720-707-2699; or 1-253-215-8782. The Webinar ID number is 238 247 671. There is no guarantee against technology failures.

Providing Comments in Advance

Members of the public wishing to provide comments in advance may call the Agenda Comment Line at 727-464-4400 or complete the online comment form at Comments must be submitted by 5 p.m. on Monday Oct. 16, 2023.

Persons who are deaf or hard of hearing may provide public input on any agenda item through use of the State of Florida’s relay service at 7-1-1.

Meeting Participation Information

Find information about participating in a Board of County Commissioners Meeting.

General Subject Matter to Be Considered

This is a meeting of the Public Works Department of Pinellas County, Florida pertaining to Anchoring Limitation Areas in Pinellas County, Creating County Ordinance 23-XX of the Pinellas County Code of Ordinances (“Code”), establishing anchoring limitation areas within certain areas in Clearwater, Florida; and providing for severability, inclusion in the code, and an effective date.

The Ordinance can be inspected at the Pinellas County Board Records Department, which is located 315 Court Street, Fifth Floor, Clearwater, Florida, 33756. The Ordinance will also be posted at the Pinellas County calendar before the meeting. There may be modifications to the Ordinance made at the hearing.

For More Information

Contact the Pinellas County Executive Assistant in Public Works office at 727-464-3829 or

Biden administration restores the power of states and tribes to review projects to protect waterways

States and Native American tribes will have greater authority to block energy projects such as natural gas pipelines that could pollute rivers and streams under a final rule issued Thursday by the Biden administration.

The rule, which takes effect in November, reverses a Trump-era action that limited the ability of states and tribes to review pipelines, dams and other federally regulated projects within their borders. The Environmental Protection Agency says the new regulation will empower local authorities to protect rivers and streams while supporting infrastructure projects that create jobs.

“We actually think this is going to be great for the country,” said Radhika Fox, assistant administrator for water. “It’s going to allow us to balance the Biden administration goals of protecting our water resources and also supporting all kinds of infrastructure projects that this nation so desperately needs.”

But Fox acknowledged at a briefing that the water rule will be significantly slimmed down from an earlier proposal because of a Supreme Court ruling that weakened regulations protecting millions of acres of wetlands. That ruling, in a case known as Sackett v. EPA, sharply limited the federal government’s jurisdiction over wetlands, requiring that wetlands be more clearly connected to other waters such as oceans and rivers. Environmental advocates said the May decision would strip protections from tens of millions of acres of wetlands.

Researchers: Coastal ecosystems will drown if world warms above 2°C

After studying more than 1,500 coastal ecosystems, researchers say they will drown if we let the world warm above 2°C

Much of the world's natural coastline is protected by living habitats, most notably mangroves in warmer waters and tidal marshes closer to the poles. These ecosystems support fisheries and wildlife, absorb the impact of crashing waves and clean up pollutants. But these vital services are threatened by global warming and rising sea levels.

Recent research has shown wetlands can respond to sea level rise by building up their root systems, pulling carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the process. Growing recognition of the potential for this "blue" carbon sequestration is driving mangrove and tidal marsh restoration projects.

While the resilience of these ecosystems is impressive, it is not without limits. Defining the upper limits to mangrove and marsh resilience under accelerating sea level rise is a topic of great interest and considerable debate.

Our new research, published in the journal Nature, analyzes the vulnerability and exposure of mangroves, marshes and coral islands to sea level rise. The results underscore the critical importance of keeping global warming within 2 degrees of the pre-industrial baseline.

Mote Marine Lab hosts workshop on red tide mitigation tools

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Mote hosts workshop to discuss deployment of mitigation tools for Florida red tide

Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium recently invited researchers from around the world to discuss mitigation tools and technologies for the harmful algal bloom (HAB) that affects many communities across the state – Florida red tide – as part of its Florida Red Tide Mitigation & Technology Development Initiative.

Mote hosted the workshop where Florida red tide mitigation scientists, engineers, and government agencies, gathered to review the current research being developed, discuss options for deployment technologies, understand the regulatory steps and agencies involved, and plan for intellectual property and commercialization issues that may arise.

Red tides are caused by higher-than-normal concentrations of Karenia brevis (microscopic algae native to the Gulf of Mexico), often discoloring the water in the ocean and coastal waters of southwest Florida. K. brevis produces toxins that can harm sea life, lead to massive fish kills, and cause respiratory irritation in people. Florida red tides can also have detrimental effects on shellfish, fishing and tourism industries.

The Florida Red Tide Mitigation & Technology Development Initiative, a partnership between Mote and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), was established by the Florida Legislature and signed by Governor DeSantis in 2019 to establish an independent and coordinated effort among public and private research entities to develop prevention, control and mitigation technologies that will decrease the impacts of Florida red tide on the environment, economy and quality of life in Florida.

"With support from the State of Florida for this initiative, researchers are empowered to present their solutions and collaborate through applied science and engineering to fight red tide while stimulating Florida’s economy through technology transfer that helps transform ecological challenge to economic opportunity,” said Mote President and CEO Dr. Michael P. Crosby. “This cross-disciplinary team effort across many institutions is key to developing innovation solutions for communities acro

New report highlights economic impact of the Tampa Bay estuary

Tampa Bay – For more than 10,000 years, a healthy Tampa Bay has been the lifeblood of the region that bears its name. Today, a healthy Tampa Bay supports one in 10 jobs across the region and generates $32.1 billion in economic output, according to a new report, the 2023 Economic Valuation of Tampa Bay, from the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council (TBRPC) and the Tampa Bay Estuary Program.

“This report makes it clear that a healthy Tampa Bay is vital to the regional economy, and that our economic well-being goes hand-in-hand with the health of the Tampa Bay estuary,” said Woody Brown, Mayor of Largo, Acting Chair of the TBRPC, and Vice Chair of the TBRPC’s Agency on Bay Management (ABM).

“All too often, we don’t recognize the Tampa Bay estuary as a critical economic driver for our region,” adds Barbara Sheen Todd, Chair of the ABM who also served as a Pinellas County Commissioner for nearly 25 years. “Our ability to restore those important natural habitats has made Tampa Bay an international success story, and we must continue to focus on maintaining and improving the environmental integrity of Tampa Bay.”

And the primary economic drivers documented in the new report depend upon a healthy bay, notes Ed Sherwood, Executive Director of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program. “Tourism and marine construction contribute nearly 58% of that $32 billion economic output. If the bay degrades and healthy habitats go away, or we do a poor job of protecting the quality of our environment, then it’s likely we’ll adversely impact those sectors in the future.”

The full report, available online at, classifies the economic benefits of the bay in three categories – economic impact, increased property values for homes located near the bay, and ecosystem services.

Tampa Bay Estuary Program solicits proposals for new, innovative ways to assess Old Tampa Bay

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The Tampa Bay Estuary Program (TBEP), in cooperation with the Tampa Bay Nitrogen Management Consortium (TBNMC), is advertising a revised request for proposals to assess the nutrient assimilative capacity of Old Tampa Bay. Recurring summertime blooms of the harmful alga Pyrodinium bahamense, combined with hydrologic alterations and changes in temperature, rainfall, sea level, and salinity, may be affecting the ability of Old Tampa Bay to receive and process external and internal nutrient loads. Technical assistance is required for the following tasks:

  1. Evaluate Existing Management Paradigm and Propose Alternatives
  2. Evaluate Eutrophication Indicator Targets, Thresholds, and Numeric Nutrient Criteria and Propose Adjustments
  3. Management Intervention Assessment and Recommendations
  4. Re-Evaluate Existing Nitrogen Allocations in Old Tampa Bay

Up to $320,000 may be made available to support this work. The anticipated project duration is 12 months. Questions are due by September 18 and there will be a Q&A webinar on September 22. Full proposals are due by October 27th.

Visit the link below to view the RFP or ask TBEP staff a question about the work.

Bioluminescent algae bloom dazzles beachgoers on Anna Maria Island

MANATEE COUNTY – It comes as no surprise to locals that the waters surrounding Anna Maria Island in Manatee County hold a brilliant bluish-green hue even on a bad day. But not on this night.

Astrophotographer Tammy Fryer told she recently ventured out to the tip of the island community to capture photos of the Milky Way, something she does whenever the moon doesn’t light up the night sky.

“I’ve seen some spectacular things here, but this is definitely in the top five,” Fryer wrote on Facebook, accompanied by a series of mystifying photos. “No photo or video does it justice. It’s breathtakingly beautiful.”

Fryer caught herself in the midst of a bioluminescent algae bloom.

According to the Department for Environment and Water, a natural chemical process known as bioluminescence allows living things to produce light inside their bodies. Some fish, squid, tiny crustaceans, and algae produce bioluminescence to confuse predators, attract prey, or lure potential mates.

Humans, on the other hand, can witness the natural phenomenon when there is lots of bioluminescence in the water, usually from an algae bloom of plankton.

Red tide sets manatee deaths along Florida’s west coast apart, experts say

Water quality and seagrass health play a big role in marine mammals’ survival anywhere in the state.

Red tide in the water and in the air contribute to manatee deaths on Florida’s west coast, setting the region’s waterways apart from other troubled areas of manatee mortality in Florida, researchers say.

In the long run, the loss of seagrass connects both coasts’ investigations into the marine mammals’ well-being, but, according to Dr. Thomas K. Frazer, dean and professor in the University of South Florida College of Marine Sciences, the reasons behind the decline in water quality can often be linked to different factors.

“The last several years have been very difficult for manatees, for a variety of reasons. Particularly on the east coast, and similarly, maybe to a lesser degree, on the west coast,” he said.

Seagrasses, which flourish in shallow water, are the bedrock of coastal marine life. They filter pollutants, act as a nursery to marine life and offer manatees and sea turtles their main food source.

Seagrasses also serve as a canary in the coal mine, their health and vitality an indicator of potential problems. Starting in 2016, seagrass numbers have generally declined around the state and specifically in Sarasota Bay; a warning of the decline of the delicate ecosystems along the Gulf of Mexico.

“One of the reasons why we’ve lost so many manatees in the last two and a half years is from starvation. Not boat strikes, but starving to death, due to the lapse in water quality in (Sarasota Bay), which affects their food source,” said Dr. Dave Tomasko, director of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, adding the Indian River Lagoon on Florida’s east coast is the epicenter for seagrass loss and manatee deaths.

“It might be as high as 30 to 50 percent of the east coast manatee population basically starved to death in the last two and a half years,” said Tomasko.

‘No obvious culprit’: Questions remain after Port Manatee oil spill

PALMETTO – 8 On Your Side continues to push for answers about an oil spill that occurred last week at Port Manatee.

On Friday, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Longboat Key) toured the area, and said he plans to make sure the government figures out who’s responsible.

“At this time there’s no smoking gun, no obvious culprit,” U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Michael Kahle said.

Without any answers, the Coast Guard is investigating how thousands of gallons of oil got into the water at Port Manatee.

“Got on scene [and] saw it looked like there was a heavy oil material in court,” Capt. Kahle said. “Fortunately, weather was on our side and it pushed the material and kept it contained within the walls of the port.”

So far, he said 97% of the material has been removed from the surface of the water.

“Decline of Seagrasses in Tampa Bay” Story Map released by TBRPC

Seagrass meadows are thought to have covered 76,000 acres of Tampa Bay before the 1930s. 2018 marked a turning point in seagrass coverage and was the first year since 1988 where acreage declined. Since 2018, Tampa Bay has lost more than 30% of seagrass coverage.

Seagrasses are extremely vital for a healthy bay. They support thousands of marine species, store carbon, improve water quality, protect coastlines, cycle nutrients, and create habitat corridors between coral reefs and mangroves.

View Storymap »

Lack of rainfall, customer demand force Tampa Water Department to buy water

TAMPA – For the second time this year, the Tampa Water Department said it has to buy water from another agency to keep up with customer demand.

According to a press release, the water department will buy water from Tampa Bay Water starting on Sept. 11. The department said it would have to buy additional water for at least four months, though the end date for the purchase is not yet determined.

The department previously bought water from TBW from April 20 through June 9.

“Although some of our customers may notice taste and odor differences, the water remains safe to drink and use in their homes and businesses,” said John Ring, Water Production Manager for the Tampa Water Department.

The water department said the purchase was necessary because of the lack of rainfall and the limit the department is allowed to withdraw from the Hillsborough River Reservoir.

Hurricane Idalia caused widespread pollution in Florida’s waterways

Wastewater, fuel and chemicals spilled in several parts of the state as the massive storm caused extensive flooding.

While Hurricane Idalia ravaged Florida’s Big Bend region, rain and wind from the massive storm also caused wastewater leaks, chemical dumps and fuel spills in Tampa Bay and other storm-struck parts of the state.

At least 26,000 gallons of wastewater spills, mostly raw sewage, were reported to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as of Friday.

In each instance, the flooding was so severe that officials said it’s not possible to tell exactly how much wastewater was released. Instead, estimates were provided.

In Tampa Bay and neighboring tributaries like the Manatee River and Boca Ciega Bay, winds and high seas toppled boats, sending their gasoline into the waters below. Hurricane Idalia’s floodwaters are also being blamed for a kerosene leak that sent flammable liquid into a St. Petersburg mobile home park.

The early snapshot of Idalia’s environmental impacts, gleaned from state and federal pollution reports, underscores the typical reality following a major hurricane’s landfall: Waterways under the storm’s crosshairs get stirred with human sewage, gas and whatever else may have mixed with storm surge.

Flesh-eating bacteria lurk in post-hurricane floodwaters. Here’s how to stay safe.

Cases of Vibrio vulnificus infection tend to rise after hurricanes mix fresh rainwater with salty seawater.

In the wake of Hurricane Idalia, health officials warned of a invisible threat in the lingering floodwaters: Vibrio vulnificus bacteria.

The warning comes as serious infections from the bacteria are on the rise, tied to warming coastal waters. On Sept. 1, the Centers for Disease Control issued an alert to health care providers to consider Vibrio as a possible cause of infected wounds, noting several severe and fatal cases in Connecticut, New York and North Carolina.

The rare and potentially deadly type of flesh-eating bacterium "shouldn't be taken lightly," Florida Health Department press secretary Jae Williams said. "It needs to be treated with proper respect — the same way we respect alligators and rattlesnakes."

Florida health officials started alerting residents of the potential for such bacterial infections "as soon as the state of emergency was declared," Williams said, referring to Hurricane Idalia.

Coastal areas of the state, as well as Georgia and the Carolinas, where Idalia's surges left behind standing water, were most at risk for Vibrio bacteria.

NASA scientists test new tool for tracking algal blooms

Harmful algae can endanger public health and coastal ecosystems and economies. Advances in satellite imaging are providing new ways to look at our living ocean.

By the time they were over, a series of massive algal blooms along the west coast of Florida in 2020 would be linked to some 2,000 tons of dead marine life around Tampa Bay. The human costs were stark, too, including a double-digit increase in asthma cases in Sarasota and Pinellas counties, and estimated losses of around $1 billion across economic sectors from tourism to fisheries.

Earth-orbiting satellites have been used for decades to detect algal blooms from space, enabling more frequent observations over broader areas than is possible by directly sampling the water. The most common observing technique relies on the visible spectrum to measure ocean color. However, this approach has been mostly restricted to clear sky conditions.

A recent study, led by scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California, has shown how one space-based instrument called TROPOMI, or TROPOspheric Monitoring Instrument, was able to peer through thin clouds to uncover powerful clues about Karenia brevis (or K. brevis), the microscopic algae responsible for the 2020 blooms. TROPOMI’s enhanced ability to “see” and measure fine wavelengths of light could potentially help federal agencies and local communities better forecast and manage harmful outbreaks. (TROPOMI flies aboard the European Sentinel 5P spacecraft, which was launched in 2017.)

The scientists examined the West Florida Shelf, a stretch of continental crust arcing from the Panhandle to the Keys. From its origins in other parts of the Gulf of Mexico, K. brevis is carried toward the coastline on strong winds and ocean currents. Recent research has shown that western Florida, like many coastal communities, may be increasingly vulnerable to outbreaks because these algae flourish in nutrient-rich, warm conditions fueled by runoff, fertilizer, and climate change.

Public Health Advisory issued for Ben T Davis and Davis Island Beaches due to high bacteria levels

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September 7, 2023

TAMPA – The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County has issued a public health advisory for Ben T. Davis and Davis Island beaches due to high bacteria levels. This should be considered a potential risk to the bathing public, and swimming is not recommended.

Samples taken, were above the threshold for enterococci bacteria. The beaches will be re-sampled in a week.

When re-sampling indicates that the water is within the satisfactory range, the advisory will be lifted.

About Health Advisory for High Bacteria Levels

An advisory is issued when the beach action value is 70.5 or higher. This is set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County has been conducting coastal beach water quality monitoring at nine sites once every two weeks since August 2000, and weekly since August 5, 2002 through the Healthy Beaches Monitoring Program.

The water samples are being analyzed for enteric bacteria (enterococci) that normally inhabit the intestinal tract of humans and animals, which may cause human disease, infections, or rashes. The presence of enteric bacteria is an indication of fecal pollution, which may come from storm water runoff, pets and wildlife, and human sewage. The purpose of the Healthy Beaches Monitoring Program is to determine whether Florida has significant coastal beach water quality problems.

Please visit the Florida Department of Health's Beach Water Quality website. To review the beach water sampling results for reporting counties, click on a county name.

Hillsborough Health Dept. issues Blue-Green Algae Bloom Alert for Little Half Moon Lake-South

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September 5, 2023

TAMPA – The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough has issued a Health Alert for the presence of harmful blue-green algal toxins in Little Half Moon Lake - South. This is in response to a water sample taken on August 28, 2023. The public should exercise caution in and around Little Half Moon Lake - South.

Residents and visitors are advised to take the following precautions:

  • 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.
For updates, please visit the statewide Algal Bloom Dashboard.

Oil spill at SeaPort Manatee prompts Coast Guard investigation

MANATEE COUNTY – SeaPort Manatee is under investigation by the Coast Guard after a crude oil leak.

The Coast Guard was notified of the contamination Friday morning by a member of their National Response Center.

Nicole Groll is the public information officer for the Coast Guard Tampa Bay and said crews immediately went into action after learning of the crude oil leak.

"Initially, about 1,400 feet of boom was deployed around the area, and then contractors were enlisted to help our on-scene responders," Groll said

Since Friday, Groll said nearly 15,000 gallons of the oil and water mixture have been recovered, and the oil has been contained to the facility..

Pollution responders are also working to clean off any ship hulls that were impacted by the oil.

Groll said the spill happened at Berth 9 near the parking lot area.

"The pollution cleanup folks, they will either vacuum it all up to either transport it to dispose of it safely," Groll said.

No-swim advisory issued for Palma Sola beach after countywide swim advisory lifted

MANATEE COUNTY – A no-swim advisory was issued for a Manatee County beach Sunday, the same day the Florida Department of Health in Manatee County lifted the countywide swim advisory for public beaches.

The no-swim advisory is for Palma Sola South, located along SR 64 near Palma Sola Bay. A no-swim advisory is issued when enterococci bacteria levels exceed federal guidelines for safe swimming.

The advisory will be in effect until the water meets Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) safety guidelines.

The swim advisory for Manatee County was issued Friday due to the potential effects on water quality related to Hurricane Idalia.

Other beaches in Manatee County, including Bayfront Park North, Manatee Public Beach, Bradenton Beach, Coquina Beach (North and South), and Broadway Beach Access on Longboat Key, are not under advisory.

For updates, visit the Florida Healthy Beaches webpage for Manatee County.

Manatee County implements a wetland mitigation program

Establishment of a "mitigation bank" of land aims at keeping forced wetland improvements within Manatee County.

A week after Manatee County commissioners voted 6-1 to reduce wetland protections, the environment was back in the discussion Aug. 22 as commissioners heard a plan to establish a county wetland mitigation program.

Commissioner Jason Bearden called it a “no brainer,” and the program, which establishes a mitigation bank of land within Manatee County, passed with unanimous approval. Commissioners say the program is intended to save money, support the Capital Improvement Plan and keep restored wetlands within Manatee County.

Longboat Key resident Rusty Chinnis called the program “damage control,” by the commissioners. Chinnis attended the Aug. 17 land use meeting, where members of the public packed the chambers attempting to stop a transmission to the state legislature that would cut additional wetland protections out of the Comprehensive Plan.

If approved in October, county wetland buffers that currently must be between 30 and 50 feet will only need to meet the state standard of 15 feet.

The EPA removes federal protections for most of the country’s wetlands

The Environmental Protection Agency removed federal protections for a majority of the country's wetlands on Tuesday to comply with a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

The EPA and Department of the Army announced a final rule amending the definition of protected "waters of the United States" in light of the decision in Sackett v. EPA in May, which narrowed the scope of the Clean Water Act and the agency's power to regulate waterways and wetlands.

Developers and environmental groups have for decades argued about the scope of the 1972 Clean Water Act in protecting waterways and wetlands.

"While I am disappointed by the Supreme Court's decision in the Sackett case, EPA and Army have an obligation to apply this decision alongside our state co-regulators, Tribes, and partners," EPA Administrator Michael Regan said in a statement.

A 2006 Supreme Court decision determined that wetlands would be protected if they had a "significant nexus" to major waterways. This year's court decision undid that standard. The EPA's new rule "removes the significant nexus test from consideration when identifying tributaries and other waters as federally protected," the agency said.

In May, Justice Samuel Alito said the navigable U.S. waters regulated by the EPA under the Clean Water Act do not include many previously regulated wetlands. Writing the court's decision, he said the law includes only streams, oceans, rivers and lakes, and wetlands with a "continuous surface connection to those bodies."

What’s the connection between climate change and hurricanes?

Hurricane Idalia made landfall in Florida. Here are some ways climate change is reshaping tropical cyclones like it

It has been a summer of disasters–and many of them were made worse, or more intense, by human-caused climate change. Wildfires burned from coast to coast across Canada. Vermont was inundated by unprecedented floods. Phoenix's temperatures topped 100 ° F for a full month. And now Hurricane Idalia, the first major hurricane of the season, is ripping across Florida and into the Southeast.

Scientists know climate change influences hurricanes, but exactly how can be a little complicated. Here's a look at the links between a hotter world and big storms like Hurricane Idalia.

For answers to these questions, follow the link below:

  • Does climate change make hurricanes stronger?
  • Climate change makes them get bigger faster, right?
  • Does climate change make hurricanes happen more often?
  • What are some of the biggest risks from stronger hurricanes? Are those changing because of climate change?
  • Is hurricane season getting longer?
  • It has been pretty hot in the South and the Gulf region. How will that influence the rest of the season?