Water-Related News

South Florida company addressing algal blooms with plastic beads

A South Florida environmental technology company has a plan to fight the state's blue-green algae problems with microscopic plastic beads.

Green Water Solution is one of four finalists for the George Barley Water Prize, a $10 million award started by the Everglades Foundation to address toxic algae blooms through new technologies. The prize is intended to fund a technology that can be used around the globe to reduce phosphorus contamination in water.

The CEO of the company, Frank Jochem, has been studying marine sciences and algal blooms for 25 years. He and the director of the George Barley Water Prize, Loren Parra, joined Sundial to talk about the technology.

Coastal development, sea rise sent Hurricane Irma storm surge to more homes, study shows

MIAMI — Sea rise and development have put more Florida property at risk to hurricane storm surge flooding — about 43 percent more — according to a recent study that looked at Hurricane Irma’s effect with different sea levels.

NOAA Tidal gauges in Key West show that South Florida has seen about seven inches of sea level rise since the 1970s, which is part of the reason sunny day flooding has worsened in recent decades.

New tool predicts red tide irritation level at Pinellas beaches

By Jorja Roman, Pinellas County

PINELLAS COUNTY — A first of its kind tool is being used in Pinellas County to help beach goers decide which beaches are best to visit while the red tide bloom continues to impact the area.

The county is partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing Systems, and The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission to provide the tool, called the Experimental Red Tide Respiratory Forecast.

The tool shows a prediction of risk level of irritation on certain beaches throughout Pinellas County. The predictions are provided in three hour increments for 24 hours.

“Everyone is unique, but this is a much better picture of what you might experience when you go out there,” said Kelli Levy, the Division Director of Pinellas County Environmental Management.

In map form, the tool has a key showing that red means you could expect strong irritation and blue means barely any will be present. People can click on each beach location on the map to see the predictions.

The agencies use water samples, satellite images, wind conditions, and other factors to provide the prediction.

It’s exciting news for many beach goers, including Stephanie Al-Asrnasi, a Sarasota resident who was visiting Clearwater this weekend.

“I think a lot of people have avoided coming all together because they didn’t think they could even stomach it,” said Al-Arnasi.

The predictions are just that but on Sunday, the prediction for Sand Key beach was accurate with no irritation.

“There’s nothing worse than driving hours or flying in from out of state to have a bad experience and hopefully this tool will allow them to still come here and have great experience,” said Levy.

Residents and tourists are encouraged to use the tool, and provide the agencies conducting the research with feedback if a beach they visit has an accurate or inaccurate prediction.

Watershed groups have a positive impact on local water quality, study finds

Economists have found that in the United States, watershed groups have had a positive impact on their local water quality.

A new published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides the first empirical evidence that nonprofit organizations can provide public goods, said Christian Langpap, an Oregon State University economist and study co-author with Laura Grant, an assistant professor of economics at Claremont McKenna College.

In economics, a public good is a commodity or service that individuals cannot be effectively excluded from using, and where use by one individual does not reduce availability to others. For these reasons, public goods can't be provided for profit and nonprofits can play an important role.

"Environmental nonprofit groups are assumed to provide public goods," said Langpap, an associate professor in OSU's College of Agricultural Sciences. "But until now that assumption has never been tested empirically. We determined that the presence of water groups in a watershed resulted in improved water quality and higher proportions of swimmable and fishable water bodies."

The presence and activity of watershed groups can impact water quality in various ways, including oversight and monitoring, direct actions such as organizing volunteers for cleanups or restoration, and indirect actions like advocacy and education.

The researchers' analysis combined data on water quality and watershed groups for 2,150 watersheds in the continental United States from 1996 to 2008. The number of watershed groups across the lower 48 tripled during this period, from 500 to 1,500.

Cross-Bay Ferry returns to Tampa Bay

The CrossBay Ferry, a seasonal service connecting Tampa and Saint Petersburg, will return November 1 with new hours of operation and cheaper fares.

Operated by Seattle-based HMS Ferry, the ferry will run from Tuesday through Sunday and offer later hours, including 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday; and 4:30 p.m. to 10:45 p.m. from Tuesday to Thursday.

“It's going to provide better access to events, recreation, and hospitality in both cities,” Ed Turanchik, an HMS Ferry attorney and Tampa mayoral candidate, says. “[It will be] much better for people going from Tampa to dine in Saint Petersburg and better for people in Saint Petersburg to come over and go to events at Amelie Arena, for example.”

One-way adult fares will cost $8 per person, compared to $10 charged in its pilot season. Fares for kids aged 5 to 18 will cost $3, while seniors, college students, and military members will cost $5.

Cooler weather won't help with red tide, but season change could

SUNSET BEACH — It’s late October and the water is still that dark red tide color at some southern Pinellas County beaches.

Like many vacationers this year, Angie Smith and her family were concerned about the red tide.

"I can’t imagine that it would last that much longer just because it's been going on for so long," said daughter Ally Smith.

Luckily it wasn’t as bad as they thought and they’ve been able to enjoy their vacation at Treasure Island Beach.

But everyone can agree that this red tide has lasted a long time. Oceanographers from NOAA say that this algae bloom actually started last October in the Gulf before making its way to shore.

So what will make this toxic algae bloom disappear? NOAA says cold weather really has no impact, but season changes do.

Prevent red tide? Start with more wetlands, experts say

Three Democratic federal lawmakers will work toward increasing water quality monitoring in the Gulf of Mexico and creating more wetlands to clean water flowing into the Gulf and other waterways.

U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor and Charlie Crist, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson crafted a preliminary action plan Wednesday after meeting with local scientists and business leaders about the ongoing impacts of red tide.

“Even though the tourism numbers have been up … boy, this could really set us back unless we work together to address the red tide,” Castor said during a roundtable discussion in St. Petersburg on Wednesday.

Three scientists with varying areas of expertise all agreed: Red tide is a naturally occurring environmental phenomenon, but large blooms are likely fueled by warmer Gulf temperatures as the result of climate change and, possibly, by nutrient runoff from agriculture.

Environmental groups settle sewage lawsuit against St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — Three environmental groups on Monday agreed to settle a federal lawsuit with the city to hold St. Petersburg accountable for spilling hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage in 2015 and 2016.

If a judge approves the settlement, it will end up costing the city a total of $900,000 — so far. That figure could break the $1 million mark if St. Petersburg also has to pay the plaintiffs' legal fees.

The three groups — Suncoast Waterkeeper, Inc., the Our Children's Earth Foundation and the Ecological Rights Foundation — reached the settlement nearly two years after filing the lawsuit in the Middle District of Florida in Tampa.

The December 2016 suit accused St. Petersburg of engaging in "serious and ongoing" violations of the federal Clean Water Act. The city discharged up to 1 billion gallons of wastewater from 2015-16 during the well-documented sewage crisis. While most was pumped underground, up 200 million gallons was dumped into local waterways, including Tampa Bay.