Water-Related News

Pinellas County Utilities offers private sewer lateral rebates

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Pinellas County Utilities sewer customers can help eliminate sanitary sewer overflows that damage our bay and beaches by inspecting their private sewer pipes and addressing any issues that may be contributing to the problem. Eligible customers can even apply for rebates of up to $350 to inspect the pipes that connect their home to the public sewer system. If these pipes require rehabilitation work, customers can apply for an additional rebate of 50% of the rehabilitation work cost up to $3,500.

“Sanitary sewer overflows can pose serious health and environmental hazards,” said Megan Ross, Pinellas County Utilities director. “Privately owned sewer pipes can become damaged over time due to clogs and tree roots and result in costly damage to the homeowner and environment.”

Homeowners who have Pinellas County Utilities sewer service can check their eligibility and find rebate and inspection requirements at privatesewer.pinellas.gov.

“It’s very important that the homeowner and their plumbing contractor know the inspection requirements up front,” said Ross. “For the inspection rebate, Pinellas County Utilities must verify the property and see the entire length of the private sewer lateral without obstructions like tree roots or cloudy water all the way from the home to the County’s line.”

The rebate program is one component of a larger Wastewater Collection System Program developed by Pinellas County Utilities and approved by the Board of County Commissioners. To learn more, visit privatesewer.pinellas.gov.

The illustration below shows how tree roots can damage a sewer pipe from a private home to the public sewer.

sewer lateral diagram

Seagrass loss threatens environment on Florida Gulf Coast

New surveys of seagrass on Florida’s Gulf Coast show the vital marine plant is continuing to lose ground at a rapid pace in Tampa and Sarasota Bay.

Since 2016, the Southwest Florida Water Management District has documented losses of almost 30% of Tampa Bay’s seagrass and around 26% in Sarasota Bay.

The decline comes after local waters were slammed with pollution from the Piney Point industrial site and severe red tides over the past several years.

But the seagrass losses also have increased despite many areas meeting state water quality targets, which environmentalists say need changing.

Scientists say action must be taken to prevent Tampa and Sarasota’s seagrass ecosystem from collapsing like the one in the Indian River Lagoon on Florida’s east coast, where manatee deaths are highest.

Tampa Bay Water taps new source for south Hillsborough faucets

The plan will provide an additional 2.3 million gallons of water daily to the fast-growing region.

More tap water is expected to be flowing in the future to fast-growing southern Hillsborough County.

On Monday, the directors of Tampa Bay Water, the regional water supplier, approved an idea that had been shelved last summer. It calls for Hillsborough County to inject treated wastewater underground at coastal sites to offset drawing new drinking water from an inland well.

But officials stressed the project was different from Tampa’s controversial PURE proposal, which may, under certain circumstances, introduce highly treated wastewater into the Hillsborough River.

Tampa Bay Water initially considered the proposal as part of its long-term master plan, but scrapped it last year after failing to come to terms with Hillsborough County over cost and contract length. The agreement approved Monday is for 10 years, and the well could be operational within two years.

Pinellas County courts new ally in beach erosion battle: the White House

Amid a stalemate with the Army Corps of Engineers over a policy delaying beach renourishment, local officials got a West Wing engagement.

Cookie Kennedy was out for a walk with a friend one day this winter when she felt a familiar dread creep up on her. As the pair strolled the north shore of Indian Rocks Beach, the small Pinellas County city where Kennedy is mayor, they were forced to weave their way through a thickening crowd of beachgoers. The land where they stood had shrunk.

Pinellas County’s beaches are washing away. For decades, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers replenished them, pumping tons of sand every few years onto an 8½-mile stretch of Sand Key, the barrier island home to some of the county’s beach communities.

Then a new Corps policy created a standoff with the county. A renourishment originally scheduled for 2024 won’t happen — not next year, anyway.

Kennedy knew all this, but standing on the beach, she was so disturbed she felt local leaders had to try something new. Months later, they’re on a path that may bring them the closest they’ve gotten yet to resolving the impasse. It goes through a building a Pinellas contingent visited earlier this month: the White House.

FWC, DEP visit SW Florida to survey red tide conditions, ensure local needs are being met

On March 14, 2023, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Acting Executive Director Dr. Thomas Eason and Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Shawn Hamilton participated in a flyover to observe current red tide conditions firsthand and meet with local stakeholders.

The state is taking an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to respond to the red tide impacting Florida’s west coast. The FWC, DEP and Florida Department of Health are working together to ensure a coordinated state response and are committed to coordinating with local governments to provide resources to assist in cleanup efforts and will continue to monitor the red tide bloom to ensure that all local needs are being met.

The FWC is closely monitoring a red tide bloom across Southwest Florida, including Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Pinellas and Pasco counties. Red tide (Karenia brevis) is a naturally occurring microscopic algae that has been documented along Florida’s Gulf Coast since the 1840s and occurs nearly every year. 

University of Central Florida uses 6-foot ‘test tubes’ to study red tide

This study is the first successful test of any red tide mitigation technology in open water using large water column containers called limnocorrals.

A potential treatment for Florida’s devastating red tides took another step toward widespread deployment after successful testing in Sarasota Bay.

Additional detailed data analysis is required to confirm results, but UCF Assistant Professor of Biology Kristy Lewis is encouraged by the large-scale test of a red tide mitigation technology called clay flocculation that was performed in partnership with Mote Marine Laboratory.

This study is the first successful test of any red tide mitigation technology in open water using large water column containers called limnocorrals. These tubes — about six feet in diameter — extend from the waters’ surface to the ocean floor, allowing scientists to test real ocean conditions within a controlled setting. Think of it like a giant test tube.

Experts and technicians from Mote Marine Laboratory and funding from Florida Sea Grant provided the necessary resources to set eight limnocorrals into Sarasota Bay. Four columns were treated with a fine spray of the clay solution, while the other four served as a control.

Clay flocculation works by the clay attaching to the Karenia brevis algae, which is responsible for Florida red tide, and sinking them to the ocean floor. Lewis has spent the last three years carefully testing the impact of introducing this non-native mineral into the ocean ecosystem. She’s not only looking for changes in the water’s nutrients and quality, but also evaluating how the clay impacts the health of invertebrates like blue crabs, sea urchins and clams.

“We want to make sure the cure is not worse than the disease,” she says.

Initial plans for the large-scale test were simply to measure the impact of the clay on the ecosystem, but the unexpected appearance of an actual red tide event heightened the realism of the experiment. Initial results suggest the clay performed as expected, but there’s still a question of whether the algae’s toxins remain dormant or active on the ocean floor. Water samples collected during the experiment should provide an answer.

New plan aims to protect the Gulf of Mexico’s largest seagrass bed

Water quality monitoring and habitat restoration set to expand in some coastal areas of Florida

Florida’s top environmental agency has approved an extensive plan to conserve some waters off the state’s west coast by expanding water quality monitoring, restoring damaged seagrass, and encouraging community groups to work together to address pollution and other problems.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton approved the plan for the Nature Coast Aquatic Preserve, which Governor Ron DeSantis (R) and the legislature created in 2020. The preserve covers about 700 square miles of coastal habitat along Citrus, Hernando, and Pasco counties north of Tampa. The area hosts mangrove islands, salt marshes, oysters, sponges, corals, and more than 350,000 acres of seagrass—part of the largest seagrass bed in the Gulf of Mexico.

The area is popular for its summertime scalloping, world-renowned fishing and manatee watching, and other activities that generate more than $600 million annually for local communities and support more than 10,000 jobs and about 500 businesses.

The need for Florida to protect its water quality is growing more urgent in the face of increasing pollution threats. In recent years, red tides and other harmful algae blooms, fueled by nutrient-laden runoff on both coasts, have taken a severe toll on marine life, fishing, and tourism businesses.

The new plan was more than a year in the making and included multiple opportunities for public input and guidance from an advisory committee comprising local business leaders, fishing guides, ecotourism operators, academics, state and county resource managers, and conservation groups.

EPA to limit toxic ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water

WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday proposed the first federal limits on harmful “forever chemicals” in drinking water, a long-awaited protection the agency said will save thousands of lives and prevent serious illnesses, including cancer.

The plan would limit toxic PFAS chemicals to the lowest level that tests can detect. PFAS, or per- and polyfluorinated substances, are a group of compounds that are widespread, dangerous and expensive to remove from water. They don’t degrade in the environment and are linked to a broad range of health issues, including low birthweight and kidney cancer.

“The science is clear that long-term exposure to PFAS is linked to significant health risks,” Radhika Fox, assistant EPA administrator for water, said in an interview.

Fox called the federal proposal a “transformational change” for improving the safety of drinking water in the United States. The agency estimates the rule could reduce PFAS exposure for nearly 100 million Americans, decreasing rates of cancer, heart attacks and birth complications.

Seaweed blob visible from space takes aim at Florida Gulf coast

TAMPA — Marine scientists are tracking a 5,000-mile-wide seaweed bloom that is so large, it can be seen from space – and it’s heading towards Florida’s Gulf coast.

These sargassum blooms are nothing new, but scientists say this one could be the largest in history.

The thick mat of algae drifts between the Atlantic coast of Africa and the Gulf of Mexico, providing habitat for marine life and absorbing carbon dioxide, but it can also wreak havoc when when it gets closer to shore. It blocks light from reaching coral and negatively impacts air and water quality as it decomposes.

Florida’s Gulf coast is already grappling with an algae bloom amid the busy spring break tourism season. Red tide has caused dead fish to wash ashore in droves, while the risk of respiratory irritation for humans has cancelled events and driven beachgoers away.

With a blanket of sargassum approaching, spanning twice the width of the continental U.S., scientists warn that Florida beaches could soon be inundated with seaweed.

How red tide is impacting Pinellas beaches

“This thing may linger,” one career red tide expert said.

Every coastal Southwest Florida county — from Pinellas south to Monroe — saw toxic red tide blooms over the past week as the patchy wave of algae nears its fifth month of life in Gulf of Mexico waters.

The stubborn red tide has left its mark on both wildlife and people: Tons of fish, from the mighty goliath grouper to the agile pinfish, were found dead on Gulf beaches since this weekend. Human respiratory issues such as coughing and sneezing have also been reported in all seven Southwest Florida counties, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

“We are getting a sloshing, back and forth, of whatever red tide organisms are out there right now,” said Bob Weisberg, the former director of the University of South Florida’s Ocean Circulation Lab. Recent onshore winds haven’t helped the problem.

“It could very well be that this thing may linger,” Weisberg said.

Pinellas County was behind only Sarasota County for the most red tide blooms detected in water samples over the past week, according to state wildlife data updated Wednesday afternoon.

St. Petersburg water treatment facilities to host open houses

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ST. PETERSBURG – This spring, the City of St. Petersburg’s water treatment facilities will open their doors to the public for open houses. The Water Resources Department works hard to provide consistent, quality service for residents and visitors. This is the public’s chance to get a behind-the-scenes look into the work that goes into keeping St. Pete flowing.

Attendees can expect to learn about drinking water sourcing and processing at the Cosme Water Treatment Plant in Odessa and how wastewater becomes reclaimed water at one of the three reclaimed water treatment facilities in St. Pete. Plant operators and City staff will lead tours to show the flow of water from beginning to end and answer questions. Tours will begin hourly at 9 a.m. with the last tour starting at 11 a.m.


Saturday, March 25 at 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Southwest Water Reclamation Facility
3800 54th Ave. S. St. Petersburg, FL 33701

Saturday, April 1 at 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Cosme Water Treatment Plant
16015 Race Track Rd. Odessa, FL 33556

Saturday, April 15 at 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Northwest Water Reclamation Facility
7500 26th Ave. N St. Petersburg, FL 33710

Saturday, April 22 at 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Northeast Water Reclamation Facility
1160 62nd Ave. NE. St. Petersburg, FL 33702

The majority of the tour is outdoors and is a walking tour. Attendees should plan to be in the sun and wear comfortable, closed-toe shoes. Facilities are not ADA accessible by default, however reasonable accommodations can be made by calling the Water Resources Department at 727-893-7261. A driver’s license or state photo ID is required for entry and children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Questions can be directed to the Water Resources Department at 727-893-7261.

Volunteers, sponsors sought for Cross Bayou/Joe’s Creek Cleanup

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Volunteers are needed to join Pinellas County Environmental Management and Keep Pinellas Beautiful in a cleanup event at Cross Bayou Canal and Joe’s Creek on Saturday, April 15, from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Part of the Great American Cleanup campaign, the event service involves the removal of trash and debris in and along Cross Bayou Canal and Joe’s Creek. Volunteers wanting to help on the water can bring their own watercraft or borrow a canoe for as long as supplies last. Volunteers may also choose to sign up for the Island Shuttle. Two jon boats will be used to bring volunteers to the various mangrove islands. Life jackets are required and will be provided to those borrowing a canoe. Volunteers must be 18 or over and paddleboards are not permitted.

Check-in begins at 8 a.m. at the Pinellas County property at the intersection of 70th Avenue North and 78th Street North near the Wagon Wheel Flea Market on Park Boulevard. The first 25 volunteers to sign in on the morning of the event will receive a reusable filtration water bottle from our sponsor, Epic Water Filters. Trash collection takes place from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Lunch and a free raffle drawing will follow.

Volunteers should wear comfortable clothing, closed-toe shoes, a hat and sunscreen, and bring a chair or towel to sit on. Trash grabbers, bags, gloves and drinking water will be provided. A water truck will also be available for volunteers to clean their watercraft after the cleanup. Registration by Friday, April 14, is required. Call Eric Vittoria at (727) 464-8756 or register online at https://CrossBayouJoesCreekCleanupGAC2023.eventbrite.com

Sponsorships, donations

Sponsorships are also available for local businesses. Sponsors with exhibition spaces are allowed to set up their space starting at 7:30 a.m. Donated items are also appreciated. All donated items should be received no later than Thursday, April 13. For more information or to schedule a business as a sponsor, contact Eric Vittoria at (727) 464-8756 or evittor

Reef installation to fight algae and red tide

On Wednesday afternoon, a new tool was put in the Gulf of Mexico to monitor the water and support Red Tide research, human health, and the ecosystem.

Ten miles offshore and 30 feet underwater, giant cement blocks will help scientists better understand what’s happening in the water.

“So the importance of Kimberley’s reef is it’s an underwater platform. It’s in a fixed location. We can put instrumentation out there. We can study animals. We can study algae and plant life all at the same spot. And we can study it over time,” professor in The Water School at FGCU, Mike Parsons, said.

Eighteen culverts weighing more than 19,000 pounds each provide fascinating research opportunities and habitats for marine life.

“And the fish are gonna be like, hey, look, here’s a new home. This is the new IT neighborhood,” Parsons said.

And the team can better understand how those fish, crabs, and other creatures respond to change.

“We can monitor for red tide and the impacts of red tide,” Parsons said. “How do fish populations react to red tie? Do they move away? Do they, unfortunately, die? When do they come back?”

And those are big questions while Southwest Florida deals with a Red Tide outbreak and dead fish scattered in the waters off Bonita Beach. Sensors and instruments on the buoys monitor oceanographic conditions on the Gulf and reef.

Florida’s love-hate relationship with phosphorus

The state has mined and abused the Devil’s Element for decades, and now it is increasingly fouling precious coastal waters

In the summer of 2018, in Stuart, a small beach community on the Atlantic Coast of Florida, some hundred panicked homeowners showed up at City Hall in the middle of the business day to demand something be done about the green goo plaguing their coastal waters. It was a sweltering July day, the kind towns like Stuart are built for, but signs on the boardwalk outside City Hall warned visitors:

As people at the meeting introduced themselves and stated their affiliations, it became clear this was not a typical gathering of environmentalists. They weren’t strategizing about how to protect some beleaguered species and the far?away lands or waters upon which it depends. These people, who represented businesses as well as homeowners’ associations and fishing and yachting clubs, spoke as though they were the threatened species.

“I need help,” said Will Embrey, a scraggly commercial fisherman whose business had collapsed right along with the region’s schools of mackerel not long after the green slime arrived. “There are a lot of people like me that need help.” The 45-?year-?old was suffering chronic stomach pain that was initially diagnosed as diverticulitis, and then ulcerative colitis, and then Crohn’s disease. Eventually doctors had given up trying to figure out what made Embrey so sick.

Embrey didn’t need to spend tens of thousands more dollars on more specialists, CT scans and lab tests to figure out the source of his illness. He knew it was the poisoned water, and he wasn’t alone.

Florida impacts kick federal beach renourishment policy back to panel

'A beach that’s covered by homes and hotels, and retreat is simply not possible.'

A document setting out federal fishery managers’ opposition to beach renourishment and, should it occur, best management practices is headed back to an advisory panel after concerns about how it would affect Florida.

The policy document begins, “In general, frequent and widespread beach renourishment projects (dredge-and-fill) occurring in the United States southeast together may cause measurable impacts to (essential fish habitat) under the jurisdiction of the (South Atlantic Fishery Management Council).

“Coastal communities are strongly encouraged to evaluate the full range of alternatives, including retreat, to these types of projects when addressing erosion and sea level rise.”

The Council governs federal saltwater fisheries from the North Carolina Outer Banks to the Florida Keys. Members of the SAFMC Habitat Protection and Ecosystem-Based Management Advisory Panel (AP) worked on the document last year. They will get another shot at it after the decisions this week.

The latest language notably differs from the stronger words in a previous draft.

Was Florida red tide made worse by Hurricane Ian? Here’s what we know

Red tide researchers agree: The toxic algae would still be flaring up — with or without the powerful Category 4 storm.

Hurricane Ian slammed the state less than three weeks before red tide appeared, leading many to link the storm with the toxic algae’s return. But what role, if any, did Ian play in the arrival of this latest red tide? We asked experts at three Florida universities, plus two leading state and federal scientists, and their answers boiled down to these main points:

Red tide would still be flaring up, with or without the hurricane; it’s still possible the storm brought red tide closer to shore; the present red tide today is likely no longer feeding on pollution dumped by Ian months ago, and Ian proved scientists still have much to learn about the relationship between storms and toxic algal blooms.

Red tide is getting worse along the Gulf beaches

Southerly winds are pushing the red tide blooms northward into Pinellas County.

State environmental officials on Wednesday said high levels of red tide were reported off the coast of Sarasota County and in Roberts Bay, near Venice. And medium levels continue to affect Pinellas beaches from Redington Beach to Fort DeSoto.

The National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science issued an advisory this week, cautioning that beachgoers may experience respiratory irritation while visiting beaches in Sarasota, Manatee and Pinellas counties.

Reports of fish kills suspected to be related to red tide were received from all three counties.

Southerly winds are being blamed for pushing the toxin north from Charlotte and Lee counties, where red tide first emerged in the wake of Hurricane Ian.

It has pushed it as far north as the Panhandle. Red tide was observed at background concentrations in one sample collected from Okaloosa County.

Forecasts by the USF-FWC Collaboration for Prediction of Red Tides for Pinellas County south predict northern movement of surface waters and northwestern/western movement of subsurface waters in most areas over the next 3½ days.

Researchers looking into toxins that Blue-Green Algae release into the air

LEE COUNTY – In a fourth-floor Marine and Environmental Sciences lab at Florida Gulf Coast University, algae are the star of the show.

"We get sent samples from across the U.S.," said FGCU Water School student Trinity Allan.

More specifically, researchers like Trinity Allan are looking into Blue-Green algae to learn more about the toxins they produce and how much of it we breathe in during a bloom.

As of now, detailed guidelines for exposure to these toxins only really exist for drinking water or recreation—it’s a vast difference from the amount of guidance we see when compared to red tide.

"We have a good base data [set] about red tide, but we don't have that for the blue-green algae and so we're trying to provide that baseline data so we know where to jump off from," said Allan.

Collecting that "baseline data" is such a passion project for Allan that she has dedicated her Master's thesis to the topic.