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October 21, 2023 Weekly Newsletter

Addressing Septic Pollution: Insights from Merritt Island's Monitoring Initiative

Merritt Island in Brevard County has recently been in the news for its steps towards addressing the septic pollution problem that has been plaguing the area for years. Through a septic moratorium and an analysis spearheaded by Applied Ecology, the region has been able to develop interesting and visually representative data. This initiative, part of the Save Our Indian River Lagoon Project Plan, sheds light on how a similar approach could be beneficial for Indian River County (IRC).


The analysis in Brevard employed extensive predictive modeling with site-specific information for the watershed, aiming to determine the minimum buffer required to effectively shield the Indian River Lagoon from nitrogen loads emanating from septic systems. The employed model, ArcGIS-based Nitrate Load Estimation Toolkit (ArcNLET), was tailored with County-based input data to estimate ammonia and nitrate loads. This meticulous data analysis helped in understanding the extent of pollution, allowing for informed policy decisions.


The Merritt Island initiative underscores the importance of understanding the intrinsic issues associated with septic tanks, especially in areas where the water table is high and proximity to waterways is a concern. The reality is, no traditional septic tank, regardless of its age or condition, is exempt from contributing to nutrient pollution, particularly in environmentally sensitive areas. This isn’t about dictating actions to homeowners but rather about fostering awareness and education on the repercussions of septic systems on our water quality. A thorough grasp of how nutrients from septic tanks infiltrate our waterways, vividly illustrated through data, can be a potent tool for community education. Again, even a well-maintained septic tank can discharge detrimental nutrients into nearby waters, given the soil conditions and water table of an area. The table provided at the end of this article showcases how pollutants can travel up to 100 meters, albeit getting more diluted as they move farther from the source. By disseminating this kind of concrete information, we're not just building a well-informed community but also nurturing a collective resolve to protect our waterways. Transitioning towards cleaner water solutions informed by data, as seen in Merritt Island's endeavor, can significantly enhance our community's engagement in environmental preservation. By promoting a better understanding of the pollution dynamics associated with septic systems, we're laying a foundation for a more informed, collaborative effort towards safeguarding our local environment. Explore further into Merritt Island’s data analysis here​.



 

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Take a moment and talk about the Florida Right to Clean Water initiative with someone you know. Explain why it matters to YOU that Floridians should have a right to clean and healthy waters -- greater than the "rights to pollute and destroy" special interests currently have. Explain why state agencies should enforce laws the way they should -- based on good science, serving the interests of FLORIDIANS. IRNA will be at several events in the next few weeks collecting petitions from attendees and we could use your help! Reach out to Karen Wynn at kwynn826@gmail.com to sign up for a shift!



 

News Headlines and Articles

We want home rule, not Tallahassee partisanship (Vero News) - Ray McNulty criticizes the state government for interfering with local governance and eroding home rule in Florida, especially on issues related to education, law enforcement and growth. The IRNA has been asking our legislative delegation for years to respect home rule to no avail. We hope that articles like this will activate citizens to demand home rule for our communities.


Telling voters no: Commissioners formalize 'right' to divert Conservation Collier money (Yahoo Finance) - This one is just jaw dropping in the audacity of the Collier County Commissioners. This is why elections matter and voting for good candidates is important! Read the article about how the Collier commissioners have adopted changes to the Conservation Collier ordinance, allowing them to use the program’s funds for other purposes, despite voter approval and opposition from environmentalists.


Florida Supreme Court won't hear Indian River Shores' water lawsuit against Vero Beach (TCPalm) - The Florida Supreme Court has declined to hear the lawsuit filed by Indian River Shores and the city of Vero Beach regarding the cost of reclaimed water, which means the reclaimed-water rates for Indian River Shores will remain at 67 cents per 1,000 gallons, as set by Vero Beach.


Sun Terra withdraws plans for massive retirement community in rural Osceola (Orlando Sentinel) - Sun Terra Communities has withdrawn its plans for a massive retirement community in Yeehaw Junction, Osceola County, due to opposition from county staff and concerns about conflicts with the existing comprehensive plan and urban growth boundaries. This could have heavily impacted IRC -- if new residents wanted to go to the beach, where would they go? East on State Road 60.


FDOT scraps overpass, underpass alternatives for intersection of Aviation Blvd and U.S. 1 (TCPalm) - The Florida Department of Transportation is focusing on four remaining alternatives to ease congestion due to increasing traffic in the area, with the highest-scoring alternative being a traditional intersection.


Florida plan sought for water-related projects due to rapid population growth (Yahoo News) - The non-profit Florida TaxWatch has called for a multi-year plan for water-related projects in Florida to address the challenges posed by rapid population growth, aiming to replace the current inconsistent and disjointed funding system for water projects with a more comprehensive and coordinated statewide strategy, although some lawmakers emphasize the need for a well-thought-out plan before implementation.


‘Day in life of Lagoon’: Immersive experience for students (Vero News) - Indian River County students, along with students from other counties, participated in the sixth annual 'A Day in the Life of the Indian River Lagoon,' a citizen science project by the Ocean Research and Conservation Association, where they assessed the lagoon's water quality and biological parameters, contributing to research on its preservation and engaging in environmental conservation education.


Railway deaths: Brightline was deadliest in 2022; says safety ‘a shared responsibility’ (TCPalm) - A TCPalm analysis of federal data has found that Brightline trains had more fatalities per mile and more overall fatalities in Florida since its founding in 2017 than any other railroad company, with at least 97 people killed by Brightline trains in Florida, mainly attributed to trespassing incidents, raising concerns about rail safety.


Richard Branson's Virgin Enterprises wins rebranding lawsuit over Florida's Brightline (TCPalm) - A British judge ruled in favor of Richard Branson's Virgin Enterprises in its lawsuit against Brightline Holdings, a Florida passenger train operator, stating that Brightline failed to prove that continuing to use the Virgin label would damage its reputation or business value, resolving a dispute over a licensing agreement and the rebranding of Brightline as Virgin Trains USA.


 


 

Ed Killer: Should Army Corps keep building problematic reservoirs? I'm losing confidence (TCPalm) - The C-44 Reservoir, a project in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, is facing leakage issues, raising concerns about the effectiveness of such reservoir projects and their ability to store water adequately, especially considering the history of leakage in similar reservoirs like the Ten Mile Creek reservoir in St. Lucie County, and highlighting the need for better planning and construction in future projects like the C-43 Reservoir and the EAA Reservoir.


Protecting Our Wetlands (Florida Wildlife Federation) - The Supreme Court's ruling in the Sackett v. EPA case, which rolled back federal protections for wetlands, poses a significant risk to wetlands that play crucial roles in filtering clean drinking water, providing flood protection, and serving as vital wildlife habitat, potentially impacting up to 63% of wetlands and 4.9 million miles of streams, and calls for renewed commitment from Congress or local governments to protect clean drinking water and preserve these essential ecosystems.


Indian River Lagoon saw 'fairly extensive' fish kills this year (WMFE) - The Indian River Lagoon experienced an extensive fish kill this year, coinciding with an extended algae bloom, partly attributed to low dissolved oxygen levels and exacerbated by excess nutrients in the water, potentially linked to warmer temperatures in the region.


'Starting to get worse': U.S. Fish and Wildlife considering more manatee protections (Coastal News Today) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering reclassifying manatees as endangered due to concerns about increasing threats such as starvation, boat collisions, climate change, and insufficient protection measures, with advocates (like us) arguing that they should never have been down-listed from "endangered" to "threatened" in the first place.


Judge sides with bottling company over fight to pump water from Florida spring (CL Tampa) - An administrative law judge has supported renewing a permit for a North Florida bottling plant to pump hundreds of thousands of gallons of water a day from a Florida spring, despite opposition from the Florida Springs Council, raising concerns about the potential environmental impact and public interest.


More than 11,000 acres saved from oil drilling in Everglades City (Wink News) - A $29.5 million deal has permanently protected more than 11,000 acres near Everglades City from oil drilling, preserving crucial mangrove habitat, wildlife species, and ensuring the protection of Florida's underground aquifers for clean drinking water.


Preserving ‘Heart of the Everglades’ sparks fuss over access by Florida airboat operators (Florida Phoenix) - The purchase of more than 11,000 acres in the Everglades has raised questions about access for airboat operators who have used the land for tours, highlighting the need to balance conservation and recreational use in the region.


 

Heads up for the November 7 elections! We heard back from several Vero Beach and Sebastian City Council candidates. Honey Minuse, Taylor Dingle, and John Cotugno from Vero Beach shared their thoughts. Damian H. Gilliams (Sr.), Sherrie Matthews, and Bob McPartlan from Sebastian also weighed in. Check out their positions before you vote!



 

Conserving land provides climate resiliency for Florida (The Invading Sea) - It's not rocket science. Conserving undeveloped natural lands in Florida is crucial for climate resiliency, as these areas trap and store carbon, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, and provide protection against flooding and other climate-related effects, highlighting the importance of land conservation in addressing climate challenges.


Widespread aquifer depressurization after a century of intensive groundwater use in USA (Science.org) - This study reports the decline of flowing artesian wells in the US over the past century, indicating the widespread depressurization of confined aquifers due to groundwater withdrawals. The study discusses the implications of this depressurization for water access, contaminant transport, and land subsidence.


Study Clearly Identifies Nutrients as a Driver of the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt (Coastal News Today) - Researchers have identified the nutrient content of Sargassum seaweed in the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt (GASB) as enriched in both nitrogen and phosphorus, which could help locate nutrient sources and improve predictions and management efforts for this seaweed phenomenon, which has been causing ecological and economic challenges in the Caribbean since 2011.


EPA Withdraws Cybersecurity Requirements for Water Systems (Security Boulevard) - The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has withdrawn its order requiring states to assess the cybersecurity of public water systems following a legal challenge by several states and water associations, with the EPA now urging operators to voluntarily assess their systems' security due to the ongoing litigation.


How weather phenomena affect ocean circulation (Coastal News Today) - A new study based on complex computer models has examined how future changes in weather patterns, specifically "Atmospheric Synoptic Variability" (ASV), could impact the tropical Pacific Ocean and its ecosystems, revealing that these changes will have significant consequences for ocean circulation and highlighting the importance of considering ASV in climate models for accurate projections of future climate effects on ocean circulation and productivity.


Common water birds of Florida (Hummingbirds Plus) - This article explores common water birds found in Florida, including Mallards, American Wigeons, Northern Pintails, Northern Shovelers, Blue-winged Teals, Green-winged Teals, Wood Ducks, Buffleheads, Hooded Mergansers, and Canada Geese, highlighting their unique characteristics, habitats, and appearances.


Lukewarm response to Antarctica's shrinking ice mass (Coastal News Today) - Climate change is causing Antarctica's ice sheets to shrink at an accelerating rate, with over 40% of its ice shelves contracting in just over two decades, raising concerns about rising sea levels, altered sea currents, and warming oceans with dire consequences for the planet.


Center for Biological Diversity Updates (Biological Diversity) - The Center for Biological Diversity has filed a notice of intent to sue NOAA Fisheries for not granting recovery plans for bearded and ringed seals, both threatened by climate change's impact on their habitats, while also warning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of potential legal action if it doesn't protect four imperiled bee species under the Endangered Species Act and applauding the Fish and Wildlife Service's step toward restoring endangered status to Florida manatees due to mass deaths caused by pollution-fueled algae blooms.


 

Want your voice to be heard? Use this link to easily contact elected officials—from your city council to the President. Your voice can make a real impact. While the IRNA may occasionally prompt you to contact specific officials about urgent issues, we keep this list handy for your convenience. Can't find who you're looking for? Just let us know; we're here to help connect you with the right people.


 




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