Here is our latest update for you. Click here for the full six pages as a PDF.
SICK OF SEWAGE LAWSUIT TO FUND OYSTER RESTORATION PROJECT
The City of Bradenton has committed to performing $220,000 in oyster restoration in the Manatee River as its Supplemental Environmental Project (SEP). The project plan and timeline will be shared in the coming weeks. The oyster restoration project is part of our settlement with the City, which for the past five years had illegally bypassed at least 160 million gallons of wastewater away from full treatment before discharging it into the Manatee River. Also, during that time frame, the City released millions more gallons of reclaimed and raw sewage from its aging sewage system, which is plagued by structural deficiencies.
PINEY POINT'S INADEQUATE CLOSURE PLAN
Piney Point operators reported to news outlets on July 19 that there is nothing to worry about regarding their plan to discharge over four million gallons of stormwater into Tampa Bay. Suncoast Waterkeeper and Tampa Bay Waterkeeper disagree. We believe that there is plenty to be concerned with, starting with the woefully inadequate closure plan driving the discharge.
The gypsum stack that they are set to drain has at least one tear in the pond liner, which is supposed to prevent the leaking of hazardous waste. A full assessment of the liner condition is not addressed in the closure plan and is something that we believe is critically important.
The hazardous levels of arsenic reported in the Bay sediments that the soon-to-be discharged water sits on top of are also concerning. The lack of details on their required water quality monitoring methods and the absence of public reporting are also troubling.
We believe that discharging polluted water that is merely less contaminated than previously discharged water is not only something to worry about, but it is just the beginning of a long list of problems we identify in Piney Point’s inadequate closure plan. We’ve got to do better.
Last spring, the Piney Point disaster released millions of gallons of polluted wastewater into Tampa Bay. As we learn more about conditions at the site, it could potentially do even more damage to our water quality, groundwater, local economy, and quality of life.
That’s why Suncoast Waterkeeper joined with Center for Biological Diversity, Manasota-88, Tampa Bay Waterkeeper and Our Children’s Earth Foundation to sue the property owner, HRK Holdings, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Manatee County Port Authority to demand accountability and the safe closure of Piney Point.
"We are scheduled to have a hearing in October to revisit the "stay" that the judge ordered. We hope to persuade the Court that the closure plan is fundamentally flawed and inadequate and that we should be allowed to continue with the litigation to ensure a full and thorough closure that complies with the law, along with transparency, court oversight, and accountability," said Justin Bloom, founder and Vice-Chair of Suncoast Waterkeeper.
FLORIDA CAN PROTECT MANATEES BY IMPROVING BOATER EDUCATION
Suncoast Waterkeeper joined the Center for Biological Diversity and the Florida Springs Council to petition the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission today, August 12, to amend its boater-safety course to protect the state’s imperiled manatees, other marine mammals, sea turtles and coastal birds. Watercraft collisions killed at least 1,153 Florida manatees from 2010 to 2021, according to state officials.
Today’s petition follows the passage of the Florida Boating Safety Act of 2022, which aims to help improve safety for people and wildlife. The act requires the commission to approve new safety topics for the state’s boating-safety education course.
“There are approximately 130 boats for every manatee in Florida,” said Abbey Tyrna, executive director of Suncoast Waterkeeper. “We must ensure boaters understand how to be good stewards of manatee protection. Otherwise, boaters have the potential to inflict great harm on the species.”
NO! THAT MANGROVE TRIMMING IS NOT LEGAL!
CAPTION: An image of some of the illegally trimmed mangroves off of Long Bar.
Thanks to the tenacity of Suncoast Waterkeeper Chairman Rusty Chinnis, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection went back out to inspect the hack job performed on mangroves adjacent to Long Bar Pointe on the land being developed by Carlos Beruff's Medallion Homes. This time the agency found several violations.
The violations include:
(1) aggressive trimming
(2) trimming below the authorized height
(3) oversized trimming left as debris
(4) significant trimming litter left
(5) tree removal, and
(6) possible tree-topping.
Suncoast Waterkeeper recommends that the debris be cleaned up and the violators be held accountable.
CAPTION: An image of one of the debris piles left behind, which is not legal according to Medallion Homes' permit.
According to Sarasota Bay Estuary Program Director, Dr. Dave Tomasko, "That portion of the bay has much more macroalgae than most of the rest of our bay, and a preliminary nitrogen loading estimate suggests that a localized nitrogen load [coming from the mangrove trimming debris] is likely playing a role in the problems we are seeing in that part of the bay. "
The permit holder, Medallion Homes, is expected to respond to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection by August 12, 2022. Specifically, Medallion Homes must
- Remove the larger trimmings, longer than 3’ and/or larger than 3” in diameter
- Remove the ‘hot spot’ trimmings, large piles of authorized trimmings
- Provide pre and post photos of the work conducted.
- Investigate and provide documentation (photos) of a specific location.
Suncoast Waterkeeper will keep you up to date on this issue. For more information about the history of this area visit our webpage https://www.suncoastwaterkeeper.org/protecting_our_coastal_habitat
DON'T SWIM THERE!
Over the past several weeks, Sarasota and Manatee Counties have issued many beach closures. That is because many beaches were found to contain high levels of enterococcus. Enterococcus is one of the several types of bacteria, known as enterococci, that live in the intestines of warm-blooded animals and therefore is used as an indicator of fecal contamination (aka poop). Just like when it happens in a public pool, poop causes unsafe swimming conditions. Whether the bacteria that were found in the sampled water were from humans, animals, birds, or the decomposition of plants and algae, we don't know. However, it is essential to take these warnings seriously because bacteria and pathogens found in poop can sicken swimmers and those who eat fish caught in the water.
Suncoast Waterkeeper also performs weekly sampling of local waters for enterococcus. The places that we monitor are not a part of the Florida Department of Health's Healthy Beaches Monitoring Program nor a part of any other agency monitoring effort. Our goal is to keep you informed about the safety of the waters that you love and recreate in.
We use the SWIM Guide and social media to communicate our water quality monitoring results.
You can find our SWIM Guide at https://www.theswimguide.org/affiliates/suncoast-waterkeeper/
We also communicate our results to the Department of Health and local government.
We are adding a new water quality communications platform and look forward to sharing the information with you in the coming weeks!
SUNCOAST WATERKEEPER HAS A 5-YEAR STRATEGIC PLAN
Our mission, goals, and objectives have been identified, and our work plan has been solidified. Our work will be informed and guided by our beliefs and commitments to: environmental integrity; education; justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion; public health; communication; adaptive-responsive management; good governance; and public access. We are on our way to growing our capacity to fight for clean water. We look forward to sharing these efforts with you in the coming months.
PURCHASE BRUNCH FOR THE BAY TICKETS
We are thrilled to be able to bring Brunch for the Bay back to Bradenton Yacht Club for the annual fundraiser. This year's brunch is extra special as we mark the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. The brunch will be filled with delicious food, excellent speakers, a silent auction, and a raffle. Click on the link to learn more about our speakers and to purchase tickets - https://www.suncoastwaterkeeper.org/brunchforthebay2022.
Thank you for your support!
Email: [email protected]