Act upon three major water issues concerning us and our waterways

The President’s Hoot
by Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
April 2018

1.  Governor Scott:  Save our precious aquifer- Veto Bill #HB 1149 that allows sewage-effluent injection into the Floridan aquifer. The Floridan Aquifer underlies an area of 100,000 square miles, the entire state of Florida. It developed millions of years ago during the late Paleocene to early Miocene periods, and is one of the world’s most productive aquifers for millions of Florida’s residents and tourists. Florida is extremely fortunate to have fresh, clean drinking water that has filtered down over the millennium into the deep aquifer, essential for wildlife and humans to thrive.

Photo: Bob Montanaro

Unbelievably, HB 1149, passed by both the Florida Senate and House, and sent to Governor Scott to sign, allows sewage effluent to be injected into the Floridan Aquifer! Sewage effluent contains pharmaceuticals and personal-care products, microplastics, and toxic bacteria among other long-lived contaminants shown to cause endocrine-hormone disruption, pathogen resistance, and chronic toxicity. Sewage treatment plants don’t remove those compounds. Once injected, there is no removing the sewage effluent.

Bill #HB 1149 is nothing more than a giveaway to developers who desperately desire “cheap” drinking water so they can make the case that there is plenty of available water to support the thousands of new residents moving into their development properties. When Florida properly places a value on our most valuable resource, only then will we begin to develop a statewide water policy focused on conservation and sustainability.   

Ask Governor Scott to Veto HB 1149 and encourage the Florida Legislature to pass a bill to fund a state-wide system to prevent salt-water intrusion, conserve water, and use treated sewage effluents (gray water) for our crops, yards, and toilets.  Save precious aquifer water for domestic purposes only.

2.  Biosolids being brought into Indian River County (IRC) from other Counties-third highest amount in the state. David E. Gunter, Chairman of the Indian River Soil and Water Conservation District, wrote to Stan Boling, IRL Community Development Director, concerning biosolids (human waste from sewage-treatment plants) coming into IRC.  Of the 67 Florida Counties, IRC is in the third highest county with the most acreage of biosolids being applied per year on four properties: Corrigan Ranch, Flying L Ranch, Ox Creek Ranch, and Pressley Ranch.  We are concerned about the increasing nitrogen levels in Blue Cypress Lake and our Indian River Lagoon that fuel algae growth.

David Gunter wrote “Indian River County Utilities Department takes its own dewatered biosolids to the landfill.  IRC does not spread …[its own] dewatered waste on land within the county. If IRC is disposing of the waste in the landfill, because they think it is prudent and the right thing to do for our county, then why is IRC allowing other counties to bring their waste and spread it on our land?”

This is urgent! The Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council is holding a Regional Biosolids Symposium: Charting the Future of Biosolids Management on Friday, June 8, 2018 at 8:00 a.m. at Indian River State College Chastain Campus Wolf High Technology Center, 2400 SE Salerno Road, Stuart. There is a great article on biosolids in the March 2018 issue of the Indian River Neighborhood Association News Magazine written by Gary N. Roderick entitled Biosolids, Nutrient Loads & Impact to IRC  ( entire issue is devoted to our Lagoon with great articles by Duane De Freese, Edie Widder, Judy Orcutt, Leesa Souto, Holly Dill, Grant Gilmore, Keith McCully, Mary Morgan, and Cooper Beckett.

Biosolids disposal needs to be resolved, as our own landfill and others around the state, will eventually fill up.  Gary Roderick points out that a better way to dispose of biosolids is to build a facility to burn them, which produces electricity and phosphorus-rich ash that can be safely sold outside of Florida in lands where needed.  Ask our County Commissioners to stop any importation of Biosolids.

3.  Spoonbill Marsh Saga. IRC’s Spoonbill Marsh project started in 2005 as an experimental project to dispose of the salt and minerals removed from salt-laden aquifer water using a reverse-osmosis water purification process, instead of the county illegally dumping it into the lagoon by canal.  Originally touted as an experimental project, the only one in the world, we expected that scientists would determine through careful monitoring if it could work without polluting the lagoon and surrounding wetlands.  Normally this brine is injected into the boulder zone below the aquifer, as is done by the City of Vero Beach and others.

We should note that based on expert scientific review in 2006 PIAS formally objected to the destruction of ecologically sensitive and rare high marsh for this industrial wastewater facility. Recently, Carter Taylor and Barry Shapiro, who have done detailed investigation into the project since it was implemented, are concerned that the facility and the county are not accurately measuring what is entering and leaving the facility, as required by Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).  I, and others, have observed that the county has allowed untreated, toxic brine material to flow into the adjoining Indian River Land Trust high saltmarsh, destroying that aquatic preserve.

Carter and Shapiro made a great presentation to the Florida DEP, and have requested a formal public hearing where they and concerned scientists could present their arguments before a DEP moderator and panel.  Unfortunately, instead of a public hearing, DEP has just scheduled a “Meeting” on April 12 at 1 pm at the County offices.  We recommend that you attend this important “Meeting” and request a PUBLIC HEARING on the Spoonbill Marsh Project. Also send an email to Diane Pupa:

Stand up for our precious water resources, speak out, let’s work and advocate together!

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