Friday, August 31, 2007

MOFRO concert benefits Riverkeeper

Just a reminder that this Sunday, September 2, is the Blackwater Sol Revue, featuring MOFRO and a host of other great bands. Riverkeeper is the beneficiary of the festival. Come on out, see a great show, and support Riverkeeper. We will have a table at the event selling raffle tickets to for guitar donated by Gibson and signed by JJ Grey. We are also raffling off 2 tickets to Magnolia Fest! The drawing will be help before MOFRO takes the stage.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Drains to the River

I am collecting photos of storm drains that are poorly maintained or are being used for trash receptacles instead of stormwater. Send your pictures to me at

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Riverkeeper Seeks Compliance

On Monday, St. Johns Riverkeeper filed suit against the Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) in United States District Court. The suit was filed under the Federal Clean Water Act for JEA’s continuing water quality violations at the Buckman and Arlington East Wastewater Treatment Facilities (WWTF).

The sewage collection systems for Buckman WWTF and Arlington East WWTF have repeatedly failed over the last several years, illegally discharging over 8.3 million gallons of raw sewage and poorly treated wastewater into Duval County waterways. The Arlington East WWTF experienced 96 illegal discharges of raw sewage, or Sanitary Overflows (SSOs), between September 2001 and July 2007. The Buckman WWTF experienced 111 illegal SSO discharges. The lawsuit is a natural progression of our campaign to step up compliance and enforcement of environmental regulations related to wastewater discharge permits in the lower St. Johns River.

As you may know, St. Johns Riverkeeper and the Public Trust Environmental Law Institute of Florida released the Lower St. Johns River Compliance Report in June, a study that analyzed the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) specific to the lower St. Johns River. That study documented 301 violations of the NPDES permit limits or conditions.

This legal action is just a continuation of the Compliance Report Project. We spent hundreds of hours reviewing DEP files and documents and confirmed that there is a serious problem with permit compliance and the enforcement of the laws that are supposed to protect our waterways. We found that ongoing violations continue to occur at these and other wastewater treatment plants and are not being adequately addressed by JEA or the DEP. We feel like the ongoing situation leaves us no choice but to file suit, and let the courts resolve this matter.

"We hope that JEA and DEP will get the message that these violations are unacceptable and must be adequately addressed,” noted our General Counsel, Michael Howle. “Riverkeeper cannot stand idly by and allow this to happen. If our regulatory agency won’t do its job and enforce clean water laws and JEA won’t take the responsibility to fix these ongoing problems in a timely manner, then Riverkeeper will step in and make sure that the public interest is protected."

If JEA is truly committed to protecting our waterways, then fixing failing wastewater treatment facilities and sewage collection systems should be one of its top priorities. Based on the ongoing violations at the Arlington East and Buckman facilities, JEA does not appear to be adequately living up to that commitment. Our goal is to make sure that they are fulfilling their legal responsibility and obligation to operate facilities that are fully and consistently in compliance with the law and don’t cause harm to the public or our river.

We'll keep you posted as things progress.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Green Monster Returns

This photo was taken on Wednesday along Julington Creek by Dr. Gerry Pinto while doing his bi-monthly aerial manatee survey. It serves as a reminder that the nutrient pollution problem has not been resolved and could even lead to a more substantial bloom like we had in 2005. We will keep monitoring the "Green Monster" and let you know if it gets worse or if the algae turns out to be toxic like in 05'. Read the latest article that was in the Daily Record about the recent algae sitings.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Pollution Pipeline

As I’ve mentioned before, the Georgia Pacific Paper Mill’s (GP) discharge permit is up for renewal. We have been following the application as it moves through the Florida Department of Environmental Protection‘s (DEP) process.

You may remember that DEP issued GP a permit in 2002 that would allow the mill to build a 1,500 ft, 48 inch diameter pipeline that would move its discharge point from Rice Creek to the heart of the St. Johns River. GP has said that building the pipeline was a last resort effort; the pipe would be used only if all of the plant upgrades left them no choice. Now, the Mill seems to have changed its tune, and according to a new GP website, the company now plans on constructing the pollution transfer system in the near term.

Riverkeeper opposes the construction of this pipeline. We believe the mill should not be able to move its pollution from Rice Creek to the River and the mill should do more to reduce its impacts from the environment. GP is the second largest source of nitrogen in the lower St. Johns discharging over 200,000 lbs/year. Nitrogen is the cause of the Green Monster. The Mill’s pollution also has such an impact on the dissolved oxygen levels in Rice Creek that the mill has to inject liquid oxygen into its waste stream. There are still byproducts of the mill’s bleaching process that have been shown to cause impacts to fish reproduction processes.

Riverkeeper and our partner, Clean Water Network of Florida, will continue to follow the permit renewal process. Given the prospect of massive water removals from the river, discharge permits such as GP, will have even more significance for the River’s health. We will keep you posted on this important issue. We will need your help in this battle.

What is that sucking sound?

If you haven't already heard, Central Florida is planning to withdraw large amounts of water from the St. Johns River and the lower Ocklawaha. This issues is huge, and it grows daily. We’re busy plowing through hundreds of pages of documents, and there is much more to learn. We will be producing a white paper and/or fact sheets on this topic. Here’s what we know right now:

The St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) has stated that central Florida has out-stripped the Floridan aquifer’s ability to provide a sustainable drinking water source beyond 2013.

The District has told communities they will have to seek alternative water sources (AWS). The SJRWMD has stated that 155 million gallon days (MGD) can be “safely” removed from the St. Johns River between the headwaters and State Road 44. This number was based upon a study done by a consultant hired by the district. By “safely”, the District means 155 MGD withdrawal will not affect the aquatic health of the river or its ecosystem.

At a July 18 meeting in Orlando, various cities and counties submitted ~ 46 withdrawal projects/proposals vying for the 155 MGD.

Because river water has a high salt or mineral content, most withdrawals will involve reverse osmosis, or RO. A by-product of RO is high mineral content and/or very salty water. Also, RO water is high in nutrients. The byproducts are called “concentrate”.

The SJRWMD has recently started a study to document the problems with concentrate on the river environment—the study will end in a year. RK is concerned SJRWMD could issue numerous withdrawal permits BEFORE the study is complete.

The SJRWMD is also focusing its attention on the lower Ocklawaha River. Although District staff has not set an MFL, minimum flow level, for the Ocklawaha River, the agency is telling counties to expect to be able to withdraw 90 to 108 MGD from the river.

The only county proposing to withdraw water from the River that has a mandatory water conservation plan is Volusia County. None of the other counties or municipalities that are planning water withdrawals has mandatory water conservation programs.

One of the largest water withdrawals, Yankee Lake, is planned in an area just south of the Wekiva Aquatic Preserve! Also, this plant will eventually discharge concentrate into the river.

This current process will only provide drinking water needs until 2025, less than 20 years into the future.

If you are concerned about this process you can contact the Executive Director of the SJRWMD, Kirby Green, at or 386-329-4262 and Barbara Vergara, Chief of Water Supply, at or 386-329-4169.

If you want to contact the policy makers of the SJRWMD, the Governing Board, you can send a email c/o Linda Lorenzen, executive assistant, and ask her to forward your correspondence to the board. Her contact is

Thanks again for caring for our beautiful St. Johns.