Bessey Creek project in Martin would cleanse water bound for Indian River (link to article)

Feb 28, 2014

A new type of surface water filtration system planned for Bessey Creek may provide a model for reducing the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus carried from watershed streams into the Indian River Lagoon.

The South Florida Water Management District has identified the Bessey Creek area as one of the top 10 contributors of phosphorous into the St. Lucie Estuary.

The Hybrid Wetland/Chemical Treatment Technology system combines a chemical treatment process with conventional wetlands filtration using pond water and specially selected aquatic plants.

Only six other systems of this kind, in use since 2007, have been constructed in the state, all of them along streams in Okeechobee County north of Lake Okeechobee, said Deborah Drum, Martin County’s environmental quality manager.

Those systems have been effective in removing from 65 percent to 95 percent of phosphorous runoff, most of which comes from fertilizers, Drum told Martin County commissioners at a Jan. 7 meeting.

Commissioners unanimously agreed to a 30-year, $1 annual lease for 46 acres to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for the project, with the facility being county-owned when the lease expires.

“The design is still being worked out but the technology is new and has never been used in Martin County before,” Drum said. “This is going to give us a great chance to look at the cost-effectiveness of the system and consider whether we may be able to use similar systems in the future.”

State officials estimate it will cost the agency $3 million to build and operate the system, which will be adjacent to the Citrus Boulevard storm treatment area developed in 2008.

The system involves diverting and pumping a portion of the flow from Bessey Creek over a lime rock bed and mixing in a chemical such as aluminum sulfate, which settles out a large portion of the nitrogen and phosphorus. The water is further filtered in holding ponds using floating and submerged vegetation that consume more of the nutrients before the water flows back into the creek.

“This falls right into the type of effective system we’re looking for,” Drum said. “Because less land is needed, it seems like a good solution, particularly for coastal communities.”

The system could be operational in a year, Drum said.

Upon approving the land lease, Commission Chairwoman Sarah Heard and Commissioner Ed Fielding said they favored more state focus on finding the sources of nutrient pollution.

“In a year, this will be useful in moderating pollution,” Fielding said, “but we still need to determine the source.”

New Hybrid Wetland technology could help clean Martin County waterways

The waterways along the Treasure Coast are no longer polluted with toxic water and green algae blooms.

But now, Martin County is working to keep the water quality from becoming a larger problem during the next rainy season.

Martin County Commissioners voted Tuesday to allow the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to lease land on the Bessey Creek Property, a Storm water Treatment Area, in Palm City.

The FDACS plans to implement a new technology for Martin County in addition to the current Storm water treatment systems in place.

Hybrid Wetland/Chemical Treatment Technology combines chemical treatment with conventional wetlands treatment, pulling water through a pump station and treating it with a chemical to eliminate as much phosphorous as possible from water. The water is then further polished through floating and submerged vegetation ponds.

The treatment targets fertilizer runoff and urban runoff that carries phosphorous to the St. Lucie River.

That Phosphorous can be blamed for algae blooms and some toxic conditions.

Six areas north of Lake Okeechobee have used the technology and found that it filtered out 65%-95% more phosphorous than the older storm water treatment systems.

“It’s really about looking at our own local water sheds and our local water bodies and cleaning those things up where we can affect that influence,” said Martin County Ecosystems Manager, Deborah Drum.

She says it doesn’t tackle the problems related to Lake Okeechobee releases, but it is an important local effort to gain some control.

For fishermen like Tom Salter, this means the clear water he’s enjoying now could stick around in years to come.

He used to fish at Sandsprit Park in Stuart regularly before the water took a turn for the worse.

“I hope the water’s nice this summer,” Salter said.

The Bessey Creek project is not expected to be complete for one more year.

The FDACS would also like to implement the technology at the Danforth Creek location in the future.

Martin County, Treasure Coast in line for state money for environmental projects

From (Link to article)

April 25, 2013

Martin County could get a $3 million hand in cleaning a creek that is a notorious St. Lucie River polluter.

Cash for stormwater treatment at Danforth Creek in Palm City is included in both state House and Senate budget proposals, making it close to a sure thing for the final budget. Even after lawmakers are done passing the 2013-14 spending plan next week, all projects have to pass Gov. Rick Scott’s veto pen.

The creek drains more than 3,800 acres and dumps into the fragile St. Lucie River, which gets slammed by dirty Lake Okeechobee releases. Danforth Creek is one of the top 10 most-polluted tributaries across Martin and St. Lucie counties, according to the South Florida Water Management District. The creek basin also has historically caused road flooding.

The creek’s phosphorous- and nitrogen-rich waters would get a cleanup in an innovative way, said Deborah Drum, county manager of Ecosystem Restoration and Management. The plan calls for a combination of chemical and wetland treatments. The method is expected to reduce harmful nutrients flowing out of the creek by 85 percent, while using 40 to 70 percent less chemicals to clean the water.

If it’s as successful as anticipated, the hybrid approach could become a model for water treatment in the county.

“A project like this has potential to be a real game changer,” Drum said.

The plan includes a 6.8-acre lake and stormwater treatment area, which will use native vegetation to clean the water before discharging it into Roebuck Creek. It’ll also create a wildlife and wetland habitat, a boardwalk, kiosks and educational features.

The county already has put $1.26 million toward the stormwater treatment component, Drum said. Pending the bidding process for construction, Drum said the rest of the project is “shovel-ready” and could be completed within a year.

Cleaning the Martin County tributary west of Florida’s Turnpike is part of a bigger legislative focus on waterways, said Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart.

“It’s part of our goal, with regard to the Indian River Lagoon, Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades cleanup, to take care of these smaller projects,” said Negron, the Senate’s budget chief.

Danforth Creek cleanup is just one Treasure Coast environmental push getting consideration at the Capitol. The area’s waters could benefit from the first state budget surplus in six years. The area also has the advantage of having a local lawmaker in Negron at the helm of the budget-writing process.

As they close in on a compromised plan, the House and Senate agree on more than $2 million to help Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute fight Indian River Lagoon pollution. There’s more than $7.2 million for Treasure Coast beach projects dealing with sand losses after Hurricane Sandy, including: Wabasso Beach and Sebastian State Park, Jupiter Island, Bathtub Beach and portions of southern St. Lucie and Martin Hutchinson Island shorelines.

About $2 million could be available for three inlet dredging projects, including St. Lucie and Sebastian inlets. The Okeechobee, Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie River watersheds could be due $3 million for pollution protection.

The House has proposed $131,000 for a Port St. Lucie water control structure improvement project, but the Senate hasn’t responded to the offer yet. The money would help improve drainage and flood control on the C-108 and E-8 canals, both in the Port St. Lucie Boulevard area near Florida’s Turnpike. The Senate also planed to set aside $30,000 for water testing in the St. Lucie River.