JACKSONVILLE – A representative of the Coastal America Partnership presented the Coastal Spirit Award today to a highly successful Tributary Assessment Team (TAT) in Jacksonville. The team, which consists of members from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), City of Jacksonville, JEA, Duval County Department of Health and the Florida Department of Transportation, was created to investigate elevated levels of fecal coliforms in the Lower St. Johns River (LSJR) tributaries.
The Coastal America Awards Program was established in 1997 to recognize outstanding efforts and excellence in leadership for protecting, preserving and restoring the nation's coastal resources and ecosystems. The awards are presented annually by the Coastal America Partnership, a unique partnership of federal agencies, state and local governments, and private organizations.
The TAT’s intensive water quality sampling and analysis resulted in action items coordinated amongst local and state agencies with authority to investigate and eliminate bacteria sources. In December 2009, the LSJR Tributaries Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) was adopted. The action plan identifies actions to decrease fecal coliform bacteria in 10 water bodies within the LSJR Basin. These water bodies are Newcastle Creek, Hogan Creek, Butcher Pen Creek, Miller Creek, Miramar Creek, Big Fishweir Creek, Deer Creek, Terrapin Creek, Goodbys Creek, and Open Creek.
Water quality restoration targets, called Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), were adopted by DEP for the 10 water bodies. The TMDLs establish the amount of reduction of fecal coliform bacteria that is needed to restore the beneficial uses of these water bodies. The TMDLs require reductions in fecal coliform bacteria ranging from 60 to 92 percent in order to meet water quality standards. The BMAP lists the steps that must be taken to reduce bacteria, a schedule for their implementation, and potential resources to accomplish the reductions.
“This award recognizes the hard work and commitment of several local governments and numerous stakeholders to restore ten of the most at-risk water bodies in the basin,” said DEP Northeast District Director Greg Strong. “Our team has helped to establish a series of clearly defined actions that are targeted to reduce bacteria pollution in these important water bodies.”
The LSJR Tributaries BMAP was developed under DEP’s comprehensive approach to identify polluted waterways and build partnerships with local, regional, and state interests to return the water bodies to a healthy condition. Through its science-based program, DEP determined that these LSJR tributaries did not meet Florida’s water quality standards and, therefore, established restoration targets and worked in collaboration with local stakeholders to create the BMAP. The local stakeholders identified more than 480 projects to achieve restoration in these water bodies and have committed to monitoring to ensure restoration occurs and to identify additional fecal coliform sources.
Examples of significant project commitments include:
- City of Jacksonville – Prioritization of septic tank phase-out in these 10 tributaries, inspections of private wastewater infrastructure, capital improvement projects to reduce flooding issues, and identification and removal of illicit connections to the stormwater system.
- Duval County Health Department – Site-specific septic tank inspections in four tributaries that have areas identified as high risk for failure, septic tank failure area ranking, and permit reviews.
- Florida Department of Transportation – Maintenance of stormwater conveyances and identification and removal of illicit connections to the stormwater system.
- JEA – Upgrades, inspections, and maintenance of sewer infrastructure and implementation of proactive programs to prevent issues with the wastewater collection system.
Proposed actions include improvements in stormwater management, implementation of corrective actions for sewer system failures, removal of failing septic tanks, field investigations to better identify and mitigate pollutant sources, and ongoing public education programs. The stakeholders have already implemented many of these actions and the remaining projects will be in place within the next five years.
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