USA: Funds Announced to Reduce Pollution in St. Lucie River

The State of Florida and St. Lucie County together have committed more than $1 million to stormwater system improvement projects that will help reduce nutrient pollution reaching the St. Lucie River.

Specific projects include upgrades to the existing stormwater conveyance system and the construction of a 4-acre detention lake, which will reduce both erosion and nutrient pollutants. Florida will provide $500,000 and St. Lucie County is providing matching grant funds in the amount of $535,000.

Governor Rick Scott said, “We’re committed to protecting and restoring water quality in the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon – and this partnership investment of over $1 million will upgrade water infrastructure to reduce pollutants from impacting the region. We will continue working closely with local leaders to invest in projects that protect our natural treasures.”

The Board of County Commissioners is thankful to have the support of the DEP and the State in assisting us with protecting the water quality of the North Fork, which is extremely important to all of St. Lucie County, as well as the residents in White City in regards to flooding. We have been working on a number of stormwater-related projects and these funds help us stretch our local tax dollars to accomplish even more,” said St. Lucie County Commission Chair Frannie Hutchinson.

Florida has historically been at the forefront of the nation in addressing stormwater management as one of the first states to implement a statewide stormwater program, and also one of the first states to address agricultural and urban stormwater management through its water quality restoration program.

DEP would like to thank Governor Scott for his leadership and St. Lucie County for acting as an exemplary steward in addressing stormwater management,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr.The Department relies on coordination with local governments to accomplish these worthwhile projects and ultimately reduce the pollutants reaching our valuable waterbodies.”

These projects will be implemented in the White City area that was developed prior to the implementation of state water quality regulations. The area has insufficient stormwater conveyance systems and no stormwater treatment system.

Free-flowing stormwater runoff typically contains sediments, fertilizers, pesticides, heavy metals, oils and grease. Runoff from this residential area discharges almost directly into the North Fork of the St. Lucie River. During heavy rains, the ditches become overloaded, the water backs up, and the area floods. The proposed stormwater system improvement projects will help resolve the area’s historical flooding problems, and also provide significant benefits to the St. Lucie River estuary by reducing the pollutant contribution from stormwater. The proposed projects are expected to substantially reduce nutrient pollutant loads for total nitrogen and total phosphorous by 42 percent and 77 percent, respectively.

Upgrades to the existing stormwater system include water treatment technologies such as grass swales, a Pond DoctorTM, and a technology called “floc logs.” Grass swales will convey stormwater from the residential areas to the detention lake. Swales differ from ditches in that there is some water infiltration into the ground, allowing for water treatment through soil, vegetation and microbes. Once water has reached the detention lake, the Pond DoctorTM will reduce excess nutrients by aerating the water, and the floc logs will bind fine soil particles together to reduce turbidity. Altogether these technologies will provide significant pollutant reduction for the previously untreated water reaching the St. Lucie River, which ultimately discharges to the Indian River Lagoon.

Press release, June 6, 2014; Image: NOAA

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