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Don’t Feed the Algae!

Don’t Feed the Algae! Algae bloom in Palatka, FL 4/2019 | Photo by Sam Carr

Attend one of our Know Your Green | Evening Talks:
DeLand | June 26

Invite us to come speak to your neighborhood or civic group on algae. Email kelly@stjohnsriverkeeper.org to set up a Know Your Green talk.


Algae bloom season is already upon our St. Johns River. Since mid-April, St. Johns Riverkeeper has received dozens of reports from Lake George and Palatka and all the way to Jacksonville. Our team is saddened by the images flooding our communication channels of the green muck coating our River. This early start could potentially be a sign of worse blooms to come as sunny days, higher temperatures, and rain events occur more frequently.

Nutrients? Aren’t those good for the River?
Algae blooms are visible symptoms of sickness and too much nutrient pollution in our waterways. Nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus are naturally occurring in our environment; however, in excess, they can undermine the ecological integrity of our waterways by depleting oxygen from the water, which negatively impacts plankton and causes fish die-offs, and hurting submerged grasses by blocking adequate sunlight. The River’s entire food web becomes severely harmed.

Impact to Us
Algal blooms can be highly toxic and can make us and our pets sick. Exposure to toxic algae can cause short term respiratory and skin issues as well as long term damage to the nerves and liver. If citizens spot what looks like bright green paint-like, scum on the surface of the water, they should steer clear. Do not recreate, boat, swim, or fish near an algae bloom.

So, where are all the excess nutrients coming from?
Some of the major sources of nutrient pollution (phosphrous and nitrogen) in the St. Johns River:

  • The application of sewage sludge (also known as biosolids) on agricultural lands surrounding our River’s Headwaters at Blue Cypress Lake.
  • Fertilizer run-off from agricultural, urban, and residential lands.
  • Malfunctioning septic tanks can leak sewage into our River and not all nutrients are absorbed or filtered in properly functioning septic tanks.
  • Industrial wastewater discharge and sewage spills.
  • Aquatic spraying. 
  • Reclaimed water
  • Atmospheric Deposition

Where can I find the locations of recent algae blooms?

Before you get out on the water, visit the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's website to see an ineractive map of algae bloom samples and results in our waterways at floridadep.gov/AlgalBloom.

Health Impacts

Toxins produced by algae blooms can cause rashes, stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea, and respiratory irritation. High exposures of toxin can affect the liver and nervous system. If skin contact occurs, wash off immediately and thoroughly with clean water and soap.

FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH (FDOH) SAFETY TIPS

  • Avoid scummy, foamy water where algae blooms are present (Heavy blooms are often bright or pea green, occasionally with a scum that looks almost like paint)
  • Don't cook with, eat fish from, or ingest scummy water
  • Do not let your pets drink from affected waters
  • Don't eat fish that look unhealthy
  • Do not swim in, jet ski over, or play near scummy water or blooms

TAKE ACTION

REPORT ALGAE BLOOMS
There is no standard duration for a bloom and no way to determine visually whether a bloom is toxic.
• Report blooms to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection at floridadep.gov/AlgalBloom or call toll free at 1-855-305-3903.
• Email shannon@stjohnsriverkeeper.org with photos, time, date and location.
• To report fish that are either dead or sick, contact the Fish Kill Hotline 1-800-636-0511.

CONTACT GOVERNOR DESANTIS
The Governor recently created a Blue-green Algae Task Force. However, it appears that the focus will primarily be on “Lake Okeechobee and the downstream estuaries.”
Urge the Governor to ...
(1) ensure the Task Force addresses the needs of ALL of Florida’s waters, including the St. Johns, and
(2) focuses on stopping pollution at its source.
Call (850) 717-9337 or go to flgov.com/contact-governor

CONTACT YOUR STATE LEGISLATORS
Let them know that you are disappointed that the Florida Legislature failed to pass legislation to prevent sewage sludge and other nutrient sources from polluting our waterways. Tell them to get the job done next session by stopping pollution at its source. Find your Legislators flsenate.gov/senators/find

CONTACT YOUR LOCAL LEADERS
Tell your Mayor, City Council, or County Commissioners that we need to enact stronger fertilizer ordinances and enforce the ones we have! Let’s lead by example in our parks and homes to stop pollutants from reaching our creeks, lakes, canals, and waterways.

DON’T FEED THE ALGAE. Eliminate or reduce your use of fertilizer and reduce your impact on the health of our river. Learn how to live a more River Friendly lifestyle.

EDUCATE yourself and others by attending one of St. Johns Riverkeeper’s educational programs and events

SPREAD the word! Share what you know with your friends and family and encourage them to be more River Friendly. Follow us on Facebook

Advocacy Internship Opening!

Advocacy Internship Opening!

Apply to be an Advocacy Intern

Please review the internship job description
Advocacy Intern | Summer 2019

If you are interested in applying for the Advocacy Intern position, submit your resume with relevant coursework and a letter of interest to Shannon Blankinship, Advocacy Director, at shannon@stjohnsriverkeeper.org. Deadline to Apply: May 10, 2019.

Support McCoys Creek Restoration!

Support McCoys Creek Restoration! Emerald Trail under the Matthews Bridge

McCoys Creek is an impaired urban tributary of the St. Johns River in downtown Jacksonville. The creek flows through neighborhoods like Murray Hill, North Riverside, and Brooklyn. It meets the St. Johns underneath the current Times-Union building on Riverside Avenue in between the Acosta Bridge and the Haskell Building.

Groundwork Jacksonville has been working with Wood Inc. to develop a restoration plan for McCoys Creek to restore natural flow, reduce flooding, increase recreation, improve fish habitat and repair water quality. The plan repairs ecological function by restoring a meandering shoreline and expanding the floodplain with lakes and marsh. Restoration of McCoys Creek includes daylighting the mouth of the creek which is currently buried in a culvert that flows underneath Riverside Avenue and the Times-Union building along the Northbank Riverwalk in downtown Jacksonville. We are fully supportive of this plan and its connection to the entire Emerald Trail.

The Times-Union headquarters has been relocated and the owners, the Morris Company, are working on a mixed use commercial/residential development for the current site.

*It is critical that their plan allow space for daylighting this waterway by creating a multi-stage channel with a living shoreline.* The alternative is constructing a narrow channel contained by vertical seawalls similar to a deepwater canal. The deepwater canal provides minimal stream and wetland benefits, while the living shoreline system provides 0.77 acres of wetlands and 560 linear feet of stream restoration along the Morris Property. Residents along McCoys Creek want fishery improvement – which could be compromised by the deepwater canal at the mouth. Kayak recreation and safety are also compromised because of the velocity increases in this vertical system. 

We need your help! Before the renderings are made and the plans are pending approval, we need the DIA, City Council and Mayor Lenny Curry to understand the importance of this project in its entirety. Ask them to support the natural flow of McCoys Creek and a living shoreline at its mouth by having the Morris Company incorporate the Wood Inc. living shoreline proposal. Letters and emails will help increase awareness of this issue.

OUTSTANDING River Friendly Yard Award

OUTSTANDING River Friendly Yard Award 2019 River Friendly Yard Award Contest Partners (Earth Works, Florida Native Plant Society Ixia and Paw Paw Chapters, DeBary and Twinflower Nurseries, UF/IFAS Florida Friendly Landscaping Program, and Volusia Water Alliance)

SHELLEY GILL: 2019 OUTSTANDING RIVER FRIENDLY YARD AWARD WINNER!


BILL BERTHET - 2019 FINALIST BEST YARD: WILDLIFE HABITAT 

COWFORD REALTY - 2019 FINALIST BEST YARD: SMALL BUSINESS 

2019 CONTEST

Annually, St. Johns RIVERKEEPER partners with local environmental nonprofits and native plant experts to recognize individuals or businesses that have implemented River Friendly landscaping and maintenance practices to reduce their impact upon the health of the St. Johns River and our environment. Eligible candidates for the Outstanding River Friendly Yard Award help to protect our waterways by using low-maintenance native plants, preventing stormwater runoff, and minimizing the use of irrigation, fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. 

HOW TO ENTER
Residents and businesses should meet most of the River Friendly criteria based on the Florida Friendly Yards and Neighborhoods 9 principles.

  1. Submit a photo and statement about the yard to kelly@stjohnsriverkeeper.org, OR
  2. On social media (Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter) using the hashtag #SJRiverFriendlyYardAward.

Participants may nominate themselves, a neighbor, family member, or business.

PRIZES

  • Winner of the contest will receive a $500 gift card and a complimentary landscape analysis with a native landscape expert, compliments of Earth Works Jacksonville.
  • OUTSTANDING RIVER FRIENDLY YARD signage for your home.
  • A recognition photo session with leaders from St. Johns Riverkeeper, Florida Native Plant Society Ixia Chapter, and other native plant experts;
  • Coverage in the local news and in St. Johns Riverkeeper social media and communications.

DEADLINE AND JUDGING PROCESS
The contest runs from March 1, 2019 - April 22, 2019. The deadline to submit a photo and statement is Earth Day on April 22, 2019. Based on the information submitted, three finalists will be selected that best exemplify a commitment to River Friendly Yard practices.

WE'RE LOOKING FOR YARDS THAT USE RIVER FRIENDLY PRACTICES: 
Right Plant, Right Place – your plant selection should match the yard’s soil, light, water, and climatic conditions to create a drought-tolerant, low-maintenance yard. Landscape your yard with drought-tolerant plants and groundcover, including at least 50% or more native plants. Avoid invasive plants. Find the right plants for your yard at Florida Native Plant Society.

Water Efficiently – Follow your local irrigation ordinance and only water as needed. If your home has an in-ground irrigation system, ensure it is as efficient as possible by utilizing water efficient components and individual plant needs. Inspect and repair the system in accordance to changing weather patterns.

Use Fertilizer and Chemicals Sparingly – or not at all. Only use slow-release fertilizers (50% or more of Nitrogen is slow-release or water-insoluble) with little or no phosphorous to minimize runoff into the river or leaching into the groundwater. Adopt Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques to spot-treat, use natural products, and minimize the use of toxic chemicals.

Use Mulch – Mulch retains moisture, slows runoff, and controls weeds. Don’t use Cypress for mulch as the harvesting of cypress for mulch destroys living trees and important habitat for wildlife. Recycle your yard waste and leaves by using as mulch and compost.

Attract Birds and Bees – Use right plants to provide valuable habitat for birds, pollinators, beneficial insects and other wildlife.

Protect Waterfront - Maintain a 10’ buffer next to waterways or directly adjacent to impervious surfaces where chemicals and fertilizers are not used. Also, use berms or swales when feasible. Point downspouts toward yard/garden and away from driveways and sidewalks. Use permeable materials when possible for walkways, paths and patios. All of these practices can help reduce runoff that can pollute our waterways.

Benefits of a River Friendly Yard include:

  • Reduces the exposure of people, pets and wildlife to harmful chemicals.
  • Reduces nutrient pollution and helps prevent algal blooms and fish kills.
  • Provides important habitat for wildlife.
  • Conserves water.
  • Creates beautiful yards, while saving time and money by reducing the need for water, fertilizers, chemicals, and mowing.

Questions? Please contact Outreach Director Kelly Thompson at (904) 256-7614 or kelly@stjohnsriverkeeper.org

2019 RIVER FRIENDLY YARD AWARD CONTEST PARTNERS:  

Earth Works
Florida Friendly Landscaping Program
Florida Native Plant Society Ixia Chapter
Florida Native Plant Society Paw Paw Chapter
Twinflower Nursery
DeBary Nursery
Volusia Water Alliance

Ask Governor DeSantis for a Moratorium on Sewage Sludge!

Ask Governor DeSantis for a Moratorium on Sewage Sludge! The algae in Blue Cypress Lake contains microcystin at a rate of 4,700 parts per billion. Levels above 10 parts per billion are considered hazardous to humans. Photo: Barb Burr

This week’s release of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Biosolids Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) Report does not live up to the higher standard set by our new Governor in his Executive Order: Achieving More Now for Florida’s Environment.  Governor DeSantis stated that expediting progress towards reducing the adverse impacts of blue-green algae blooms now and over the next five years is a priority.

WHY FDEP'S BIOSOLIDS REPORT IS BAD
The report ignores significant financial, health and environmental risk presented by the St. Johns River Water Management District and other TAC members.

  • The annual disposal of more than 89,000 tons of Miami’s sewage sludge (biosolids) within the Upper Basin of the St. Johns River is fueling harmful algal blooms and undermining public investment in nutrient pollution removal downstream.
  • This transfer of pollution from South Florida to Central and North Florida saddles local governments with loss of revenue due to toxic green algae blooms and a clean-up liability of up to $200 million annually.
  • Instead of providing the same protections as South Florida waters, FDEP is ignoring the urgent need to stop pollution at its source and is continuing to support the disposal of Miami’s sewage sludge in the Headwaters of the St. Johns River.

CALL TO ACTION
Contact Governor DeSantis today! By Email or Twitter @GovRonDeSantis

*Use your own language or copy and paste our ask below.*
 

Read more findings in the SJRWMD report.
The St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) has observed:

  • Increased Total Phosphorous trends
  • Increased incidence of Microsystis (freshwater cyanobacteria which includes the harmful algal bloom Microcystis aeruginosa) 
  • No evidence of land use driven changes and no other known sources of phosphorous loading
  • Strong relationship between cumulative biosolids application and Total Phosphorous concentrations
  • Potential for algal blooms, especially toxin producing taxa, such as Microcystis
  • Impacts to Upper Basin water quality impact habitat conditions, recreation, and aesthetics 

What's going on with biosolids? Watch this video by TCPalm for a visual recap on the issue. 

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