Biosolids dumping in headwaters – photo credit: Barbara Buhr

On July 10, 2018, St. Johns Riverkeeper and its Headwaters Advisory Council sent an Urgent Request for an Immediate Moratorium of Sewage Sludge Application within the Upper Basin of the St. Johns. This request follows months of information sharing among experts and regulators about spiking pollution, particularly phosphorus, within the Upper Basin of the St. Johns River. Click here to see the full letter.

On July 13, they issued a 180-day moratorium at Pressley Ranch adjacent to our headwaters at Blue Cypress Lake. While this is a small win and step in the right direction, we still have concerns … 

  • Other locations where sewage sludge is still going
  • The sludge slated for Pressley Ranch now has to go somewhere else
  • The State's commitment to long-term policy changes.

Here are excerpts of what we have been tracking and the action that is needed right now to protect the St. Johns from sewage sludge, pollution, and its impacts:

  • FDEP confirmed that more than 70,000 tons of sewage sludge was permitted in 2016 to be disposed within the Upper Basin of the St. Johns River. This is more than 73% of Class B biosolids permitted that year.
  • A sample from a bloom tested Wednesday in Blue Cypress Lake contained the toxin microcystin at a level of 4,700 parts per billion. The World Health Organization considers microcystin levels higher than 2,000 parts per billion to be "very highly hazardous" in recreational contact. See the full story. This is much more than an environmental crisis. It is a human health crisis.
  • An important consideration for the restoration of the Middle St. Johns River Basin is that the majority of the loading to the impaired waterbodies comes from sources outside the watershed. Approximately 96.4% of the total nitrogen (TN) loading and 95% of the total phosphorus (TP) loading enters the impaired waterbodies from the Upper St. Johns River, Econlockhatchee River, and Lake Jesup Basins. Therefore, implementing projects in the watershed alone will not achieve the goals; reductions from the upstream sources must occur before water quality standards can be met.

Right now Blue Cypress Lake, once one of the most pristine lakes in the state, is impacted by green algae making it dangerous for human use and threatening to wildlife.  Based on the visible, measured and unprecedented pollution impacting Blue Cypress Lake, time is of the essence and we strongly request an immediate moratorium of sewage sludge application within the Upper Basin of the St. Johns until a full technical report can be completed that identifies how to best manage sewage sludge disposal in the State of Florida in order to protect Florida’s waters, public investment and human health.