Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Lake County bans summertime fertilizer to protect its namesake

In November, clean water activists, including Sierra Club members, won a long hard fought battle to protect a county with more than 1,000 lakes.

The Lake County Commission voted 3-2 to ban the use of lawn fertilizer during summer months when rains produce algae blooms in nearby lakes, rivers and streams.

The winning vote was cast by Commission Chair Tim Sullivan who had voted against an earlier ordnance and switched his vote. "Lake County is unique," he said, so he would "error on the side of caution."

Although a Model Urban Fertilizer Ordinance had already been passed last spring, county staff and advocates, including Keep Lakes Beautiful,  Lake County Water Authority, Lake Soil and Water Conservation District and Lake County Planning and Zoning, worked to strengthen it.

They met with other county staff and reviewed other county ordinances that had put in place more protective ordinances that ban summer fertilizer applications entirely.  The committee recommended a 15-foot zone between fertilizer and any water body and a 50 percent slow-release nitrogen fertilizer during non-summer months.

Lake County now joins other 11 counties and 82 cities with strong ordinances.

Said Ron Hart, Director for the Lake County Water Authority, "After all, we are Lake County, not Lawn County. "

17 speakers supported the ordinance.

Representatives of Scotts Miracle-Gro and True Green who were present opposed the ordinance.

The ban will begin in one year and will include an education campaign. It will not apply to flowering plants or vegetable gardens.

 

Read more: Lake bans fertilizing in summertime, Daily Commercial, Nov. 21, 2017

-- Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, Sierra Club Red Tide Organizing Representative

Monday, December 4, 2017

St. Pete Solar Tour Shines Light on Sun-Powered Living: Learn How To Host a Tour In Your Area!

Tour participants at St. Pete Eco-Village included Gina Driscoll, 5th from the left, who this month replaces Karl Nurse on St. Petersburg City Council. All photos by Bryan Blackford for St. Pete Eco-Village 
Nearly 50 participants got an inside look at how local homeowners and businesses are using solar energy and energy efficiency to save money and help tackle climate change during the November 11 2nd Annual 100% St. Pete Solar Tour.

Co-hosted by Suncoast Sierra Club, St. Pete EcoVillage and the League of Women Voters of St. Petersburg, the event featured a wide variety of Florida-style sustainable living and working with five homes and two commercial applications.

“Our goal is to present an interactive and engaging experience that will inspire people to take action,” said Chris Kenrick, Co-Director of St. Pete EcoVillage, a non-profit sustainability education center and community garden located in an economically depressed area in the heart of St. Petersburg’s urban corridor. “Just looking at solar panels on people’s houses would be boring. So we made this more of a storytelling tour that demonstrated very different people and lifestyles.”

For example, the homes ranged in size and age from a 750-square-foot newly built home designed
Planet Fitness fitness center with solar panels on canopy shading its entrance.
for sustainability to a two-story, 1,800-square-foot house nearly a century old. The commercial examples included the 20,000-square-foot Planet Fitness renovated strip center building and a solar-covered carport on the campus of the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.
 

At each location, tour participants got to hear from the homeowners and businesspeople firsthand and ask questions about costs, return-on-investment (ROI), energy savings and challenges.

Here’s a sampling from the tour :
Early adopter advantages
Commercial pilot Mark Ertel installed his first 20 solar panels on the roof of his 1,600-square-foot stucco home when the local utility (now Duke Energy) was still offering a rebate. With the rebate and federal solar tax credit, Ertel’s out-of-pocket cost was only $2,000. “It was a no-brainer. Since I’m saving roughly $1,000 a year on electricity bills, it was paid back in about 2 and a half years. During the day my meter runs backwards, which means I’m feeding electricity into the grid.”
Paul Ertel lives a clean energy life, free of coal, natural gas, and oil. 

In addition, Ertel took several energy-saving steps, including installing Low-E windows, LED light bulbs and skylights. He also replaced his pool pump with a variable speed pump, which he said is a “huge energy-saver … it will run a full day for about the same amount of energy that powered one hour with the old pump.”

In 2016 Ertel added a Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (EV) to the mix, plus six solar panels to roof of his garage. Even with charging his EV for six months, he still got a $40 credit for the year from Duke Energy.

Born in Germany, Ertel said he grew up being much more energy conscious than most Americans. “To me, energy’s money. In Germany we grew up saving energy …turning off lights when we weren’t using them. My college already had solar panels 23 years ago,” he said. Although he’s not a member of the Sierra Club, he said he’s definitely “environmentally conscious.”

A commercial pilot, he also thrives on the research and technology involved in energy. “It was like a project to see if I could do it,” he said, adding that buyers need to do their own research before purchasing solar.

Saving at home and business
When former St. Petersburg City Councilman Karl Nurse and his wife bought their 1926 home in Old Southeast St. Petersburg 25 years ago they “started at the beginning” by adding attic insulation. Since then they’ve added Low-E film to their 25 windows, a natural gas tankless water heater, more energy efficient lightbulbs and a programmable smart thermostat. The thermostat, which enables him to save about 15% on power, “has a pretty tremendous payback,” said Nurse, who now serves on Suncoast Sierra’s executive committee (ExCom).

About five years ago, Nurse installed solar panels on the back portion of his roof, preserving the aesthetics of the home’s distinct Florida Craftsman style on the front. Combined with their energy-saving measures, the solar reduces his family’s electricity bill by about 70%, he said.


Karl Nurse shows how to bring clean energy to an old house. 
Based on the positive experience at home, Nurse recently installed solar panels on the roof of a new 3,000-square-foot building for his growing manufacturing business, Bay Tech Label, also based in St. Petersburg. He said he saved about 30 percent on the solar installation costs by designing the building and roof for solar from the beginning. He estimates the solar will have a six-year payback in energy cost savings.

Creating a sustainable family compound
Architect Tim Rhode is transforming a small corner of St. Petersburg into a self-sustaining family compound shared by he and his wife, two daughters and their children. The oasis within the city includes three homes, a workshop, small organic farm and many energy- and water-saving features. His goal is to ultimately generate enough power, water and food to sustain the 11 people living there.

“We’re really living in a world that can’t sustain our typical lifestyle,” said Rhode. “So I’m trying to do what I can to minimize my family’s impact on the environment.”

One of his biggest energy-saving moves was to downsize from a 3,600-square-foot home in old Northeast to the 750-square-foot house he built behind his daughter’s home. “To convince my wife we could live in such a small space, I went through and labeled the spaces in our old home that we actually used. Then I showed her how we could provide for all those activities in this design,” said Rhode.

He designed the home for passive cooling and heating so it uses no additional heat or air conditioning. The solar panels on the roof generate enough electricity for the home – with some to spare and send over to his daughter’s home. The home also includes a 12,000-gallon cistern that collects rainwater for use in the farm.

Valuable takeaways for participants
Throughout the three-hour tour, participants peppered the homeowners and tour hosts with questions touching on their biggest concerns about going solar. Some of the key points and lessons included:
  •           No maintenance required: Homeowners reported that their solar installations continued functioning without problems or any special maintenance. At most, they said they rinsed off the panels about once a year.
  •           Zero damage from hurricanes: Despite some high winds brought by Hurricane Irma, hosts said their panels sustained no damage. They explained that in Florida, solar panels are required to stand up to hurricane-force winds.
  •          Simple energy efficiency measures deliver high return: Besides solar, each home and business owner stressed that basic energy-saving steps played a major role in their strategies to cut electricity consumption and costs. Don’t underestimate the value of switching to LED lightbulbs, using Low-E windows or film and other actions.
  •           Do your research and ask for help: Like any home or business improvement, owners need to double-check the claims made by solar companies. Many Florida cities now have solar co-ops set up by Solar United Neighbors of Florida, an initiative led by the League of Women Voters. The co-ops offer both education and savings for homeowners interested in going solar.
Wish you were there? Click here to get a brief video sample of the St. Pete Solar Tour. (Video produced by Bryan Blackford of St. Pete EcoVillage.) 


Want to host a solar tour in your area? Here’s how:

A solar tour can be a great way for local Sierra groups to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency and increase awareness in your area. This can be an especially effective tactic for promoting your group’s Ready for 100 campaign.

If your group is interested in organizing a tour, here are some tips based on the St. Pete Solar Tour:

·         Recruit coalition partners to help organize the event and attract participation. For example, the Suncoast Sierra Club, partnered with St. Pete EcoVillage and the League of Women Voters of St. Petersburg to plan and stage their 2016 and 2017 solar tours.
·         Identify tour sites. Brainstorm ideas with your partners about potential sites, preferably representing a selection residential, business and school/government/nonprofit installations that would make compelling examples of solar and energy efficiency at work. Aim for a variety, from small to large and different situations, with interesting stories to tell.
·         Plan logistics. The locations need to be within a small enough geographic area to keep the tour within 3 hours. For example, the St. Pete tour featured 7 sites and ran like clockwork, running from about 9 am to Noon on a Saturday. Plan to use a bus with capacity for about 50 participants and map the stops to make an efficient route. Allow at least 15 minutes at each stop. Over-flow participants can use their own vehicle, but only if the bus is full, to minimize emissions.
·         Base the budget to break even. This shouldn’t be a fundraiser. For example, the St. Pete tour cost $10, with an option to pay $5 more to enjoy a lovely organic garden lunch after the tour at the St. Pete EcoVillage. With 50 participants, the event netted $100 after expenses, according to EcoVillage Co-Director Chris Kenrick, which included a rented school after expenses bus and driver.
·         Promote the event widely. Engage media to list the tour in their event directories. Line up newspaper, blogosphere and broadcast reporters in advance to attend and cover the tour – emphasize the event’s great visuals and opportunities to interview home and business owners. Promote the event via email, website and social media for each coalition partner.

These are just the basics for your group’s leaders to consider. If you want to move forward, reach out to your local Ready for 100 team. There’s probably a team already active in your area. 

For more info on how to organize a solar tour in 2018, and how to connect with your local Ready for 100 campaign, contact Sierra Club FL Ready for 100 Senior Organizing Representative Phil Compton at 727-824-8813, ext. 303 / phil.compton@sierraclub.org. If you’re in South Florida, contact Ready for 100 Organizing Representative Emily Gorman at our Miami office, 305-567-0022 / emily.gorman@sierraclub.org.

by Liz Taylor for Sierra Club Florida's Ready for 100% Campaign
Phil Compton, Senior Organizing Representative
727-824-8813, ext. 303        phil.compton@sierraclub.org

Friday, December 1, 2017

Sierra Club Volunteers Join in Supporting a Brighter Future for Solar and Sustainable Affordable Housing

Sierra Club Volunteers Join in Supporting a Brighter Future for Solar and Sustainable Affordable Housing

By Gonzalo Valdes, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Representative






Last month, Sierra Club Suncoast Group members stood in support of St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and Green Housing provider Bright Community Trust’s efforts to make affordable housing truly affordable and sustainable.


Partners came together at one of the new solar-paneled homes to showcase this new concept of combining affordable housing with solar technology. During the event, key members of the community spoke to the need for more affordable housing as well as green solutions to help frontline communities deal with the effects of income inequality.


While most efforts only consider the affordability of buying the home, Bright Community Trust takes into account other crippling expenses, such as utilities.  Standing in front of one their newly finished units in Downtown St Petersburg, Bright Community Trust spoke extensively about their intention to create more options for people looking for cost-effective solutions. Mayor Rick Kriseman spoke about the need for the city to invest in projects like this, projects looking to alleviate the burden of poverty while also contributing towards making our environment healthier.The showcased house, the first of many of this type, is an affordable housing unit fitted with solar panels. It is to be sold to someone making 80% or less of the area median income (approx. $33,500/yr).The property is located on a community land trust, which helps ensure that the subsequent buyer also meets the criteria of being at or below 80% of the area’s median income.


The Sierra Club applauded the Bright Community Trust for being forward thinking and said it was extremely excited to see collaboration and support from local officials like Mayor Kriseman.


An inspiring coalition of community groups, corporate partners, and elected officials are collaborating on clean energy and community wealth building projects. The forward-thinking solutions emerging from this work give us all immense hope for a brighter future for the Sunshine State.


Wells Fargo has committed $80,000 to assist Bright Community Trust in acquiring solar panels to be installed on affordable housing units in the coming year.


NOTE: While the Sierra Club appreciates the contribution of Wells Fargo to making this solar project a reality, it still has serious concerns with Wells Fargo’s involvement in dirty fuels globally. Between 2014 and 2016, Wells Fargo invested at least $5 billion into the coal, oil, and gas industries that are driving the climate crisis. Wells Fargo has been a major financier of the Dakota Access pipeline, as well as TransCanada, the Canadian oil company behind Keystone XL.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Florida environmental groups achieve major clean water settlement with Pilgrim's Pride, the world’s second largest chicken producer

North Florida's imperiled Suwannee River just got some much needed help from Environment Florida and Sierra Club's Suwannee St. John's Group, who worked with citizens to win the largest ever civil penalty to combat ongoing Clean Water Act violations being committed by Pilgrim's Pride, the 2nd largest poultry producer in the world.

Sierra Club and Environment Florida members and attorneys announce the filing of consent decree at the Bryan Simpson US Federal Courthouse in Jacksonville, FL.  front row: Jenna Stevens, Jennifer Rubiello, Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, Heather Govern, Whitey Markle  back row: Dave Wilson, Mike Goldschlag, Mike Meng, Linda Bremer  photo by Jose Matos

The groups filed the lawsuit earlier this year to stop Pilgrim’s Pride from discharging illegal levels of pollutants, three times the allowable limits, into the Suwannee River, an “Outstanding Florida Water” that is home to 62 freshwater springs and several state parks.  

The settlement, if approved by U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Corrigan, would require Pilgrim’s Pride to make equipment upgrades, investigate the possibility of eliminating or significantly reducing all discharges to the Suwannee River, put $1.3 million into a Sustainable Farming Fund, and pay $130,000 to the US Treasury, what is believed to be the largest Clean Water Act penalty in a citizen enforcement suit in Florida history.

Pilgrim's Pride butchering plant discharges effluent into the Suwannee River, Live Oak, FL.  photo by John Moran

The complaint alleges that the company violated standards for:
•   nitrogen, which can cause excessive algae growth;
•  “specific conductance,” which can indicate high levels of chloride, nitrate or sulfate;
•  “biological oxygen demand,” which can suck up the oxygen needed by aquatic organisms; and
•  “whole effluent chronic toxicity,” which is an indication that wastewater is toxic and can harm aquatic life.

Filed in the consent decree settlement terms would require Pilgrim’s Pride to:
•  conduct a comprehensive study on eliminating the plant’s wastewater discharge to the Suwannee River;
•  conduct a toxicity identification evaluation to address the cause of the plant’s toxicity violations;
•  conduct a water use and reuse study, an analysis of the plant’s water supply system, and various upgrades to the wastewater treatment plant; and
•  pay $1.43 million, of which $1.3 million would be used to create a Sustainable Farming Fund designed to improve soil, groundwater, and surface water quality in the Suwannee Basin, and $130,000 that would be paid to the U.S. Treasury as a civil penalty.  

The Stetson Water Institute will be managing the Sustainable Farming Fund for farmers in the Suwannee River basin that intend to use sustainable farming practices.

press:
https://www.lakecityreporter.com/news/chicken-plant-clean-its-act

https://secure.stetson.edu/today/2017/11/stetson-water-institute-set-to-receive-1-3m-in-water-pollution-lawsuit/

-- Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, Sierra Club Organizing Representative









Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Despite Trump, Broward officials are still in and committed to clean renewable energy

On November 17, 2017, Sierra Club along with partners and volunteers, held a press conference along the New River in Fort Lauderdale, Florida to send a message to world leaders in Bonn, Germany that Broward leaders are #Stillin, committed to local climate action and a just and equitable clean renewable energy future. Speakers included federal, state, county and local elected officials, as well as partners and community leaders engaged in addressing climate change and building a resilient, sustainable and equitable clean renewable energy future. Over 35 people attended the mid-day press event, which was held alongside a river that already swells up and floods streets, parks and communities as a result of sea level rise.

Sierra Club organizers involved included: Diana Umpierre, Jon Ullman and Patrick Ferguson. Our partners included The New Florida Majority, Organizing for Action, For Our Future, US Climate Action Network, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Food & Water Watch and Citizens Climate Lobby Broward Chapter.

Coverage:

Sierra Club Florida Facebook live:
https://www.facebook.com/sierraclubfl/videos/1596710260351757

WIOD 610 AM radio interviewed Sierra Club’s Diana Umpierre on the day before the press conference and covered the event live online:
WLRN 91.3 FM Public Radio broadcasted information about the event in its morning drive time news.

Speakers

- Opening Remarks: Diana Umpierre, Organizing Representative, Sierra Club
- US Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23)
- FL Senator Gary Farmer (D-34)
- Broward County Vice Mayor Beam Furr
- Nancy Metayer, Climate Justice Organizer, The New Florida Majority
- Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Vice Mayor Mark Brown
- Theresa Brier, Broward Director for US Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-22)
- Daniel Mulieri, Community Outreach Representative for US Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20)
- George Cavros, FL Energy Policy Attorney, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
- Alex Easdale, SE Climate & Energy Network Coordinator for US Climate Action Network

Sierra Club’s Opening Remarks
By Diana Umpierre, Organizing Representative, Sierra Club

Today, in Germany, nations of the world wrapped up their talks at COP23, the UN Climate Change Conference, where they met to advance the goals of the Paris climate agreement. Sadly, last June, President Trump announced the US would withdraw from this historic Agreement. This decision does not represent the will of the majority of Americans, and certainly NOT from South Florida. Many government and business leaders across the United States are reaffirming their commitments to 100% clean, renewable energy. A few days ago, the Sierra Club's Ready For 100 Campaign released a report that showcases 10 of nearly 50 US cities that have made ambitious commitments, which include Orlando, St Pete and Sarasota. Additionally, about 170 mayors across the country signed a pledge called Mayors for 100% Clean Energy. Broward Co mayors have made more pledges that any other county in the US.  We can’t afford to wait to act on climate. Extreme weather events like Irma and Maria that devastated Puerto Rico, where I grew up, are reminders that is more important than ever to act and to end our dependence on fossil fuels. Just yesterday, we heard of oil spilled from the Keystone pipeline. Closer to home, we are facing the threat of oil drilling in Broward Everglades. So, We are Still In, because we have the right to a clean sustainable environment. And, we do this work, not alone, but in partnership with many others, including local leaders like those present today.

Quotes from Speakers

US Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-23):  “We simply don’t have the option of denying climate change any longer, we deal with these realities every day... Importantly, the failure to address climate change virtually ensures that other countries leapfrog the US in creating clean energy and green jobs, which are the future of the world’s energy economy... The US simply cannot compete in a 21st century global economy by clinging to 20th century energy policy… There’s a reason the business community and labors unions came together to strongly urge the President to remain a part of the agreement. Renewable energy is a massive job creator… If President Trump won’t lead from the top, then America and Americans will lead from the bottom up and make sure we can make improvements so we can arrest global warming and climate change.”

FL Senator Gary Farmer (D-34):  “This is really an issue that is non debatable… 70% of Americans support our involvement in the Paris climate accord and recognize the environmental and business threats caused by rising sea levels and climate change in general.. FL has more private property at risk than any other state in our country… from a purely economic point of view, climate change is a huge threat to the State of FL more so than probably any other state in the country, which leads us to scratch our heads and wonder why our Governor.. [has] turned a blind eye to this issue… We must get America back on the right track and we must reject President Trump’s overtures to forget about climate change. This is our country, this is our state, this is our community and it’s up to us to fight to protect it.”

Broward County Vice Mayor Beam Furr:  “We’ve been in; we are still in and we’re going to stay in...This week, Broward County voted to sign the Under2 MOU… We have an audit going on right now on every single public building to find out how much energy is being used, .. when that audit is complete, we will be looking at the recommendations to see how to keep [greenhouse emissions] under 2 [annual tons per capita]... In addition.. I want everyone to know that we are opposing [oil drilling in Broward] entirely, from every level possible.”

Lauderdale-by-the-Sea Vice Mayor Mark Brown:  “When you represent a small coastal community, ...it’s really hard to wrap your head around big scientific concepts like sea level rise and global climate change, but we are just not sitting back and waiting for the inevitable to happen. Five years ago we launched a major coastal resiliency program.. Since that time, we have planted over 65,000 sea oats on the beach.. and 2500 endangered staghorn corals just offshore... These programs are working. Unlike other communities, we suffered no beach erosion or flooding from Hurricane Irma and we were just awarded the 2017 Environmental Stewardship award by the Florida League of Cities for our leadership in developing the coastal resiliency program.There’s a reason why my town is called Lauderdale by the Sea and not Lauderdale in the Sea, that’s the beach… and we’re doing everything we can to stay that way.”

Nancy Metayer, Climate Justice Organizer, The New Florida Majority:  “We are all vulnerable but some communities are more than others. Marginalized communities and communities of color are disproportionately affected by climate change. They are faced with the most burden and are able to adapt less. Therefore, I ask our government and local officials to provide equity in emergency response, because [these communities] are the last to get power turned on… exposing them to oppressive heat and life-threatening conditions.. are last to get debris cleaned up leaving them trapped in their homes post-storm… I ask our government to act on climate and to invest in climate resiliency to protect the most vulnerable.. to move towards 100% renewable energy and increase funding to weatherization programs to reduce energy costs for low-income communities and prepare them for solar.”

Theresa Brier, on behalf of US Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-22):  “We see the impacts of rising sea levels flooding neighborhood streets and businesses on sunny days. Rising oceans are pushing salt water into the Everglades and freshwater canals, threatening the source of drinking water for millions of South Floridians.. These impacts are being felt around the world. Combating climate change requires a global effort… It is more critical than ever that we move toward a future of clean, renewable energy.. The time to act is now.”

Daniel Mulieri, on behalf of US Congressman Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20):  “Climate change is real and we are facing the effects today… That is why, regardless of the lack of leadership from the White House on this critical issue, we must stand together to take strong concrete steps to combat climate change.  President Trump may have isolated the US by making our great nation the only in the world not to participate in the Paris climate agreement but with the response by cities, states and business to step up and do their part, I’m optimistic that we can turn the tide.”

George Cavros, FL Energy Policy Attorney, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy:  “Here are some good news, we have some cost-effective solutions to the climate crisis and I’ll give you an example: it now costs less to generate electricity from solar power than it does from coal, from nuclear and even natural gas. The same holds true for wind. So we are really close to that clean energy future… but we need leadership at the national level to accelerate that move to clean energy so we can mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, we need leadership at the international to coordinate with other countries... Look, we are Americans. Americans lead. That’s what we do. We shouldn’t be sitting in the sidelines.”

Alex Easdale, SE Climate & Energy Network Coordinator for US Climate Action Network:  “Local action is the perfect antidote to federal inaction or in this case, federal opposition…. 227 cities, 9 states, over 1600 businesses, over 300 universities and a million people are still in, so we are the right side of history here… We’ve had mayors from places like Abita Springs, LA and Charleston, SC.. heavily conservative republican areas where the mayors and city councils committed to 100% renewable energy… So, this is not a partisan issue, climate change is a security issue. And it’s not about us anymore, it’s about our kids and future generations.”


Photos


Broward Co Vice-Mayor Beam Furr addressing the crowd. Credit: Victoria Olson.

Sierra Club Organizer Diana Umpierre introducing the speakers. Credit: Tara Chadwick.

Speakers and attendees posing for a photo after the press event. Credit: Jon Ullman.

Speakers and attendees posing for a photo after the press event. Credit: Susan Caruso.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

LETTER TO GOVERNOR: Deep Injection Wells are contrary to Everglades Restoration













FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 
Contact:  Cris Costello, Sierra Club, 941-914-0421, cris.costello@sierraclub.org

**PRESS RELEASE**

LETTER TO GOVERNOR SCOTT FROM STAKEHOLDERS STATEWIDE:
Deep Injection Wells within the Lake Okeechobee Watershed are contrary to
Everglades Restoration

*****************************************************************************

October 9, 2017

Governor Rick Scott
State of Florida
The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

RE:  Deep Injection Wells within the Lake Okeechobee Watershed are contrary to Everglades Restoration

We, the below-signed organizations and businesses committed to the restoration of America’s Everglades and the protection of all of Florida’s water resources write to express our concerns and opposition to the use of Deep Injection Wells (DIWs) within the Lake Okeechobee Watershed as part of Everglades Restoration.  The US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) appropriately decided not to consider Deep Injection Wells (DIWs) as part of the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Project (LOWP), instead suggesting a regional study that would consider their system-wide Everglades impacts.   However, in response to the Corps’ decision, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board voted on June 8, 2017, without any advance public notice or opportunity for meaningful stakeholder input, to go forward with a plan to develop DIWs to dispose of billions of gallons of fresh water and to cover the entire cost with public state tax dollars.

Our concerns include the following:

·         The use of DIWs is inconsistent with the goals of Everglades Restoration. DIWs are not a component of any project in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). DIWs do not help restore the flow of clean water through the Everglades ecosystem.
·         DIWs would divert state dollars needed to implement other Everglades restoration projects, including the acquisition of land both north and south of Lake Okeechobee to restore wetland habitats and to eventually send clean water south to the Everglades, Biscayne Bay and Florida Bay.
·         DIWs in the LOW would permanently remove billions of gallons of freshwater from the regional water budget.  Florida has faced drought conditions several times in the past few years and is likely to again and again.  Once disposed of, the water would be unavailable for ecosystem protection and Everglades restoration during dry and drought conditions. This freshwater is also needed to replenish rivers, wetlands, and the aquifer for millions of Floridians, and to lessen the impacts from rising sea levels and fight saltwater intrusion that pollutes and shuts down potable water wells.
·         According to estimates presented by SFWMD in February 2017, implementation of DIWs would cost or exceed the cost of $1 billion dollars.  Annual operation and maintenance costs will raise the actual budget for DIWs beyond SFWMD’s construction projections.  That is a significant amount of public state funding diverted to a project that will offer no beneficial uses of water to people or the environment, particularly south of the Lake.
·         According to information presented during Project Delivery Team (PDT) meetings, there is relatively little geologic information in the LOW area. In fact, according to a 2007 desktop-study prepared for SFWMD, “the presence of appropriate hydrogeologic conditions for development of injection wells is less certain in areas north and immediately east of the Lake Okeechobee. Most of the areas considered for locating injection wells have little existing data regarding hydrogeologic conditions of the Boulder Zone or its confining layers. This report also states that “the transmissivity of the Boulder Zone is highly variable. It is related to the thickness and lateral extent of the cavernous zones and the related intensity of fracturing. In areas near the Lake, the transmissivity of the Oldsmar formation cannot be confidently estimated without testing.”[1]    It is very risky to depend on DIWs in this region; the state would be gambling taxpayer dollars on a project that may fail to provide its expected benefits. 
·         There are valid concerns over vertical cross-contamination from upward migration of injected untreated water to the overlying Upper Floridan aquifer, especially given the uncertainties about the hydrogeology at this depth and location.  The upward migration of DIW water can contaminate the Upper Floridan Aquifer which is being used as a source of potable water supply in many regional water supply utilities.  Groundwater contamination clean-up in the Upper Floridan would be cost-prohibitive.
·         Injected water from DIWs has been found to move laterally into the nearshore ocean reefs causing pollution and harmful algal blooms.[2] Whether or not this might displace water that could create harmful seepage of ground water and fresh water into surrounding oceans has yet to be answered.
·         While DIWs (approximately 180) are currently being used to dispose of wastewater or wastewater byproducts in Florida, DIWs have never been implemented at the scale and density being considered by the SFWMD; nor have they been used to dispose of fresh surface water.  The long term implication of disposing of such large amounts of untreated water into the Boulder Zone is unknown.
·         The disposal of freshwater from the surface ecosystem via DIWs will not help the natural carbon sequestration (capture) processes that come from protecting and restoring wetland habitats, such as mangroves.
·         The operation of DIWs will be energy-intensive, requiring pumps that run on fossil fuels to pump millions of gallons of water per day, per well, for an unpredictable number of days to months per year. This operation would increase the release of carbon into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels.

The best solution to significantly reduce and ultimately eliminate harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the northern estuaries during extreme weather events is to speed up the long term restoration of the Everglades ecosystem.  We urge you to ensure that public state tax dollars are invested in Everglades restoration projects that are fully vetted, are consistent with CERP, do not jeopardize our public drinking water supply, and do not waste the state’s precious fresh water resources.  


[1] “Feasibility Assessment of Deep Well Injection to Assist in Management of Surface Water Releases from Lake Okeechobee to Estuaries”, Water Resource Solutions for SFWMD, June 2007

[2] “Benthic Macroalgal Blooms as Indicators of Nutrient Loading from Aquifer-Injected Sewage Effluent in Environmentally Sensitive Near-Shore Waters Associated with the South Florida Keys”, Sydney T. Bacchus, et al, Journal of Geography and Geology, Vol. 6, No. 4, 2014

Sincerely,


Anglers for Conservation
Rodney Smith, President

Apalachicola Riverkeeper
Dan Tonsmeire

Aquatics for Life
Susan Steinhauser, President

ASBRO LLC
E. Allen Stewart III P.E., Manager

Bay and Reef Company of the Florida Keys
Captain Elizabeth Jolin

Bullsugar.org
Chris Maroney, Director

Calusa Waterkeeper
John Cassani

Camelot Technology Integration
Gayle Ryan, Owner

Catalyst Miami
Gretchen Beesing, CEO

Center for Biological Diversity
Jaclyn Lopez, Florida Director, Senior Attorney

Center for Earth Jurisprudence
Margaret R. Stewart, Esq., MPA, LL.M., Director

Citizens for an Engaged Electorate
Barbara Byram, Co-Founder

Clean Water Action
Kathleen E. Aterno, National Managing Director

DanceCraft
Jayne Arrington, Owner

“Ding” Darling Wildlife Society
Michael J. Baldwin, Vice-President

Earth Ethics, Inc.
Mary Gutierrez, Executive Director

Emerald Coastkeeper, Inc.
Laurie Murphy, Executive Director

Environment Florida
Jennifer Rubiello, State Director

Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida (ECOSWF)
Becky Ayech, President

Florida Clean Water Network
Linda Young

Florida Defenders of the Environment
Jim Gross PG, CPG, Executive Director

Florida Native Plant Society - Conradina Chapter
Carol Hebert, President

Florida Oceanographic Society
Mark Perry, Executive Director

Florida People’s Network
Lisa Peth & Taylor Smith, Co-Chairs

Florida Springs Council, Inc.
Dan Hilliard, President

Florida Water Conservation Trust
Terry Brant, Legislative Chairman

Florida Wildlife Federation
Manley K. Fuller, President

Food & Water Watch
Jorge Aguilar, Southern Region Director

Friends of the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
Elinor Williams, President

Friends of the Everglades
Alan Farago, President

Friends of Warm Mineral Springs, Inc.
Juliette Jones, Director

Geranium Lane Farm, Ft. White, FL
Diane Buxton, Owner

Halifax River Audubon
Melissa Lammers, President

IDEAS For Us
Clayton Louis Ferrara, Executive Director

Imagine That Events and Entertainment
Tim Rose, Owner

Indian Riverkeeper
Marty Baum

Izaak Walton League of America
Jared Mott, Conservation Director

Izaak Walton League of America - Florida Division
Michael F. Chenoweth, President

Last Stand
Mark E. Songer, President

Lobby For Animals
Thomas Ponce, President/Founder

Martin County Conservation Alliance
Tom Bausch, Director

Matanzas Riverkeeper
Neil A. Armingeon

National Wildlife Federation
David Muth, Director, Gulf of Mexico Restoration Program

Nature Coast Conservation, Inc.
DeeVon Quirolo, President

Oklawaha Valley Audubon Society
Jim Kochanowski, President

Our Santa Fe River, Inc.
Pamela I. Smith, President

Progress Florida
Mark Ferrulo, Executive Director

Progress For All
Tim Canova, Chair

Progressives Northwest Florida (PNWFL)
Dr. Carolynn Zonia, Activism Committee

Rebah Farm
Carol Ahearn, Owner

Rise Up Florida
Sharon Van Smith, Membership Director/Environmental Committee Chair

Santa Fe Lake Dwellers Association
Jill McGuire, President

Save the Manatee Club
Dr. Katie Tripp, Director of Science and Conservation

Seminole Audubon Society
Pam Meharg, Conservation Chair

Sierra Club
Frank Jackalone, Florida Chapter Director

Solutions to Avoid Red Tide (START)
Sandy Gilbert, Chairman

South Florida Audubon Society
Grant Campbell, Director of Wildlife Policy

South Florida Wildlands Association
Matthew Schwartz, Executive Director

Space Coast Progressive Alliance
Philip E. Stasik, President

Spectrabusters, Inc. 
Debra Johnson, Board Member 

St. Johns Riverkeeper
Lisa Rinaman

Stone Crab Alliance
Karen Dwyer, Ph.D., Co-founder 

The Center for Sustainable and Just Communities
Ken Eidel, Executive Director

Theodore Roosevelt Conservation
Partnership
Edward W. Tamson Ph.D., Florida Representative

Treasure Coast Democratic Environmental Caucus
Paul Laura, Chair

Tropical Audubon Society
Erin Clancy, Director of Conservation

Urban Paradise Guild
Pete Gonzalez, Director of Policy & Chairman

Withlacoochee Aquatic Restoration (W.A.R.), Inc.
Dan Hilliard, President

WWALS Watershed Coalition, Inc. 
John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper

Waters Without Borders
Randall Denker Esq., Co-Founder & CEO

WE CAN U & ME, Inc.
Allen's Underground, LLC
Robert M. Allen

Willpower West, LLC
Will Walton, Founder & President

Women's March Florida
Natalia Duke, Environmental Policy Director

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