The landowners in Loxahatchee Groves just received the “District Engineer’s 2012 Annual Report.” Within that report, I found a few disturbing comments, two of which deal with the waters in our canals. Note that these self-same waters are “waters of the state.”
First, [Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District Administrator Clete] Saunier appears entirely unwilling to be proactive regarding numeric nutrient criteria (NNC). The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in order to find “reasonable” nutrient concentrations. The huge lobby called the Florida Association of Special Districts is also spreading the anti-NNC fight. Clean water is a must for southern Florida, most notably the Everglades. From 2003 to 2004, a graduate student and I performed a nutrient study of the waters in the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District canals and found levels of phosphorous (P) and nitrogen (N) to be very high, often five to 80 times higher than the 10 ppm (10 milligrams per liter) P target at that time. Granted, 10 ppm is presently an unreasonable criterion but somewhere around 25 to 30 should be attainable. Such waters could then be cleaned by the stormwater treatment areas (STAs) that will ultimately feed the Everglades.
Since that time, certain initial steps have been taken to lessen the amount of horse manure stockpiling in Loxahatchee Groves. Another master’s student of mine proved that the vast majority of P in our local and “imported” (ex Wellington) horse manure was indeed extractable with just water and water with some bicarbonate. Our waters will have bicarbonate due to the limestone in our soils. More needs to be done with both ordinances and best management practices (BMPs) for nurseries, horse farms and even residences. We should follow Wellington in legislating the use of zero percent phosphorous fertilizer. This will fall to the town but require the cooperation of the LGWCD.
Secondly, Mr. Saunier states that the LGWCD and the town should consider the use of the county’s reclaimed water to maintain canal levels. This is ludicrous at best. Even the Palm Beach County Water Utilities web site promotes their reclaimed water as a “fertilizer.” That is, it is high in the major plant nutrients N and P, the very pollutants of our surface waters that need to minimized, not added. The only uses of reclaimed water in Loxahatchee Groves that ever considered are: (a) irrigation in well designed and monitored situations (e.g., drip irrigation systems avoiding contamination of surface water bodies: canals, ponds), and/or (b) as part of a closed-loop system with hydrants to provide fire suppression in emergencies.
Dr. J. William Louda
Editor’s note: Dr. Louda is a senior scientist with the Environmental Sciences Program at Florida Atlantic University.