The Royal Palm Beach Village Council agreed Tuesday to work with residents of the Huntington Woods community to improve the water quality in their lake after more than a dozen residents showed up to complain about pollution that they say is coming from Royal Palm Beach Blvd.
Christine Walker of Parkwood Drive in Huntington Woods presented a petition signed by 38 of the 40 homeowners around the lake asking the village to stop the pollution. The homeowners blame the problem on the recent installation of curbs and gutters along Royal Palm Beach Blvd.
“We have watched the turbidity of the lake turn into a greenish-brown soup,” the petition stated, asserting that the removal of swales on Royal Palm Beach Blvd. and subsequent installation of curbs and gutters has allowed stormwater runoff from the street to flow directly into the lake.
Further, the switch to a curb-and-gutter system has allowed trash to pass through the system to the lake, Walker said, citing a Sept. 5 memo from Royal Palm Beach Public Works Director Paul Webster.
Walker added that the water in the lake should be Class 3 under the Florida Administrative Code, suitable for fish consumption, recreation, propagation and maintenance of a well-balanced population of fish and wildlife.
“We used to have this before the removal of the swales and increase of water drainage,” Walker said.
Brian Newsholme of Parkwood Drive on the northwest side of the lake said he has lived there 22 years and has seen the quality of the water and marine life go downhill since the construction along Royal Palm Beach Blvd.
“My kids and I used to kayak and canoe in that lake,” Newsholme said. “I’ve even taken them scuba diving in that lake. We fished all the time and caught very big fish, but nobody catches fish any more. The duck life has almost disappeared. There are no more ospreys flying over our lake.”
Newsholme thanked Village Manager Ray Liggins and his staff for meeting with homeowners about the lake.
“We’ve talked about this at length, and the one variable that has changed in the 22 years I’ve been here is the road construction on Royal Palm Beach Blvd.,” he said. “The initial insult was when the contractor was pumping all kinds of debris and silt and junk into our lake. The insult continues with the road debris, the runoff and vegetative matter.”
He added that the organic matter is leading to algae blooms in the lake.
Newsholme acknowledged that Royal Palm Beach Blvd. is much safer and looks much better with the additional landscaping, but that the problems created must be fixed.
He also called attention to an ordinance passed recently by the council that prohibits grass clippings and other vegetative matter from being washed, swept or blown into ditches or storm drains connected to bodies of water.
“All you have to do is walk along Royal Palm Beach Blvd., and all you see is vegetative matter going toward the storm drains, then coming right into our lake,” Newsholme said.
Newsholme said the homeowners’ association has started an integrated management approach by hiring a new aquatics company recently.
“They are going to start on Oct. 1 by planting deep-water and shoreline littorals,” he said. “This will hopefully help filter some of the stuff, but our lake cannot continue to take the insult of the road debris, the silt, the oils, the diesel fuel, and inorganic and organic solids and be expected to survive.”
Newsholme asked the village to help solve the problem. “We, as a homeowners’ association, are trying to do our part,” he said. “But we have a very limited budget.”
Mayor Matty Mattioli said he wanted to help but that the village cannot work on private property, and that it is a private lake. “To say we did it, I take umbrage at that,” Mattioli said. “It could come from anybody.”
He asked that the homeowners continue to work with staff to resolve the issue.
Liggins said he had met twice with neighborhood representatives, along with former councilman David Swift, a retired scientist with the South Florida Water Management District, who gave a presentation on best management practices for lakes and ponds and passed out workbooks.
“There are several best management practices for these ponds that can be implemented that can improve the quality of the water,” Liggins said, explaining that some measures are more expensive than others. “I think that the move that the homeowners’ association made in getting rid of their aquatic contractor now, who is basically spraying and killing everything around the edges, which is not good for the quality of the lake, and then looking at the contractor to plant back the herbaceous plantings around the whole perimeter is a huge step in improving that quality.”
Liggins said there are ways to control the amount of solids coming from the storm water runoff from the street and recommended that homeowners look at the workbook, decide what methods they want to implement, and come back to the village with a more specific request.
“Based on what I can and cannot do, we’ll deal with it as much as we can on an administrative level, and what we cannot do on an administrative level, that will require a policy change, and I’ll bring that to the council,” he said.
In other business, the council approved a tax rate of 1.92 mills at its first public hearing on the budget. The total budget for fiscal year 2012-13 is $32.2 million. The final hearing on the budget will take place Thursday, Sept. 20 at 7 p.m.