DEP seeks new avenues for restoration in Hillsborough River basin

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The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is examining the impairment status and potential sources of bacteria in six waterbodies in the Hillsborough River basin. This is part of the department’s ongoing efforts to refine restoration strategies in the basin, focused on six segments of the river basin covered by the Hillsborough River restoration plan, including Blackwater Creek, New River, Spartman Branch, Baker Creek, Flint Creek and a portion of the Lower Hillsborough River.

“In 2009 the department adopted a restoration plan called a basin management action plan, or BMAP, to reduce bacteria in six waterbodies located in the Hillsborough River Basin,” said Tom Frick, director of the Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration. “Over the last several years, we have seen significant decreases in the bacteria for all six waterbodies and we continue to work with local stakeholders to achieve our goal.”

At this meeting stakeholders shared their local knowledge of these waters, and discussed possible bacteria sources. Participants also discussed where additional water samples could be collected to determine if segments of the basin have been restored or are still impaired. Sanitary sewer staff and local public health officials were invited to identify areas of concern they have observed working in the field.

The department will use the information generated at this meeting to schedule a more detailed field evaluation in the upcoming weeks. At this field evaluation, DEP staff and stakeholders will walk along the perimeter of each waterbody, as well as drive to nearby areas to identify potential bacteria sources. DEP staff and other participants will look for potential illicit wastewater and storm water connections, failing septic tanks, animal waste and other potential bacteria sources. In addition, water samples will be pulled from each waterbody and sent to the DEP lab for analysis.

These samples will be analyzed using a new technology, a method called microbial source tracking, which identifies bacterial origin through DNA analysis. Knowing whether the bacteria is of human or wildlife origin allows the department and stakeholders to develop targeted pollutant reduction strategies and ensures resources are focused on the right types of projects.

For more information on the Hillsborough River restoration plan, click here.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.