Septic to Sewer Conversions in Florida Keys Have Improved Water Quality, and Stand as an Example for Improving Water North of Lake Okeechobee

TALLAHASSEE, FL (February 4, 2020) — Scientists, fishermen, and environmental leaders agree that the success of septic to sewer conversions in the Florida Keys is a shining example of how the same process could be used to improve water quality in the Everglades Basin extending north to Orlando.

As part of its ongoing environmental stewardship efforts to help secure Florida’s water future, the Florida Chamber of Commerce today released the latest in a series of educational videos featuring the research of Dr. Brian Lapointe, research Professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.

Lawmakers are considering water quality bills this legislative session, including Senator Debbie Mayfield’s SB 712 that calls for converting from septic tanks to sewage treatment centers. The bill is expected to be heard Wednesday, in Senate Appropriations.

“With 4.5 million more people expected to call Florida home by 2030, and 50 million more visitors expected each year – on top of the 127 million that visited last year – ensuring Florida’s water future is sustainable and provides the quality of life Floridians and visitors deserve is vital,” said Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Dr. Lapointe’s research of Looe Key Reef extend back 35 years, and shows the amounts of algae in the water have doubled since 1984.Point sources for increasing nitrogen in the water are traced to sewage and non-point sources coming from the Everglades Basin that extends north, all the way up to Orlando.

“What you clearly see from the data is that every time you dump more water into Florida Bay from the north, you get larger algae blooms,” Larry Brand, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Marine Biology and Economy, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science said.

But as local commercial fisherman Mike Laudicina explains, “Down in Key Haven off of Key West, which has had sewers from day one, the canals in there are like I remember (from early in his career), you could see the bottom, you could see the fish.”

“So regionally, the Lake Okeechobee Watershed Plan needs to be funded and implemented which calls for increased storage and treatment of water north of Lake Okeechobee, that will help protect Lake Okeechobee and the downstream waters in Florida Bay,” Lapointe explained.

The Florida Chamber has long advocated for long-term sustainable water and environmental policies, and since March 2016, has championed an educational partnership with Dr. Lapointe. Dr. Lapointe has extensive experience in water quality research in South Florida and the Caribbean region. His research has led to greater nutrient removal from sewage effluents in Monroe County, his long-term water quality monitoring at Looe Key Reef in the Florida Keys represents the longest low-level nutrient record for a coral reef anywhere in the world.

Experts also featured in this educational video include:
Charles Patterson, Executive Director, Monroe County Land Authority
Captain Keith L. Douglass, Director of Facilities, Boy Scouts of America, High Adventure Sea Base
Bill Louda, Ph.D., Research Professor, Florida Atlantic University
James W. Miller, Florida Institute of Oceanography, Retired
Tommy Strowd, P.E., Director of Operations & Maintenance, Lake Worth Drainage District
Don Demaria, Commercial Fisherman

Securing Florida’s Water Future is a series of educational videos solely focused on ensuring Florida’s water future is sustainable and provides the quality of life Floridians and visitors deserve. Educational videos have focused on Indian River Lagoon, the Florida Keys, Southwest Florida, Florida’s Springs, the St. Lucie Estuary, the Kissimmee River, Caloosahatchee, and North of Lake Okeechobee.

For more information, please visit Securing Florida’s Water Future online.

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Established in 1916 as Florida’s first statewide business advocacy organization, the Florida Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business and the state’s largest federation of employers, chambers of commerce and associations aggressively representing small and large businesses from every industry and every region. The Florida Chamber works within all branches of government to affect those changes set forth in the annual Florida Business Agenda, and which are seen as critical to secure Florida’s future. The Florida Chamber works closely with its Florida Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit www.FloridaChamber.com for more information.

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