Latest Florida Chamber of Commerce Water Education Video Highlights Caloosahatchee River

Collaborative Effort with FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Focuses on Science-Based Research Solutions


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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (May 17, 2018) – Strengthening efforts to secure Florida’s water future, the Florida Chamber of Commerce today is releasing the latest in a series of water education videos demonstrating the importance of following science-based research solutions.

Securing Florida’s Water Future: Caloosahatchee River features research produced by Florida Atlantic University – Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute Research Professor Dr. Brian LaPointe. Despite recent impacts of heavy rainfall and fresh water discharges, strategies are underway to improve the health of this natural resource located on the southwest Gulf Coast of Florida.

Securing Florida’s Water Future: Caloosahatchee River features the following environmental and business leaders:

  • Drew Bartlett, Deputy Secretary for Water Policy and Ecosystem Restoration, Florida Department of Environmental Protection
  • Ernie Barnett, Executive Director, Florida Land Council
  • Roland Ottolini, P.E., Director, Natural Resources Division, Lee County Board of County Commissioners
  • Colleen Depasquale, Executive Director, Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce


Manmade changes to the Caloosahatchee River and its watershed have altered the hydrology of the region. Heavy rainfall often results in large influxes of freshwater runoff from Lake Okeechobee and the local basin. In order to address local basin issues, stakeholders and government agencies are working on other strategies to improve the health of the Caloosahatchee Estuary.


What Environmental Leaders Are Saying:

“Agriculture, residential and cities, urban runoff is adding nutrient loads that have exceeded the capability of the system. Lee County also has numerous septic tanks and we want to move forward and see where opportunities exist to put those folks onto a centralized sewer system.” – ROLAND OTTOLINI, P.E., Director, Natural Resources Division, Lee County Board of County Commissioners


“A typical septic tank will put out about 60 milligrams per liter of nitrogen through a drain field, we’re trying to get one or less into the estuary. We absolutely have to deal with the septic systems, get them out of the ground for this pollution. But how can we make sure it’s successful? And that’s by bringing state level funding to try to offset the homeowner costs so a utility can make the investment to run the line and we can get people to abandon their septic tanks.” – DREW BARTLETT, Deputy Secretary for Water Policy and Ecosystem Restoration, Florida Department of Environmental Protection


This is the eighth in a series of water research educational videos. Previous videos include:

  • Kissimmee River Restoration Project
  • Kissimmee River & Tributaries North of Lake Okeechobee
  • Lucie Estuary
  • Springs
  • Southwest Florida
  • The Florida Keys
  • Indian River Lagoon


“When it comes to securing Florida’s future, there are few issues more important than water,” said MARK WILSON, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber. “With six million more people expected to call Florida home by 2030, science-based data is key to meeting the challenges Florida faces.”

Click here to view the complete series or visit


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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 Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit for more information.

Septic Tank Pollution Threatening Indian River Lagoon

It’s not the most pleasant subject, but human waste from inappropriately located septic tanks is being blamed for polluting many of Florida’s waterways, including the Indian River Lagoon – the most biologically diverse lagoon ecosystem in the Northern Hemisphere.

Scientists at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute have found that nitrogen-laden sewage from septic tanks draining into the lagoon is responsible for algae blooms that kill seagrass and marine life.

Recent news stories in Florida Today and the TC Palm’s Treasure Coast Progress & Innovation magazine have raised the issue of problems caused by the estimated 300,000 septic tanks along the lagoon.

Here Are Some of the Key Takeaways:

  • An analysis by Florida Today found septic tanks contribute an estimated 2 million pounds of nitrogen in the lagoon per year.
  • Nitrogen promotes the growth of algae, which suffocates seagrass needed to sustain lagoon life.
    Thousands of the septic tanks near the lagoon are located at homes built before 1983, the cutoff when state law increased septic tank setbacks from the water and the distance between drain fields and the water table.
  • Many of the septic tanks are old and malfunctioning. State health officials estimate up to 10 percent of Florida’s 2.6 million septic tanks are failing.
  • Harbor Branch marine biologist Dr. Brian Lapointe describes sewage nitrogen as “the smoking gun’’ threatening the lagoon.

Risks from septic tanks aren’t unique to the Indian River Lagoon.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce supports a Proposed Committee Bill by the House State Affairs Committee, as well as SB 552 by Senator Charles Dean (R-Inverness), which require water quality restoration programs to address septic tanks contributing to springs pollution and will benefit all state water ways by focusing resources on cost-effective water quality improvement projects.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Northwest Florida Water Management District recently set aside $11.6 million in state money to fund several projects to remove septic tanks from waterways in the Panhandle.

North of Orlando, the DEP has launched a study of about the impact of septic tanks on the Wekiva River. The state has declared the river and nearby springs polluted with nitrogen and phosphorous.

ICYMI: Below are links to recent articles highlighting septic tank pollution.