The Florida Department of Environmental Protection on March 26 conducted a public workshop in Bartow to present draft water quality restoration goals, known as Total Maximum Daily Loads, for Lake Bonny, Lake Hollingsworth, Lake Lena and Deer Lake near the City of Lakeland. The restoration goals will establish limits on nitrogen or phosphorus loadings to the lakes in order to bring them back to health.
Nitrogen and phosphorus occur naturally in surface waters and are necessary for the plants and animals living there. But excessive levels of these nutrients can lead to an imbalance in the ecosystem and cause algal mats and other problems for aquatic life. These four lakes currently suffer from high nutrient levels and do not meet Florida’s water quality standards.
“Nutrient impairment is Florida’s most challenging water quality problem,” said Tom Frick, Director of the Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration. “Nitrogen and phosphorus pollution can come from everyday activities like fertilizing your lawn and walking your dog. Setting site-specific water quality targets, in this case for four important local lakes, is the first step to restoration.”
The land around the four Peace River basin lakes is largely urbanized, with little commercial agriculture. While wildlife in local wetlands contributes some nutrients to the lakes, the primary load originates from urban stormwater runoff, which carries everything from excess fertilizer to pet waste; leaks and overflows from sanitary sewer systems; septic tanks; and runoff from improper disposal of waste materials.
Lakes respond to nitrogen and phosphorus in different ways. The same level of nutrients polluting one system may not cause problems in another. The draft restoration goals for these four lakes are site specific determinations based on their individual ecological characteristics. The specific nitrogen and phosphorus load reduction goals are as follows:
- Lake Bonny – 64 percent reduction in nitrogen; 60 percent reduction in phosphorus.
- Lake Hollingsworth – 52 percent reduction in nitrogen; 57 percent reduction in phosphorus.
- Lake Lena – 42 percent reduction in nitrogen; phosphorus reductions not required.
- Deer Lake – 12 percent reduction in nitrogen; phosphorus reductions not required.
Establishing the nutrient load reduction targets for the four lakes will allow the Department to move forward to develop and implement a restoration plan in cooperation with local stakeholders. The plan will focus on projects to improve urban stormwater and wastewater management, among other actions.
The Department has to date adopted 355 restoration targets for rivers, lakes, springs and estuary systems across Florida. Nearly 53 percent of these restoration goals address nutrients, with others setting targets to resolve water quality problems associated with bacteria and metals. The agency has also adopted 19 restoration plans (Basin Management Action Plans) encompassing nearly six million watershed acres and setting in motion the projects necessary to restore the affected waterbodies. Another nine restoration plans are under development, including Lake Okeechobee, the Suwannee River and seven major spring systems.