Nearly $2 Million Investment Made in Indian River Lagoon Protection

Oct. 16, 2014

~The city of Rockledge receives assistance to eliminate 143 septic tanks~

In an effort to continue reducing pollutants reaching the Indian River Lagoon system, the city of Rockledge has secured funding assistance from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the St. Johns River Water Management District to remove 143 septic tanks. The funding will also be used to construct and install a lift station and sewer force main.

“The Indian River Lagoon is one of the most unique and treasured ecosystems in the world and its protection and restoration is a top priority,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “This project is another step in the right direction for returning the lagoon to its natural condition.”

“This partnership between the city of Rockledge and the Florida DEP is another step in the right direction in restoring the health of the Indian River Lagoon,” said Florida House Speaker Designate Steve Crisafulli. “This project, combined with other ongoing restoration efforts, will have a meaningful impact in preserving the Indian River Lagoon as a critical part of our economy and our way of life.”

“The city of Rockledge and other Space Coast communities rely on the lagoon to strengthen their local economies and support their quality of life,” said Senator Thad Altman. “This project will have direct positive impacts on the Indian River Lagoon, one of our state’s most renowned natural resources.”

“Reducing the volume of nutrients entering the lagoon is an important part of restoring this delicate ecosystem,” said William Tredik, leader of the St. Johns River Water Management District’s Indian River Lagoon Protection Initiative. “This cooperative project will help preserve the health of the estuary for future generations.”

“During budget preparation in 2013, the city council identified septic tank removal east of U.S. 1 as a priority, due to the adjacent location to the Indian River Lagoon,” said Rockledge Mayor Tom Price. “It has been overdue, certainly needed and will have a direct impact on the health of the Indian River, an estuary of national significance. We are pleased to partner with the state of Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the St. Johns River Water Management District and the state legislature in moving forward with tangible projects that will aid this unique waterbody.”

The initial 143 septic tanks that will be removed is phase one of a two-phase initiative. In total, the city is planning on transitioning 367 septic tanks to sewer service. The total anticipated load reduction from both phases will remove approximately 11,377 pounds of total nitrogen and 1,835 pounds of total phosphorus annually. These initial tanks are just two to three blocks away from the Indian River Lagoon’s eastern shoreline.

The department has committed $775,000 and the St. Johns River Water Management District has put forth an additional $550,000 in grant funding. The remaining $600,000 in funding for this project comes from the city of Rockledge through its Wastewater Capital Fund. This project is anticipated to be completed by the end of 2015.

The Indian River Lagoon is a diverse, shallow-water estuary stretching across 40 percent of Florida’s east coast from Ponce de Leon Inlet in Volusia County to the southern boundary of Martin County. Widespread algal blooms appeared in the lagoon in 2011 when temperatures dropped significantly. This was followed by brown tide blooms in 2012 and 2013. Approximately 47,000 acres of seagrasses were lost, a reduction of about 60 percent of the lagoon’s total seagrass coverage. This project, which will prevent a significant amount of nitrogen and phosphorus from reaching the lagoon, is important to help prevent these events from occurring in the future.

Dredging projects, water-quality monitoring and support for local lagoon awareness organizations are all part of a larger, multi-agency effort to improve the health of the lagoon. The department, St. Johns Water Management District, South Florida Water Management District, Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program, local governments and educational institutions are individually and collectively working to identify additional opportunities to speed the lagoon back to ideal health.

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