Recycling Confusion = Recycling Contamination

When residents put their recyclables in curbside bins, contamination wasn’t a problem.

Now that carts have replaced the bins, the contamination rate has shot up from 12 percent to 32 percent. Polk officials said they were surprised, though this has been a problem in other Florida counties, so they should not have been.

It seems that some people didn’t get the message and use their recycling cart as a second garbage cart.

The contamination is made up of two different types of materials.

One type involves materials such as glass bottles and single-use plastic water bottles, which were accepted under the previous recycling rules, which changed in 2016.

The other involves materials such as plastic bags and polystyrene containers, which have never been accepted.

These materials reduce the quality of the acceptable recyclables, they can gum up the processing equipment and they require more labor to pull them from the loads.

Polk has taken a financial hit as a result.

The County Commission recently approved a change in its contract with Waste Management to increase the processing fee for recycling loads from $50 to $90 a ton.

This fee increase will continue until the contamination percentage drops significantly. Anything below 20 percent is supposedly acceptable, though the lower the better.

To accomplish this, Polk has hired a marketing firm to come up with a more user-friendly educational campaign to persuade residents to mend their recycling ways.

The campaign is supposed to roll out later this winter.

In the meantime, make sure you’re not part of the problem. Talk to your neighbors if you get a chance and help them to comply.

Recycling is not that difficult as long as the rules are clear.

That has been a problem in the past.

Truce Reached In Peace River Water War; Withdrawals Could Increase

As expected, the Polk Regional Water Cooperative and the Peace River Manasota Water Authority’s boards voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a settlement to end a pending legal battle over allocation of water from the Peace River to feed projected utility demands on both ends of the river.

Under the agreement, PRMWSA will reduce its requested maximum withdrawal from 258 million gallons a day to 210 mgd. Its current permit allowed a maximum withdrawal of 120 mgd. Most of the withdrawals occur during the summer rainy season.

PRWC had applied earlier this year to withdraw up to 18 mgd from the Peace River and 12 mgd from the Peace Creek Drainage Canal.

Under the settlement, PRWC would be allowed to proceed with that application as long as it is able to receive a tentative nod from on the permit’s approval from Swiftmud within 10 years. The settlement does not deal with a separate permit request PRWC filed to withdraw 10 mgd from the Alafia River.

During Wednesday’s meeting it emerged that water managers at both utilities are working on plans to seek Swiftmud officials to increase the maximum daily withdrawal from the river.

The limits were set to allow the river to function naturally by periodically inundating flood plains.

Cutting further into the river’s natural flow regime is expected to attract questions concerning what further weakening of the protections the river receives from overexploitation may occur in response to future water demands.

Meanwhile, any upsteam water withdrawals by PRWC will require work to locate, design and receive a permit for reservoirs that could hold as much as 10 billion gallons, said Gene Heath, who is the cooperative’s project manager.

This would require a large tract of uplands, he said, explaining that a reservoir to hold a minimal 3.6 billion gallon reserve would require one square mile, which is equal to 640 acres.


Fort Myers Waste Controversy Continues To Worry Some In Polk

The controversy over a shipment of waste from Fort Myers to Mulberry continues.

Tuesday the County Commission scheduled a presentation at its Jan. 8 meeting to hear from a representative from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s regional office in Temple Terrace and possibly a representative from Clark Environmental, the company hired to process the contaminated soil so it can be disposed of in a private landfill in Bartow.

The 30,000 tons of waste is coming from what is known as the Dunbar site. The site contains sludge from the city’s water plant that was dumped there in pits next to an African-American community beginning in 1962. Tests have shown the site contains unhealthy levels of arsenic.

The fact that city officials chose to dump the waste in a minority community added to the city’s urgency to defuse what had become as much a political issue as an environmental issue locally.

The controversy in Polk centers around just how dangerous the waste is.

Initial television reports inaccurately described it as “toxic,” but County Manager Jim Freeman said FDEP officials have told him the waste is neither toxic nor hazardous, but deferred to DEP officials to explain those definitions more fully during next month’s presentation.

Tuesday afternoon county officials sent out a press release to re-emphasize that point.

The waste was originally supposed to be shipped to a cement plant in Alabama, but that deal reportedly fell through when that facility could not process the waste quickly enough.

Part of that plan involved initially processing the waste at a limerock mine near Crystal River and barging it to the Alabama plant. That idea was dropped after Citrus County officials, who said they were not contacted by Fort Myers officials in advance, threatened to sue to stop the shipment.

Polk County was also a lot closer and Clark Environmental is an experienced company qualified to handle the waste, which will be treated entirely indoors.

The news about the shipment has generated some conversation from the general public, who voiced concerns Polk is becoming the state’s dumping ground.

The Dunbar waste seems minuscule compared to the waste generated by the phosphate industry and stored in giant waste stacks all over southwest Polk County and are likely to be there forever The Dunbar waste will be safely buried in a lined landfill and that will be the end of it.


SFWMD Quickie Land Deal Creates Criticism and Spin

The South Florida Water Management District Governing Board’s Nov. 8 vote to approve a lease with sugar companies, whose details were not revealed until the night before the meeting, continues to generate discussion.

The Florida Wildlife Federation and a member of Indian Riverkeeper have filed an administrative challenge to the vote, claiming the district didn’t give proper public notice

FWF’s lawyer Terrel Arline contends the lease will complicate plans for the reservoir south of the lake. Environmentalists contend that project, which has been resisted by the sugar industry and its allies, n is key to restoring some of the natural water flow to Everglades National Park and reducing the harmful algae discharges to the estuaries on the Atlantic and Gulf.

SFMWD quickly responded.

First, the agency criticized FWF for once again delaying Everglades restoration, referring to earlier successful litigation to keep the agency from improperly using money approved for environmental land purchases and management for the project. That is, they’re still angry that the federation made them comply with the state constitution.

Then, SFWMD argued they had to act quickly because of an impending March deadline to renew the lease.

Critics respond that what was really going on was that the board members, who were all appointed by Gov. Rick Scott, wanted to get the deed done before Ron DeSantis, who has been a critic of the sugar industry, takes office in January.

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast is calling on DeSantis to remove the board members, arguing the current board’s approach may make it harder to argue for federal funding for Everglades restoration. Mast heads a committee DeSantis has appointed to deal with water policy.

Peace River Legal Dispute Settlement Sessions Set For Dec. 19

The Polk Regional Water Cooperative had already scheduled a special meeting for 2 p.m. Dec. 19 to consider a proposed settlement agreement to resolve a dispute over water permitting along the Peace River.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Peace River Manasota Water Supply Authority, whose permit request is the focus of the legal dispute, Doug Manson, the agency’s lawyer, recommended that the agency’s board schedule its time to consider the settlement at a special meeting at 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 19 at the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Sarasota office.

PRMWSA’s board met in a private attorney-client meeting during Tuesday’s regular meeting to discuss strategy regarding the settlement .

The dispute is about PRMWSA’s request for a 50-year permit to double its permitted withdrawal from the Peace River.

Polk officials, who were joined by officials in Wauchula, the county seat of Hardee County, opposed the permit request. They claimed the proposed permit would tie up all of the water available for withdrawal from the river, closing off other upstream utilities’ options for developing future water supplies.

Polk officials also criticized Swiftmud officials for not being transparent about the pending permit by not sending notices to all upstream interests who might be affected.

The pending settlement was announced at the Nov. 14 PRWC meeting after earlier talks had reportedly resulted in an impasse.

A separate issue is Polk’s pending permit application to withdraw water from the upper Peace River and Alafia River, which are still under review.

The settlement reportedly conditions PRMWSA’s agreement to scale back its permit request on Polk’s ability to get those permits.

Swiftmud officials had earlier offered an alternative to Polk to obtain water from Tampa Bay Water. But that depended on the results of a pilot project that has drawn criticism from some TBW board members. It involves pumping treated sewage into the aquifer near the coast to form a barrier to halt salt water intrusion. That barrier would supposedly enable TBW to construct drinking water wells farther inland.

Polk’s planning also involves drilling wells into the Lower Florida Aquifer in hopes of being able to get enough useful water to aid with projected long-term supply deficits.

However, at the Nov. 14 meeting PRWC projects director Gene Heath acknowledged this approach has yet to be proven to be viable.