Water Wise Expo Saturday in Polk City

If you want to learn more about how to use water wisely head to Polk City Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Donald Bronson Center, 124 Bronson Trail.

It’s perhaps fitting to have a Water Wise Expo in Polk City, since it lies in the Green Swamp, Central Florida’s Liquid Heart, the high point in the Floridan aquifer.

The free expo will feature information on water conservation, landscaping, hurricane preparedness, Zika and the Green Swamp itself.

Although there has been some rain lately and the county burn ban is being lifted, the drought is really not over.

Hazards Of Living On Mined Lands Debate Heats Up

At the heart of a federal lawsuit filed earlier this year against the developer of a couple of upscale Lakeland residential communities is whether living on reclaimed phosphate mines is hazardous to residents’ health because of radiation emissions.

The latest chapter in this debate played out this week at a public meeting in Lakeland in which residents were reassured by scientists and technical experts from the Florida Department of Health and the Florida Industrial & Phosphate Institute that the radiation hazard was practically non-existent.

The firm that filed the lawsuit and the plaintiffs in the case see things differently, relying on a paper trail stretching back to the 1970s that appears to demonstrate health and environmental officials raised concerns when these developments were being reclaimed and undergoing development review.

Interestingly, the main potential health issue that was raised at the time in press reports was the presence of an old city dump. That facility dated from the days when there was little regulation on what kinds of waste could be dumped and there was no thought of installing liners as there are in modern landfills to protect groundwater.

How this lawsuit will play out is a matter for the judge and the jury– if it gets that far–to decide.

Another lawsuit that made similar claims regarding developments in the Bartow area was filed in the state court system decades ago. It was dismissed.

If this suit is not dismissed, the implications are interesting.

There are many residential developments all over western Polk County where residents potentially face the same health threat—if one can be established—and could be the focus of additional lawsuits.

This has regional implications as well.

As mining continues to expand in other Florida counties, the potential effect on the health of residents living in future developments that would occur after mining and reclamation have occurred is an issue that is difficult to ignore until the claims in the current lawsuit are resolved.

There are related economic issues, including the impact of any verified claims on real estate values and, by extension, on the local tax roll. The impacts are unknown at this point.

Stay tuned.




Legislature’s inaction on Amendment 1 becomes election issue

The Florida Legislature’s unwillingness to implement the constitutional amendment Florida voters approved in 2014 to restart the Florida Forever program is becoming a local election issue.

The Ledger reports that retired judge Bob Doyel has announced he will run against incumbent Kelli Stargel for the Florida Senate.

Doyel specifically criticized Stargel and her fellow legislators for ignoring the will of the voters on Amendment 1 and other citizen mandates.

The election is not until next year when some legislators promise to move forward with Amendment 1—four years after the original referendum—but making this and other shortcomings of our so-called representatives a campaign issue cannot hurt the effort.

NWS: Spring 2017 One Of Driest

We didn’t break any records, but it was one of the driest springs on record in Polk, according to preliminary figures compiled by the National Weather Service.

Lakeland rainfall was 315 inches. The record was 2.28 inches in 1945. Normal rainfall is 9.92 inches.

Winter Haven rainfall was 1.92 inches. The record was 1.61 inches in 2000. Normal rainfall is 8.95 inches.

Bartow rainfall was 3.09 inches The record was 2.34 inches in 1908. Normal rainfall is 8.99 inches.

Polk and surrounding counties are still under a mandatory burn ban because of the wildfire danger and under increased watering restrictions because of the stress on water supplies.

Osceola Sprawlway Being Restudied

If you thought plans for ramming new highways through preservation lands in southern Osceola County near the edge of Polk County were dead, think again.

The Central Florida Expressway Authority recently circulated a notice to local elected officials about plans to reopen the conceptual study of four projects that together would create an outer beltway miles south of State Road 417, the so-called Green Way (well, it was still green out there when the road was built).

The studies will be ongoing and will wrap up sometime next year.

The four proposed toll roads are:

Poinciana Parkway extension to I-4.

Southport Connection

Northeast Osceola Connection.

Osceola Expressway Extension.

Altogether, the network would run for 52 miles through some still largely undeveloped sections of lands near existing conservation lands. The main concerns are that the roads would cut through prime habitat for listed species and would make prescribed fire more difficult because of smoke management issues.

In addition, as we have seen from the changes along SR 417 over the years, these roads become development magnets that will attract more urban sprawl into the Everglades headwaters.

Polk Officials Appeal Loss In BS Ranch Code Case

Polk County officials have filed an appeal of the May 10 ruling that rejected most of the county’s code enforcement efforts to shut down BS Ranch & Farm over odor problems and for operating without proper county zoning permits.

The appeal filed last week contends the special magistrate erred in claiming county officials should have known there would be odor problems, in requiring the county to prove beyond a reasonable doubt rather than based on the preponderance of evidence that BS Ranch was the source of the odor complaints and failing to enforce Polk’s development regulations.

Polk officials are seeking to impose thousands of dollars in fines for the violations.

No date for the appeal hearing has been set.

Meanwhile, efforts are under way to restart an unrelated soil manufacturing plant in Haines City that was built adjacent to the city’s sewer plant, The Ledger reports.. The soil plant has been the subject of numerous odor complaints from surrounding property owners. I have smelled objectionable odors while driving near the plant.

Finally, St Lucie County officials are poised to approve a comprehensive ordinance governing composing operations as the end of a temporary moratorium on such plants ends soon.

That ordinance requires plants to be located indoors with adequate odor control equipment and requires plant owners to poste adequate bonds to cover the cost of any cleanups if the operation goes south. It is a good example of what Polk County could have done and may still do.

Veteran Scientist Plans Scrub Talks Saturday at Archbold

The scrub ecosystems of the Lake Wales Ridge and other prehistoric desert island chains in Central Florida are truly unique and still offer the potential for new discoveries.

Saturday Dr. Jim Carrell, who has been visiting Archbold Biological Station to conduct research for the past half century, will present his reflections on the area in general and some of his specific work studying spiders and insects at 3 p.m. in the East Meeting Room at Archbold . The lecture is free and open to the public.

Dr. Carrel began his research at Archbold in 1967. He has made more than 70 visits to Archbold. He, studied more than 26 animal species in a variety of research projects and published 30 scientific papers based on that work.

Dr. Carrel will give his talk in two parts. The first part will focus on his many interactions with station founder Richard Archbold, and Thomas Eisner, a former research associate at Archbold from Cornell University. The second part will focus on some of his research focused on spiders and insects..


Archbold Biological Station is an independent, not-for-profit research facility and lies within the Northern Everglades, the lands that drain south into Lake Okeechobee. Archbold’s mission is to build and share the scientific knowledge needed to protect the life, lands, and waters of the heart of Florida and beyond. 


Archbold Biological Station is 8 miles south of Lake Placid. The entrance is 1.8 miles south of SR 70 on Old SR 8.