Wetlands Cell # 1 (pond) looking across to the West Regional wastewater treatment facility.
On June 7, 2018 the Vero Beach weekly news magazine 32963 published an article with the headline: “Top Water Official Says County Facilities Polluting Lagoon.”
In referring to the Indian River County’s West Regional Waste Water Treatment Facility, specifically, David Gunter, who has been superintendent of the Indian River Farms Water Control District for more than 40 years, was quoted as saying “Another indication of leaks is the rampant growth of plants in the 8th Street Canal near the treatment facility, which he said is fed by nitrogen coming from the marsh.”
The Indian River Farms Water Control District maintains 227 miles of canals and ditches within Indian River County, but not the 8th Street Canal.
Basically what Mr. Gunter was saying is that nitrogen from the treatment facility is leaking into the canal.
Mr. Gunter made this statement without providing any environmental evidence that “nitrogen…coming from the Marsh” is leaking into the canal.
[Currently neither the county nor the Indian River Farms Water Control District have responsibility for cleaning the canal. It seems no one knows who owns it.]
As an aside, when IRC received permits to build the West Regional Waste Water Treatment facility it retained Leila Jammal Nodarse, P. E, specifically, to set limits on how far away to put the berm for the 13 cell (pond) facility from the canal.
Ms. Nordarse is President/CEO of Nodarse & Associates Inc., a 230-person geotechnical, environmental and construction material testing/inspection firm with nine offices in Florida.
This is an image of the berm she designed along cell # 1 and its distance to the canal, which is on the other side of the fence.
To gather the evidence necessary to dispute that water from the facility is leaking into the canal, IRC recently conducted salinity tests measured by an electric probe on a data logger. This probe measures how much electrical current moves through the water. Salinity is then calculated from this value.
16 tests were made along the canal and in four treatment facility cells. The results are posted at the end of this article.
The location with the highest salinity level in the canal was a drainage pipe running into the canal from a private pond across 8th street. The measurement of specific conductivity (highest salt count) at this location was 1,650.
Private pipe where there was a 1,650 salinity measurement in the canal.
In contrast, salinity measurements from four facility cells ranged from 425 to 1,012.
Another source of salt in the canal is from this location on the corner of 8thStreet and 90th Avenue across the street where water enters the canal. The two large pipes bring in storm water. The small rusted pipe at the top brings water into the canal.
Here is where storm water runs into a canal from across the street where those two large stormwater pipes are located.
Incidentally, the cell that abuts this location went off line two years ago.
Yes, there is a location along the canal where you can see water leaking into the canal from what it would appear to be coming from the wastewater facility. This is the location but unfortunately the leaking water is not visible; but it was leaking.
As it turns out, this water is coming from an old storm water runoff pipe that was not removed when the wastewater facility was built. But if you didn’t know this you would think the water was obviously coming from the facility. It releases 20 gallons of water a day.
Another issue Mr. Gunter raises to prove leaks “is the rampant growth of plants in the 8th Street Canal near the treatment facility”.
Does this depict “rampant growth?”. If water from the facility was leaking into the canal this would be totally overrun. And you would not be able to see though the water at the fish swimming around.
Additionally, if water from the facility was leaking into the canal, there would be no Duckweed or water lens, “flowering aquatic plants which float onor just beneath the surface of still or slow-moving bodies of fresh water and wetlands.” (Wikipedia)
The wastewater cells are very shallow, except Cell # 1 which is 14 feet deep. The shallow cells have to do, in part, with the large population of Willow trees.
Willows love water and have and have invasive roots that seek water.
One study performed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation of Australia found that willows can consume up to 0.22 inches of water per day.
“If you plant a willow by a small pond, it may lower the water levels a bit. If the weather is hot and the water is also evaporating rapidly, you may need to add water to the pond. If you live in an area where you need to conserve water, however, you will likely have to just live with lower water levels in your pond until fall arrives.
Healthy Willows in the background.
Because of the willows, IRC often has to release water from Cell # 1 (14 feet deep) to the other cells.
IRC will gladly provide Mr. Gunter with its salinity metering device or they may rather purchase their own. Here is the data from IRC salinity tests.
It seems irresponsible for a “Top water official” to be making allegations without having any data to support his claims. If he did, those would be reported.
Maybe it has to do with oversight of the 8th Street Canal.
Currently, neither the county or the Indian River Farms Water Control District have responsibility for cleaning the canal. No one seems to know who owns it. But if Mr. Gunter could establish the IRC wastewater facility was polluting the canal then rightly so shouldn’t the County take responsibility for cleaning it?
Right now the canal is not being attended to. Except the water is clear with minimal algae and you can see fish chasing eachother.
Make note that Indian River County and the Indian River Farms Water Control District are two separate taxing districts.