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~Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. visits facilities making strides as part of river's restoration plan~


Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. (third from left) and DEP staff meet with Naval Air Station Jacksonville staff on Friday.

JACKSONVILLE – Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. conducted a tour of four Northeast Florida facilities on Friday for updates on continued progress in helping restore the St. Johns River. These projects and investments are part of the ongoing commitments made by these facilities and other state and local governments to improve the health of the river by reducing the amount of nutrients entering the river.

“Northeast Florida is fortunate to have such an important water resource in the St. Johns River. I have seen first-hand that these facilities have made major strides towards improvement,” said Vinyard. “However, we must continue to monitor progress to ensure that the goal of restoration is achieved. We are fully committed to enforcing the adopted restoration plan until the health of the river is restored."

Vinyard, DEP Northeast District and Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration staff visited Clay County Utility Authority’s Fleming Island Wastewater Treatment Plant, Naval Air Station Jacksonville, the JEA Buckman Facility and the Atlantic Beach Wastewater Treatment Facility on Friday to witness projects that have been implemented or are under construction to improve wastewater treatment, reduce wastewater discharges and reduce groundwater consumption.

  • Due to significant upgrades, the Clay County Utility Authority's Fleming Island wastewater treatment plant now provides advanced wastewater treatment. The Miller Street wastewater treatment plant also has undergone upgrades to improve its system. In addition, the implementation of an extensive water reuse system, allows discharge from these facilities to be used for irrigation. Clay County Utility Authority has achieved more than 100 percent of reduction requirements with these improvements
  • Naval Air Station Jacksonville recently completed a reuse project that beneficially uses treated wastewater to irrigate its golf course rather than being discharged into the river. The new system also has the benefit of reducing ground water consumption by providing irrigation for the NAS-Jax golf course and ball fields. With the completion of the project and other wastewater improvements, 54 percent of the reductions are complete for the two naval facilities in the basin—Naval Air Station Jax and Naval Station Mayport.  Construction on another NAS Jax project will begin in 2014 that will reduce total nitrogen by an additional 9 percent by building a two-mile pipeline and a zero-discharge spray field in the South Antenna Farm area. This project will provide more than 660,000 gallons per day of reuse water and will result in zero discharge of all treated wastewater from NAS Jax to the St. Johns River.
  • Since 1999, JEA has invested $246 million on three main nutrient removal techniques: upgrading larger regional wastewater treatment plants to advanced nutrient removal technology, phasing out smaller older technology plants and building and expanding the community’s reuse system. JEA is completing the final major capital project in that nutrient initiative now: nutrient removal upgrades at the Buckman Wastewater Treatment Plant.  When this $22 million construction project is complete this fall, JEA will have reduced the discharge of nitrogen to the river by more than 50 percent from all of its facilities, an achievement of  more than 100 percent of the required reductions.
  • The Atlantic Beach Wastewater Treatment Facility has completed construction of the city’s main wastewater treatment plant that included wastewater treatment upgrades along with sludge and odor control improvements. The construction of this facility allowed the flow from the aged Buccaneer Wastewater Treatment plant to be transferred to this new facility with better treatment capabilities. These combined efforts have achieved more than 100 percent of the city’s total nitrogen reductions for its wastewater facilities and also assisted with meeting 45 percent of its stormwater reductions. In addition, this week the City Commission approved a project to extend reuse from the Main Wastewater Treatment Plant to a nearby private golf course, which will reduce the amount of water discharged to the Lower St. Johns River and require a permanent green space easement that will prevent additional development being built on the golf course property.

The Department adopted reduction goals for the main stem of the Lower St. Johns River Basin in June of 2008 from Buffalo Bluff just south of Palatka to the mouth of the river. The restoration goals established  total phosphorus and total nitrogen reductions in the freshwater reach  needed to achieve chlorophyll-a levels in this portion of the river. These were the basis for restoration plan to achieve these target reductions, which was adopted in October 2008. 

“Restoring the St Johns River is a top priority for the Department and a complex challenge involving a diverse group of stakeholders working together, said DEP Northeast District Director Greg Strong. "Today’s visit helps us to recognize some of the considerable progress that’s already happening to achieve our water quality goals, and to re-focus on the important work that lies ahead."

Overall in the freshwater reach, 93 percent of the reductions needed to meet the reduction goals for total phosphorus and 90 percent of the reductions needed to meet the reduction goals for total nitrogen have been achieved. In addition to the nutrient reductions achieved in the freshwater section, the projects completed in the marine section have reduced total nitrogen by 1,751,630 pounds per year, equaling 74 percent of the reductions needed.