The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has issued a warning to the city of Port Orange because levels of “suspended solids” are higher than are acceptable and have been found in the spillway to the wetlands adjacent to the reclaimed water lakes on Shuntz Road.
Until suspended solids levels have gone down to acceptable levels, the city is not allowed to pump reclaimed water into the lakes. Suspended solids are microscopic particles that are in reclaimed water.
City Manager Jake Johansson reported the DEP warning to City Council at the regular meeting on Feb. 5.
The city lab has determined the suspended solids to be algae from the lakes that have outflowed into the wetlands in higher concentrations due to excessive rain. The DEP gave a warning and not a violation because they are working with the city to eliminate the problem.
“We’re now pumping into the Halifax River in accordance with our permit,” Johansson said, “and we have not exceeded, nor will we come close to exceeding, our permit. We’re doing everything in accordance with law right now.”
Lynn Stevens, director of Public Utilities and Works, said in a phone interview that the algae is a result of natural growth in the lakes themselves, and not from the reclaimed water going into the lakes.
“The excess reclaimed water is what is going into the Halifax River," she said, "and that does not have suspended solids in it. I won’t say none, but they’re well below permitable levels.”
The Reclaimed Water Reservoir has two lakes. When one fills up, it flows into the second lake. When that lake becomes too full, it flows over a spillway that discharges into the wetlands.
The city of Port Orange held a ribbon cutting ceremony on April 21, 2016, to celebrate the Reclaimed Water Reservoir Outfall and Filtration System. The purpose of the system was to allow the city an alternate process to divert reclaimed water from being pumped into the Halifax River.
“We have five or six SolarBees, and up until this point, everything was under control,” said Councilman Drew Bastion.
SolarBees are solar-powered mixers and circulation machines which break up solids that may be in recycled water lakes.
“SolarBees don’t just do suspended solids,” Johansson said. “As a matter of fact, suspended solids are a by product of SolarBees.”
“The city is going to have an engineer evaluate the different options available to control algae blooms in the lake,” Stevens said.
Some ways to control algae blooms in lakes include putting certain plants in the lake to absorb algae, putting certain algae eating fish in the lake, using ultrasonic waves to break up the algae, or using certain chemicals.
“We’ll work with the state to pilot a few ways to see what works best for our lakes,” Stevens said.
Right now, there is no reclaimed water going into the lakes, she said. The fish and ecosystem are not being damaged. The algae is in microscopic particles, which are not visible.
“The lake is just a lake,” Stevens said.