2. Some Creeks in Florida Tested Positive of Human Fecal Contamination
Microbial source tracking analysis of water samples taken from certain points of Newcastle Creek, Miller Creek, Miramar Creek, Hogan Creek, and Big Fishweir Creek in Florida some years ago had confirmed human fecal contamination and, as a result, remediation programs are ongoing.
MST sampling performed in 2006 indicated that most of the bacteria sources in Newcastle Creek are human, supporting the possibility that Onsite Sewage Treatment and Disposal Systems (OSTDS) are contributing sources in this tributary. At Miller Creek, a positive human marker was found. Moreover, there were compliance issues with the private lift station and manhole at The Preserve at St. Nicholas Apartments, which caused multiple sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs) and led to high fecal coliform concentrations in the area. The City of Jacksonville took enforcement action and subsequently necessary repairs were made non-compliance fines were paid. At Miramar Creek, consistent elevated fecal coliform loading within the Orlando Circle area was detected. Septic tanks of older houses located less than 50 feet of the creek were suspected as the cause. In 2009, the City of Jacksonville was also made aware of another potentially significant human source of fecal contamination based on evidence of homeless population within the vicinity of Miramar Creek. Human markers were also positive at several sites of Hogan Creek. Homeless populations and sewer infrastructure are suspected of contributing to the high counts. Using MST data, there were also indications of a significant human source in some stations at Big Fishweir Creek due to septic tank failures and sewer collection system hiccups.
The findings are part of the Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) for the Implementation of Total Daily Maximum Loads (TMDL) for Fecal Coliform adopted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in the Lower St. Johns River (LSJR) Basin Tributaries and developed by the Lower St. Johns River Tributaries Basin Working Group in cooperation with the FDEP in December 2009; and its corresponding 2010 and 2011 Progress Reports.
The BMAP focused on 10 tributaries — Newcastle Creek, Hogan Creek, Butcher Pen Creek, Miller Creek, Miramar Creek, Big Fishweir Creek, Deer Creek, Terrapin Creek, Goodbys Creek, Open Creek — which occupy approximately 6% or more than 166 square miles of the Lower St. Johns River Basin and which were identified as the worst-case waterbody identification numbers (WBIDs). Currently, most surface waters in Florida, including those in the Lower St. Johns River Basin, are categorized as Class III waters, which mean they must be suitable for recreation and must support the propagation and maintenance of a healthy, well-balanced population of fish and wildlife.
Under Section 303(d) of the federal Clean Water Act, every two years each state must identify its “impaired” waters, including estuaries, lakes, rivers, and streams, that do not meet their designated uses and are not expected to improve within the subsequent two years. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) is responsible for developing this “303(d) list” of impaired waters.
The BMAP outlined projects and activities to address all of the identified sources of contamination and the 10 WBIDs are expected to meet the TMDL requirements following full implementation of the BMAP. In the 2011 Progress Report, it was observed that fecal coliform concentrations declined at some creeks but slightly increased in others. Ongoing remediation programs include the maintenance and repair of infrastructure, which helps to reduce fecal coliform loading that can occur with faulty systems. Drainage system rehabilitation projects were also completed in some areas. The City of Jacksonville remains vigilant as to potential illicit connection (PIC) cases.