St. Johns River, North Florida
The St. Johns I have had many experiences with the St. Johns River in my life.
For as long as I can remember I have lived less than a mile from this river. Every activity from boating, to canoeing, or fishing I have done in the river, and every time the water has seemed clean. Over the years the St. Johns River has acquired a bad reputation for being nasty or dangerous. Anything from flesh eating bacteria from algal blooms to bull sharks have been rumored to be lurking in its waters. Though some of these rumors are true and some of them are false, one will not die upon touching the water. However, the St.
Johns does need some extra attention based on tests, past and current programs, and the fish population. Many tests performed on the river reflect that the water is relatively clean. State officials over Volusia and Seminole counties have noticed that there is the potential for a water shortage in the next couple years due to population increases. If nothing is done, the ground water in this area will run out. A plan is being proposed to use surface water from the St. Johns River to supplement the ground water. State officials believe they can filter the water from the St. Johns of bacteria and use this water for drinking water. Ann Givens) The fact that the state is considering using the water in the St. Johns for drinking water shows that the water quality is good. If there were severe algal blooms, the state would not consider trying to filter the water. Many tests performed on the river are in response to the paper mills present on the river. There is one mill in particular addressed on Rice Creek outside of Palatka. The waste water from these paper mills is dumped from pipes into the river. Ten years ago these mills were forced to upgrade their equipment due to a toxin being released called Dioxin.
Dioxin is chemical that can cause cancer produced by the chlorine reactions in the mill. The older equipment was believed to be allowing this toxin to flow into the St. Johns River. Two years ago another test was done on the Rice Creek and traces of Dioxin are still present. The general belief is that Dioxin has remained in creek residue. (Patterson, S. ) Tests similar to this are done throughout the river. The residue remaining from the Dioxin is only present in Rice Creek and is not present throughout the water system. This effort to control the Dioxin shows progress.
Scientists identified that the Dioxin was present and the source and took severe action to eliminate the expansion of Dioxin. Though this effort was necessary and applauded, efforts now need to be made toward eliminating the remaining residue and removing Dioxin from the river completely. Many programs and funds have been devoted to improving the water of the St. Johns River. A major act proposed in the 1970’s was the Clean Water Act of 1972. The Clean Water Act forced Floridians to find bodies of water that are impaired due to higher nitrogen levels.
Once established, the state had to institute total maximum daily loads for each of these bodies of water. The total maximum daily load (TMDL) is established “based on the maximum amount of pollutant that the water body can assimilate without exceeding water quality standards. ”( Lynette, M. ) This act made progress in reducing the level of nitrogen being added in the river. Though this act passed in 1972 the problem is still present. Over the years, Florida has seen 80,000 acres of its wetlands developed. (Littlepage, R. L. This results in less water present in the system and more nitrogen in the ground water from people fertilizing their yards. If the population in central Florida continues to expand and the wetlands continue to disappear, the presence of algal blooms and the reduction of the fish population will never stop. The water removed and nitrogen added will continue to create a steeper imbalance. Also with development, central Florida is trying to take water from the St. Johns for drinking water for their excessively large population.
This will just make the nitrogen to water imbalance even steeper. Rules and regulations need to ether be put on wetlands destruction, fertilizer use, and population limits in central Florida based on how many people their water supply can sustain. In 2006 a large sum of money was devoted to the effort of preserving the St. Johns River. Twenty seven million dollars was devoted to reducing the amount of nutrients, like nitrogen, entering the river and increasing standards for companies like Jacksonville Electrical Authority (JEA) who dump into the St. Johns River.
The mayor’s office made JEA increase its standards for dumping waste water into the river and expand its programs for reusing water. This would reduce the amount of waste water dumped in the river and reduce the amount of harmful chemicals that enter the river from the JEA plant. (Littlepage, R. L. ) A major concern in the St. Johns is the fish population. The largest pollutant in the river is nitrogen from excess fertilizers that flow into the groundwater and into the river. The plant life of the river feed on this nitrogen. More nitrogen then leads to more plants.
As the plant population increases problems such as algal blooms on the surface of the water occur. With the algal bloom situation the lower section of the water is blocked or partially blocked from sunlight. This leads to less plant life on the floor of the river and thus less oxygen in the water. With the lack of oxygen the fish population will plummet soon after. In 1994, an experienced bass angler by the name of Doug Gilley did an interview for the Orlando Sentinel. In this article he provided his professional insight on the change destruction of the bass population from 1984 to 1994.
Ten years before this article was written, it would be no surprise for him to catch “10, 20 or even 50 fish in a day. ” (Wilson, D) Doug was not the only one who had noticed this drastic decrease in the bass population. State fisheries agreed with him. They have noticed that the “large bass almost have disappeared from the river and that the number of mid-sized bass are declining. ” (Wilson, D. ) I personally have noticed the decline of fish from the river. My brother and I are avid fisherman and enjoy fishing for just about anything.
We lived a quarter of a mile from the river so often we would take my grandfather’s bass boat and go fishing in the river. However, no matter how much we prepared, we would never catch more than maybe one or two fish. This change shows how all the different pollutants are having a large impact on the fish population and if action is not taken species like the largemouth bass could be eliminated from the river. Fishing is not the only recreational activity that takes place in the St. Johns. Activities such as skiing and tubing take place daily during the spring and summer months.
These are essential for Florida’s economy. When people are going out in their boats, many aspects of the economy are helped. People must buy gas for their boat, food to eat while they are on the boat, and other items. This also attracts tourists. By my house at a local marina, every summer they hosted a wakeboard camp for people to come learn how to wake board. Hundreds of people would come to learn how to wakeboard and have fun in the water. These people bought many things during their stay thus boosting the Florida economy. However, if the water is not maintained and kept clean, events like these cannot occur.
Tourists would not be willing to get in the water and would take their business elsewhere thus restricting north Florida’s economy. In closing, the St. Johns River is not dangerous as far swimming and boating are concerned but there are pollutants being dumped into the river that need to be addressed or eliminated. If nothing is done, based on tests done on the water, past and current programs, and the fish population the wildlife, the quality of the St. Johns will continue to plummet. The river damage will become impossible to fix and potentially impossible to swim or use for any recreation.
The repercussions of this would be exponential. Water shortages could occur along with Jacksonville losing its appeal as somewhere to live. Citations Page Ann Givens of The Sentinel Staff. (2001, Feb 16). St. Johns River may slake our thirst the St. Johns water district plans to process river water in a three- year test to see if it can be made drinkable. Orlando Sentinel. Lisenby, L. (2007, Jul 11). Growth must be controlled to protect the St. Johns River. Florida Times Union. Littlepage, R. L. (2006, Jan 10). St. Johns River’s health deserves major effort.
Florida Times Union. Lynette, M. M. , John, R. W. , & K, R. R. (2004). Nitrogen and phosphorus flux rates from sediment in the lower St. Johns River estuary. Journal of Environmental Quality, 33(4), 1545-1555. Patterson, S. (2010, Aug 10). With mill pipeline still in doubt, old dioxin haunting rice creek research: Traces of a cancer-causing substance could still exist and be funneled into the St. Johns River. McClatchy – Tribune Business News. Wilson, D. (1994, Sep 09). Veteran angler says bass fishing on St. Johns River deteriorating. Orlando Sentinel.