FOR REVIEW ONLY NOT FOR RELEASE
Preliminary Report on Water Pollution
as based on material submitted by the
Committee on Water Pollution
FLORIDA WATER RESOURCES STUDY COMMISSION
Lewis Young, Chairman
David B. Lee
John W. Wakefield
H. R. Wilber, M.D.
John E. Kiker
John H. McMurry
W. T. Webster
E. C. Weichel, Jr.
E. Ray Farwell
A. T. Lohkamp
U. S. Public Health Service
Florida State Board of Health
Florida State Board of Health
Florida Wildlife Federation
Game & Fresh Water Fish Comission
Florida Sewage & Industrial Wastes Assn.
Florida State Univ., Geography Department
State Chamber of Commerce
Florida State Board of Conservation
Associated Industries of Florida
Associated Industries of Florida
Florida Farm Bureau
Associated Industries of Florida
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WATER POLLUTION IN FLORIDA
Pollution is the addition of any substance to water that interferes with
any of the legitimate uses of the water or is detrimental or potentially detrimental
to animal, plant, or aquatic life. Water, a universal diluent, is rarely found in its
pure state. Almost everything man does with water causes some deterioration in its
quality. Pollution of water is a natural result of water use.
Water is essential for most of man's activities. One of its important uses
is the carrying away of waste materials. There are many kinds of wastes. Some can be
handled in limited amounts without damage to the resource. Treatment will permit the
satisfactory handling of other types of waste without damage. Some inorganic wastes
of industry reduce the effectiveness of treatment processes applicable to organic wastes
and must be handled separately. Other wastes are toxic or otherwise harmful. Wastes
dumped into watercourses or permitted to find their way into underground aquifers can
render the water unsuitable for further use. These are problems in pollution.
The natural activity of water provides some purification of organic wastes.
Any body of water has a natural waste assimilating capacity. The inorganic wastes are
generally accumulative. Thus both pollutional and natural impurities tend to increase
in the water. The value of the water resources is limited by their usability (quality)
as well as quantity. The use of heavily polluted waters should be of necessity rather
The resources of a stream can best be safeguarded by controlled use. They
cannot be stored for a future day nor are they depleted by proper use. Thus, unlike
most of our natural resources the stream can be utilized by this generation yet passed
on to future generations still unexhausted and undepleted.
It is inevitable that quality of water will be altered when it is used.
The control of pollution therefore is a problem of critical importance. The method of
control will vary with the degree of pollution. The degrees of pollution may be
classified as follows:
1. Natural pollution no use of the resources by man; the water picks
up impurities from the earth's cover, its soils and minerals.
2. Permissible pollution planned use of the water resources with good
3. Allowable limited pollution reasonable overloading of streams which
reduces the full usefulness of the water resources for a limited zone
without damage to other beneficial water uses.
4. Excessive or gross pollution misuse; destruction of the water
It can almost be stated that Florida has no seriously polluted waters that
cannot be recovered. There are some areas where gross pollution exists, but in no
case does gross pollution extend for more than a few miles and no case can be cited
where pollution is restricting the total use of a stream for a legitimate purpose.
This statement must be qualified, however, for there are cases where a use is partially
restricted, and there are indications that these conditions will become increasingly
more difficult unless corrective or preventive action is taken.
Municipal pollution. The chief detrimental characteristics associated with
the discharge of untreated or inadequately treated sewage into surface and underground
1. Unhealthy concentrations of disease bacteria.
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2. Depletion of oxygen resources.
3. Unsightly floating solids and turbidity.
5. Stimulation of aquatic plant growth.
Item number one is the most frequently observed detrimental characteristic
in Florida. The most important use which might be limited by sewage pollution is to
serve as a source of water for a public water supply. The only streams in Florida
used as a public water supply and receiving some degree of pollution upstream are the
Peace River, the Hillsborough River, and Mosquito Creek in Gadsden County. The Peace
River has been receiving raw sewage for many years from Fort Meade, Wauchula and
Arcadia. Previously, several other cities, including Lakeland, Winter Haven, Bartow
S and Lake Wales, discharged raw or inadequately treated sewage to that stream, but
modern sewage treatment plants have been constructed for all of these, as well as for
Auburndale and Punta Gorda.
A recent report by the State Board of Health shows that while population
increases have been quite rapid, the construction of sewage treatment plants in the
S Peace River basin has not paralleled this growth. The result has been a slow but
gradual increase in bacterial density at the water intake for Arcadia. The upstream
cities are aware of the seriousness of the situation. Fort Meade has initiated a
sewerage improvement project. Wauchula has retained a consulting engineer and Arcadia
is studying means of initiating such a project.
The Hillsborough River is used as a source of water by the City of Tampa.
About five miles above water plant intake, a small subdivision discharges well-treated
sewage effluent into the stream, and at numerous points individual homes are located
on the watershed served by septic tanks and pit privies. The sewage treatment plant
for Plant City also discharges well-treated effluent into the drainage basin, but since
the course of flow includes Lake Thonotosassa it is doubtful that any measurable effect
at the Tampa water inlet could be attributed to the Plant City sewage pollution.
Mosquito Creek in Gadsden County has been impounded to provide a source of
water for the Florida State Hospital at Chattahoochee. The creek receives no pollution
in Florida, but there are several small communities in its drainage basin in Georgia,
and moderate bacterial pollution has been encountered.
Bacterial pollution also limits the use of tidal waters for the growing and
harvesting of shellfish. Sizable areas near Fernandina, Jacksonville, St. Augustine,
Ormond-Daytona Beach-Port Orange, New Smyrna, Vero Beach, Fort Pierce, Sebastian, Lake
Worth-Palm Beach, Bradenton, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Tarpon Springs, Panama City, Pen-
sacola, Milton, Fort Myers, Sarasota, Clearwater, Homasassa, Spring Creek (Wakulla
County) and Apalachicola have been closed for taking of shellfish because of domestic
sewage pollution. Many of these cities have recently installed improved sewage treat-
ment facilities, and a number of others are planning to do so. There is no doubt that
major revisions of condemned area maps will be required as soon as limited personnel
can make the necessary surveys.
The following cities of those listed have completed or are constructing sewage
treatment plants within the past several years: Fernandina, Daytona Beach, West Palm
Beach, Palm Beach, Bradenton, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Tarpon Springs, Clearwater, Panama
City, Pensacola, Fort Myers, Sarasota, Long Key, Punta Gorda, and Safety Harbor.
Jacksonville, St. Augustine and the City of Lake Worth are reported preparing plans
and several other coastal cities are making feasibility studies.
Bacterial pollution can limit the use of waters for recreational purposes.
The St. Johns River near Jacksonville, Green Cove Springs, Palatka and Sanford is in
that category. Areas of the intercoastal waters adjacent to St. Augustine, Daytona
Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Titusville, Lake Worth, Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Boca
Raton, Vero Beach, New Port Richey, Crystal River and others are polluted to the extent
that swimming is prohibited, but the following cities have completed or are completing
sewerage improvements expressly to protect these waters from sewage pollution Fernan-
dina, Neptune Beach, Jacksonville Beach, Daytona Beach, Cocoa Beach, Melbourne, Stuart,
Town of Palm Beach, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, North Miami, North
Bay Village, Miami, Coral Gables, Homestead, Fort Myers, Punta Gorda, Sarasota, Braden-
ton, St. Petersburg, Long Key, Treasure Island, Madeira Beach, Largo, Safety Harbor,
Tampa, Clearwater, Dunedin, Tarpon Springs, Carrabelle, Port St. Joe, Panama City,
Fort Walton and Pensacola.
Fresh waters can also be polluted to such an extent that recreational use
is limited. Surveys have shown the following streams and lakes to be in that category.
Lake Dora, Lake Tsala Apopka near Inverness, portions of Peace River as previously
S described, and part of Crescent Lake. Undoubtedly many others are in this category
but have not been surveyed.
Many sewage treatment plants have been constructed in inland cities for the
protection of recreational waters. Still others were constructed where the effluent
mast be discharged into ditches or waterways of little or no flow. Such cities as
S Lake City, Gainesville, Ocala, Orlando, Leesburg, Dade City, Kissiumee, St. Cloud,
Eustis, Williston, Madison, Jasper, Tallahassee, Chattahoochee, Graceville, DeFuniak
Springs, Niceville, Crestview, and Chipley have completed or are constructing plants
to protect surface and underground fresh waters, and engineering reports from Live Oak
and Wildwood indicate that the last remaining discharges of untreated sewage into under-
ground waters may soon be eliminated.
In addition to the cities listed above, many subdivisions, private corpora-
tions and institutions have constructed sewage treatment facilities so that in spite
of huge population gains the actual quantity of insufficiently treated sewage reaching
surface waters has been very markedly reduced. As an illustration, the population
served by municipal sewer systems in Florida has increased from 746,000 in 1940 to
1,635,000 in 1956. However, this points out the fact that over 2,000,000 people in the
state are being served by individual septic tanks, thus verifying the term "The Septic
Tank State" often applied to Florida.
As a result of all this activity, it appears safe to state that there is no
major area in the state where oxygen depletion or stream bed odors can be attributable
to domestic sewage. A few tributary streams adjacent to larger cities are devoid of
oxygen occasionally, but most of these are attributable to industrial wastes rather
than domestic sewage.
Figure 1 shows the August 31, 1956 status of sewerage systems in Florida.
Industrial wastes. The wastes from the industries are as varied and as
complex as the industries themselves. The wastes may contain organic matter similar
to that found in sewage or other materials such as oils, acids, greases, chemicals and
mineral salts. Some wastes are toxic. Some are extremely difficult to treat while
others can be treated by methods similar to those used in the treatment of domestic
sewage. At times it is advantageous to treat industrial waste with domestic sewage.
Figure 2 shows the distribution of the major industries in Florida that may
have liquid wastes.
Industrial wastes are partly responsible for the low oxygen content of tidal
waters near Pensacola, of tributary streams near Jacksonville and Palatka on the St.
Johns River, of portions of lakes in the chain feeding the Oklawaha River, of streams
and lakes tributary to the Peace River, of many lakes and bodies of water near or
adjacent to citrus processing plants, and at times of portions of the Withlacoochee
River of the south. Industrial waste is also responsible for odors, oxygen depletion
and unsightly conditions in streams tributary to Tampa Bay and Particularly Palm River.
Industrial pollution in the form of acids or fluorides or both has markedly
effected the biological balance in both the Peace and Alafia River Basins, and mining
wastes in these streams have in the past been a major problem.
Here again much has been accomplished. The development of by-products and
in-plant process changes has been most lucrative. Waste treatment to permit the reuse
of wash water in the phosphate processing field and treatment of citrus and paper
wastes to reduce their pollutional potentials have done much to eliminate previously
important waste problems.
Recent trends toward the development of large assembly plants in Pinellas
County, of large synthetic fiber plants in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties, of larger
and more phosphate processing plants in Polk and Hillsborough Counties and of more and
larger paper mills throughout North Florida indicate that this is no time to relax.
If Florida is to hold its own, it must intensify its efforts to prevent new pollution
and to reduce existing pollution. Signs of future developments indicate that radio-
logical wastes may become important in Florida, and it is necessary for water pollution
control authorities to begin now to determine background radiation in anticipation of
Probably the three most highly polluted streams in the state are the
Fenholloway River below Foley, the tidal streams tributary to the Amelia River near
Fernandina, and Rice Creek near Palatka. The first two of these areas are in counties
having special laws declaring them"industrial areas" and the surface waters usable for
industrial purposes not interfering with navigation.
Ground water pollution. Florida is unique in that waters of varying degrees
of pollution have been discharged into underground waters for many years. Until recent
years considerable quantities of municipal sewage as well as highly organic industrial
wastes were being disposed of in this manner. By prohibiting the use of drainage wells
for discharge of highly polluted wastes from new installations and by gradually secur-
ing treatment of wastes at existing installations the number of obviously unsatisfactory
installations has been reduced to the point that only two small cities and three or
four sizable industries are known to discharge untreated organic wastes into drainage
wells and both of the cities are attempting to initiate sewage treatment projects.
There are a few cases (only seven for which permits have been issued) where
highly treated sewage is discharged into drainage wells, but most of these are cased
to a stratum in which the water is high in chlorides. There are also 34 permits out-
standing for the discharge of treated industrial wastes into fresh water strata and
123 permits in force for the discharge of industrial wastes into salt water strata.
Most of these industrial installations (which includes 122 in Dade County and 22 in
Broward County) are for small self-service laundries, and many of these are provided
with waste treatment devices.
A much more serious consideration from the industrial water supply viewpoint
is the discharge of heated water into drainage wells. Many of our major industries
must have cool water to operate. There is a definite possibility that in highly
developed and industrialized areas the ground water may be heated to the extent that
expensive cooling will be required before the water can be used to cool barometric
condensers, air conditioning equipment or similar uses.
By far the greatest increase in the discharge of cooling water into the
ground has been brought about by the unprecedented growth of air-conditioning installa-
tions. Permits have been issued for more than 1,663 drainage wells to receive
uncontaminated cooling water. Of these over 1,300 are in Dade County. In addition
there are probably at least an equal number of unpermitted wells for which no record
is available. The State Board of Health issues permits for drainage wells, and it has
been the policy to prevent any increase in the amount of highly polluted waste being
discharged into the ground. Heat, however, has not been considered a pollutant and
drainage wells terminating in fresh water strata are permitted for water passing through
closed cooling systems without contact with the atmosphere. Figure 3 shows the dis-
tribution of known drainage wells in Florida.
Present status of pollution control. In the past many of our surface and
underground waters were grossly polluted by municipal and industrial wastes. Fortu-
nately, however, an accelerated and intelligent program of pollution abatement has
kept the problem within bounds. In some areas major gains are to be noted. For
example, in 1940, adequate sewage treatment was provided for wastes from only 9.7 per
cent of our sewered population, whereas 77 per cent of the domestic sewage was
adequately treated before discharge in 1956. During this period the state's population
had more than doubled.
Moreover, cooperative programs with some industries have provided marked
improvement in waters receiving their wastes. For example, the Pasco Packing Company
t -_____________.. ..,---- ---- -
"at Daae City which processes concentrated orange utce and m-nn'fct re cattle f~e .
molasses and vitamins have reduced their wastes and have provided means of handling
their reduced wastes. Pollution has been abated and the receiving stream is returning
to normal conditions. A 1956 survey of the State Board of Health found the Withlacoo-
chee River (south) in the Pasco County area once again a healthy stream.
The National Container Corporation has provided treatment for the wastes
from their Clyatteville Georgia Mill which discharges into the Withlacoochee River
(north) in madison and Hamilton Counties. They have been able to obtain a 98 per cent
reduction in the strength of the wastes thus preventing undesirable reduction of quality.
In summary, it can again be stated that in comparison with many heavily
populated industrial states, Florida has no major pollution problems. By the continued
support of municipal and state leaders, of major portions of industry, and of the public,
the Florida State Board of Health as the official water pollution control agency should
be able to prevent any irrevocable scars and yet permit the continued growth of popula-
tion and industry.
1. The waters of the State usmt be used wisely so that this most valuable
natural resource can be passed on to future generations still unexhausted and undepleted.
2. Site selection must be carefully made so that the industrial development
will not overtax the natural waste assimilating capacity of the receiving waters.
3. The maxim~ u judicious use of the resource will depend on an equitable
balance to all categories of water use, assuring beneficial use of the water to each
on a coequal, cooperative basis.
4. The Florida State Board of Health has been and is functioning effectively
as the State Water Pollution Control Authority. It is believed that they continue in
this capacity and that they be given additional authority and resources to permit an
accelerated expansion of their program.