|Plants in STA 3/4 in Palm Beach County remove phosphorus from Everglades-bound water. The South Florida Water Management District's five treatment areas achieved their best performance ever this past water year. Click on the image for a slideshow of the treatment areas.
West Palm Beach, FL - The South Florida Water Management District's (SFWMD) five Stormwater Treatment Areas (STAs) sent the cleanest water ever produced by these facilities to the Everglades over this past water year. STAs are shallow constructed wetlands that use plants to naturally remove excess phosphorus from the water.
During Water Year 2017 (May 1, 2016 to April 30, 2017), 57,000 acres of STAs treated 1.1 million acre-feet of water. These constructed wetlands reduced phosphorus levels to an overall average concentration of 15 parts per billion (ppb). This is the lowest overall average phosphorus concentration on record for SFWMD's STAs since the District began operating them and tracking annual water year performance in 1994. Since inception, the STAs have prevented more than 2,329 metric tons of phosphorus from going into the Everglades.
"Taxpayers have invested billions of dollars into restoring the Everglades because of the importance of this one-of-a-kind ecosystem," said SFWMD Governing Board Chairman Dan O'Keefe. "These record results show that Florida taxpayers are getting the return on their investment they deserve; clean water and a healthy Everglades for generations to come."
This water year, water entered the STAs with an average total phosphorus concentration of 96 ppb and flowed out to the Everglades after treatment with an average concentration of just 15 ppb.
In western Palm Beach County,
STA-3/4, South Florida's largest treatment area, had its best performance with an average outflow phosphorus concentration of 11 ppb. Also in Palm Beach County, STA-2 performance resulted in an outflow phosphorus concentration of 14 ppb. These two STAs received aid from the recently completed A-1 Flow Equalization Basin (FEB), a component of Gov. Rick Scott's $880 million Restoration Strategies Plan, a series of projects aimed at achieving Everglades water quality restoration goals.
The massive A-1 FEB, which the SFWMD Governing Board recently opened for public recreation, provides some water quality treatment before allowing water to be sent to these STAs at a controlled rate. This process optimizes the conditions within the STAs for phosphorus removal. Statistics show that the average phosphorus content of water flowing into STA-3/4 during the 11 water years prior to routine A-1 FEB operations was approximately 108 ppb. The average phosphorus content of water entering STA-3/4 from the A-1 FEB in Water Year 2017 was about 61 ppb, a 43 percent reduction.
"Clearly this component of Gov. Scott's bold and forward-thinking Restoration Strategies Plan is working as intended," O'Keefe said. "With the completion of the remaining Restoration Strategies projects by 2025, the Governor's vision of a clean and restored Everglades will become a reality."
Another component of Restoration Strategies, the L-8 FEB in Palm Beach County, is almost complete and is expected to improve the performance of STA-1 East and STA-1 West by moderating inflows to these STAs. SFWMD is also doubling the treatment capacity of STA-1 West as part of Gov. Scott's Restoration Strategies Plan.