For the third year in a row, the annual attempt to count the manatees swimming in Florida's waterways has broken the previous year's record. Scientists reported finding 6,620 manatees this year, up from the 6,250 last year and 6,063 the year before.
During cold weather at the end of January and the beginning of February, a team of 15 observers from 10 organizations flew around looking for manatees huddled together at power plants and in springs. ...
Two retired hydrologists who last week accused Mosaic and state regulators of ignoring signs of a sinkhole at a phosphogypsum plant a year before it drained polluted water into the aquifer now say they were wrong.
"We made a mistake, and we sincerely regret our error," Donald Rice and his wife, Mary Hrenda, of Parrish said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday.
Rice is retired from the U.S. Geological Survey and Hrenda worked for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Last week, the pair joined with the environmental group Suncoast Waterkeeper in calling for an investigation of Mosaic and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection....
More than 100 people signed up last month to talk about Mosaic's request to expand its phosphate mine by more than 3,000 acres. But many really wanted to talk about the sinkhole.
Over and over they brought up the sinkhole that opened up beneath the company's Mulberry's plant in August. They saw the sinkhole as an argument against approving Mosaic's zoning change request.
They contended that Mosaic's three weeks of silence about the sinkhole problem made them unwilling to trust the company's promises to be a good environmental steward....
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Mosaic struck back Friday against allegations by two retired government hydrologists that they should have noticed a potential sinkhole forming beneath Mosaic's Mulberry fertilizer plant a year before it caused contaminated water to leak into the aquifer....
A year before a sinkhole drained 215 million gallons of contaminated water from the top of a Mulberry phosphogypsum stack, monitoring wells around the stack showed something was already going horribly wrong — something that two experts say indicated a sinkhole was forming....
For years the Environmental Protection Agency has been depicted as a jackbooted thug, a humorless generator of red tape, even the nefarious villain in such films as The Simpsons Movie and the original Ghostbusters.
Now the agency started by a Republican president, Richard Nixon, faces an uncertain future. The new president who once pledged to eliminate it now promises to refocus it. The man he nominated to be its new leader, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, made his reputation suing it. Meanwhile, a Florida congressman has filed a bill to obliterate it....
ST. PETERSBURG — A key indicator of the health of Tampa Bay is the spread of sea grass, which has shown more improvement in the past year — although those measurements were taken before tens of millions of gallons of sewage was dumped into the bay since last summer.
Sea grasses in the bay have increased by more than 1,360 acres, or nearly 3.3%, since 2014, according to the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, a bay science and advocacy group first created by the Environmental Protection Agency but now operating independently....
02/01/17 Human Interest
It's no secret that I love Florida. I love our beaches, our gorgeous sunsets and state parks. I especially love our police-beat stories, where you regularly find headlines like, "Accused 'porta potty' puncher popped in toilet tantrum."
As a Floridaphile, I do my best to patronize the businesses that got their start here:
• Red Lobster, Beyonce's favorite postcoital seafood joint, started in Lakeland in 1968. Now there are 700 across the country. One early investor was future Florida Gov. "Walkin' " Lawton Chiles, who walked the whole state during a campaign. It's not true he was picking future locations....
At the end of January, two things will change about the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
One is that Secretary Jon Steverson will leave his post after two stormy years in charge to take a job with the law firm of Foley & Lardner.
The other is that Steverson's new employers at Foley & Lardner will take over representing Florida in handling the billions of dollars awarded to the state as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster....
11/02/16 Human Interest
You, as a Florida voter, hold the fate of the world in your hands.
If you've lived here for a while, you're probably used to this terrible responsibility. Every four years, the rest of the nation gives us the side-eye, wondering how we wound up holding so much power and how we'll drop the ball.
Thanks to our explosive population growth, we now control 29 electoral votes. Both major-party presidential candidates have said we're a must-win. The two of them have visited here so much, they now qualify for the Florida resident discount at Disney World....
MULBERRY — The first sign something had gone wrong at Mosaic's phosphate plant happened on a Saturday. Workers on Aug. 27 checked the water level in a 78-acre pond of polluted water sitting atop a 190-foot phosphogypsum stack and discovered it had dropped by more than a foot.
At first, records show, they believed it was just the wind blowing the water around. But around 11 a.m. Sunday, they realized the level had now dropped 3 feet....
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection announced late Monday that it had worked out a consent order with Mosaic requiring a cleanup at the massive sinkhole that opened at its facility in Mulberry this summer.
To guarantee its cooperation, the order says, Mosaic is required to put up $40 million in financial assurances — something usually posted as a performance bond. And if it fails to follow through on the entire order, the company will face fines of up to $10,000 per day....
Mosaic, the world's largest phosphate company, now knows exactly how big the sinkhole at its Mulberry plant is, company officials said Monday. It's 152 feet across at its widest, and 220 feet deep — making it one of the deepest sinkholes in the state.
And so far, phosphate company officials say, testing has found no indication that the 215 million gallons of contaminated water that poured down the hole when it opened in August have spread through the aquifer to taint the drinking water of their neighbors. Three wells have turned up with somewhat elevated levels of pollutants, but those pollutants do not match anything from Mosaic....
ST. AUGUSTINE — Every year, more than 6 million tourists fill the streets of St. Augustine, oohing and aaahing at the historic artifacts and attractions of the nation's oldest continuously occupied city.
On Friday, instead of tourists, those streets were filled with surging water pushed ashore by Hurricane Matthew.
"There are houses that will probably not ever be the same again or not even be there," St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver lamented during a televised news conference Saturday....
You can't blame climate change for creating Hurricane Matthew. But two Florida scientists say you can blame a warmer world for making the storm get so strong so fast.
Hurricanes and tropical storms gain their power from absorbing the heat of warm water. That's why hurricane season runs from June to November, when the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico are at their warmest....