Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Protecting Marco’s Waterways

Photos by Maria Lamb:Encourage the city to regularly monitor boats anchored in Marco’s waterways for illegal discharge.

Photos by Maria Lamb:Encourage the city to regularly monitor boats anchored in Marco’s waterways for illegal discharge.

Submitted

Being an island, we on Marco are surrounded by water. Water is our way of life, with over 100 miles of man-made canals. We have the Marco River, Factory Bay and Big Marco Pass to the north; Barfield Bay to the east; the Gulf of Mexico to the west; and Roberts Bay and Caxambas Pass at our south end. Marco Island has approximately 6,500 lots, of which about 4,700+ have been developed. In our current building boom – and with more development planned – we should ensure that our waterways are protected from pollution. Are we doing enough to protect Marco’s waterways?

Some naively believe that storm water is clean. During a heavy rain, rainwater lands on rooftops, parking lots, streets, and driveways. The polluted runoff flows into the storm grates, storm inlet skimmer boxes (more on these below), swales, and ditches located all over the island. The runoff carries pollutants such as gasoline, pesticide, fertilizer, pet waste, oil spills, grass clippings, even tobacco spit. Some of these chemicals enter the food chain and end up in the fish we eat.

Everything that goes into our storm drains flows to the nearest canals, bays, and rivers. Anything that floats, is dissolved by water or can be swept by moving water ends up untreated in our storm water drains. City staff has confirmed that we have 1,864 drain inlets. While 1,324 are fitted with carbon filters,

Floating slimy scum, oil discharge and grass clippings under Winterberry Bridge.

Floating slimy scum, oil discharge and grass clippings under Winterberry Bridge.

540 drain inlets are without filters.

Storm inlet skimmer boxes filter the runoff before it enters our waterways. The filtered storm water passes through a skimmer tray and a hydrocarbon absorption boom. Storm water and solids find their way into the lower section of the skimmer box where a smaller sieve-size filter captures the solids and allows the storm water to pass through storm drain outfall pipes into the nearest waterways, and eventually into the Gulf of Mexico. Thus, much of the storm water entering our waterways is polluted. Polluted water is harmful to plants, marine life, wildlife and humans.

How to Protect Our Waterways:

  • Encourage the city to test for Water Quality on a monthly basis.

  • Encourage the city to add back the testing for fecal coliform (it was removed in February 2016).
  • Encourage the city to make sure all grate skimmer boxes are regularly maintained.
  • Encourage the city to install filters on the 540 drain inlets currently without filters.
  • Enforce the new Fertilizer Ordinance.
  • Pick up pet waste and keep yard waste out of storm drains.
  • Report spills, discharge of grease, oils, solvents into our storm drain to: MIPD non-emergency number 239-389-5050.

Top Pollutants of Our Waterways:

  • Fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals from gardens and homes.
  • Waste discharge by boats anchored in or around Marco’s waterways.
  • Trash from construction sites.
  • Oil, grease, metals and coolants from vehicles and boats.
  • Bacteria from pet waste and old septic systems.

 

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