Jupiter, Fla. - Black water is oozing out of Jupiter Inlet again with every tide cycle. (click time-lapse video above)
This happens when all the control gates are opened up, and canal water from all the interior canals funnel out to the Loxahatchee River, then out the inlet. This usually happens once we start getting steady rains in the rainy season. Because of the drought, the gates have been kept closed for longer than usual. Last year they were opened around the first half of June. This year we are almost at the end of the rainy season!
I wrote an article about this last year, here's an excerpt explaining what's in the water, and how it all gets to the inlet.
originally written by James Wieland June 12th, 2010
I contacted the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) first to try to figure out where the black water is coming from.
“It’s local storm water runoff from the rains we saw last week just about every day” Randy Smith From the SFWMD said.
He explained that there are a lot of secondary canals that run through neighborhoods and agricultural areas that feed into the SFWMD canals. The S46 being the one that empties directly into the southwest fork of the Loxahatchee River, then out Jupiter Inlet and out to sea. (see photo #7)
The gate that controls the flow and releases the water is located just north of Indiantown road, just east of I-95. More than 3 inches of rain fell on June 1st, filling the canals and causing the water management district to open the S46 gate to release the water to help prevent flooding. All that rain water flushed out the system of canals, and brought the black, fresh water out the inlet and then the onshore winds from the past week pushed the brackish water southwest back onto our beaches. With the help of the tides, the water gets pulled out, then pushed back in twice daily.
So, what’s in that water? Canal water is storm water run-off from farms, businesses and neighborhoods. That means it can contain fertilizer, (and whatever you put on your lawn), engine oil from roads and parking lots, and pesticides and herbicides from farms. Our sewer lines do NOT connect with the canals, but there could be some old houses whose septic systems are leaking or even emptying directly into the canals.
That doesn’t sound like a lot of fun to swim in, but is it dangerous?
I talked to the Palm Beach County Health department for some answers. They do water testing every Monday at many locations across the area.
They only test for fecal coliform and enterococci. Click here to check Palm Beach County Beaches or here for the whole state.
They do not test for herbicides and pesticides though. Timothy O’Connor from the health department advises “always shower off with fresh, clean water once you get out of any canal, lake or ocean.” He also reminds us anything we dump into storm drains or canals, ends up in the ocean. O'Connor urges to dispose of old engine oil and other chemicals properly.
With rains tapering off this week, the brackish water should slowly dilute and clear up with time.
Future flooding is also a big concern around Lake Okeechobee. With the old Herbert Hoover earthen dike under construction and other ageing dikes, the U.S Army Corp of engineers has to release water to help lower the level of the lake to avoid compromising the old dikes.
“ We had a very wet dry season and lake levels are high, we need to lower the lake levels in preparation for the summer wet season” Kimberly Taplin of the Corp of Engineers says. This is to prevent any of the dikes from failing and causing catastrophic flooding. A concern going into an active hurricane season.
When the water is released, where does it go?
There are several gates around the lake to drain the water, one of them goes east into the St. Lucie canal(C44). Contrary to what most people think, Taplin says that water does not make it to the Jupiter Inlet. The canal empties into the South Fork of the St. Lucie River near Palm City, then down the St. Lucie River near Stuart. The St. Lucie River then flows out the St. Lucie Inlet. (see photo #8) The Corp has been releasing water in 10 day “pulses” for the past two months. It takes less than a day for the water to make it from the lake out to the ocean.
Copyright 2011 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
One person will win a three-year lease on a 2013 Honda Civic Lx Sedan automatic.
Click to see the latest mugshots, plus this week's wanted fugitives.
This feature packed upgrade brings you faster performance, easier navigation, and stunning improvements to photos, video and readability.