Eric Staats, email@example.com; 239-263-4780 Published 11:00 a.m. ET Dec. 8, 2017 | Updated 4:49 p.m. ET Dec. 8, 2017
It's a fluid situation, but support is growing to protect inland waterways and beaches. Save Our Water is the battle cry. Behind the Headlines Staff
A $1 million project years in the making to reduce pollution in Naples Bay is on track to get started in 2018.
The project will target a pollution hot spot near Naples Landing, where a pump station at Broad Avenue and Ninth Street is estimated to dump 450 million gallons of rain runoff in a typical year.
The runoff carries pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers that can cause algae blooms, and copper, which is found in compounds used to treat water retention ponds and can harm marine life.
Naples Bay violates state standards for copper, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has set pollution limits for nitrogen and phosphorus.
The pump station also puts tons of contaminated sediment into the bay, creating a toxic shoal next to the U.S. Coast Guard auxiliary station.
When the city rebuilt the pump station in 2010, engineers began to look at ways to reduce the pollution it poured into the bay.
"We studied it and said, 'Hey, we can do better,' " said Gregg Strakaluse, the city's streets and stormwater director.
Envirobot - a robotic eel that can swim through contaminated water to find the source of pollution - is being developed at EPFL in Switzerland. Video provided by Reuters Newslook
The project would remove the shoal, fix a scour hole created by the outfall and rebuild a channel to allow sediments to settle before they move into the bay.
A device would be installed upstream of the pump station to filter sediments out of the runoff.
The project will create a "living shoreline" north and south of the outfall by planting cordgrass and building oyster reefs that will help filter the water.
Engineers, who have been on the job since May 2015, are close to getting environmental permits for the project, which could start in the spring, Strakaluse said.
Strakaluse said the project's water quality benefits will be a "drop in the bucket" compared to the much larger problem of discharges into Naples Bay from the vast canal system that drains land as far away as Golden Gate Estates.
Collier County has proposed a project to divert some of that water through a new system of canals to be built east of Collier Boulevard and empty into Rookery Bay.
Naples Natural Resources Manager Stephanie Molloy said fixing Naples Bay will require a multi-pronged approach with small and large projects.
"The city is doing what we can where we can to help improve Naples Bay water quality," she said.