Letter to the editor: Doctors Lake Phosphorus Removal Pilot Project already showing promise

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Editor:

Another great partnership project is now operational in Clay County as the St. Johns River Water Management District continues work to improve water quality across the region.

Known as the Doctors Lake Phosphorus Removal Pilot Project, this full-scale demonstration project is focused on removing phosphorus from treated wastewater using state-of-the-art technology ― an important measure to reduce the overabundance of nutrients that cause algal blooms in Doctors Lake. The project broke ground in September 2019 and officially started operation June 5, 2020, removing dissolved phosphorus from treated wastewater from the Clay County Utility Authority’s Fleming Island Regional Wastewater Plant.

At the project site, treated effluent is pumped and distributed over a vegetated filtration bed that uses engineered media to remove phosphorus. This media binds with phosphorus, removing it from the water. The phosphorus remains bound to the engineered media, so no byproduct is produced. This water is then reused for irrigation in the Doctors Lake watershed.

The District has conducted water quality sampling on Doctors Lake since 1984. For 32 of the last 36 years, Doctors Lake has experienced algal blooms, fueled by excessive nutrients. The project is expected to reduce the phosphorous concentration in the watershed by 90%, and to help improve water quality in Doctors Lake and the Lower St. Johns River Basin (that portion of the river in north Florida).

As we evaluate the one-year demonstration project progress, we will be evaluating the potential to scale and adapt this type of system to help reduce nutrients in other waterways in the region and Florida, another valuable tool for our water quality improvement efforts. It’s these kinds of forward-thinking projects that will help reduce the intensity and frequency of algal blooms that continue to impact our beautiful St. Johns River and other waterways.

Thank you to Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Rob Bradley and Rep. Travis Cummings for their leadership and commitment to projects benefitting the St. Johns River, as well as to CCUA for the continuing partnership.

Dr. Ann Shortelle

Executive Director of St. Johns River Water Management District

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