Tag Archives: Bayou Texar

Pensacola, Brought To You By The Letter ‘S’

As a Pensacola resident, have you grown tired of the never-ending hand-wringing over doing something that will increase tourism, prevent young people from having, and wanting, to leave town to make a living, and of the politicians catering to deep-pocketed special interests to no one’s benefit except the politician and his special interest, aka contributor? Let’s try something different.

How about we start with something that will enhance our area for everyone? Beginning with the letter “S”.

Scenic Highway is an area that has been neglected for so many years that there’s no scene anymore. Out of 11 miles of it, there’s maybe a half-mile left, measuring small patches of open view along the way. The area has been left to overgrowth of wild nuisance trees and other invasive growth that have taken the scene out of Scenic Highway. This didn’t happen overnight.

Did you know that there is a Scenic Highway Foundation? They see the problem as I do, and have received no cooperation from the City of Pensacola to fix it. As they see it . . .

One of the major problems along Scenic Highway is non-native invasive plants. These plants are a threat to the highway corridor’s natural landscapes because they can alter native ecosystems by outcompeting, shading out, and sometimes physically overwhelming, native plants. So invasive plants threaten native plant diversity, but also they provide fewer habitats for beneficial insects than natives do, and many native birds depend on these insects to feed their young. On the bluffs, invasives cause the additional problem of obscuring views of the bay, making Scenic Highway less scenic.

I’m not one to criticize without offering a solution. Get rid of the non-native vegetation. And for control of erosion, replacing where necessary with native plants like the SHF recommends. Remove the junk/wild trees that obscure the view at street level. Topping off, as in chopping off, those trees at street level that are rooted on the hillside leading down to the bay. After that, keep up the highway so that it will not be overgrown again. Then residents and tourists will be treated to the natural beauty that Pensacola has to offer. It would make Ladybird Johnson proud.

endofstory

Next on Pensacola’s to-do list, and another thing that didn’t happen overnight, is to find the source(s) of the fecal bacterial contamination that has plagued Bayou Texar for decades, causing the Health Department to close it for use and human contact several times a year. Getting the Shit out of Bayou Texar has been on my radar since November of 2007. A lot has happened since then. But nothing to fix the problem. Just more Bayou closings by the Health Department and lip service from City Hall.

I have challenged the Emerald CoastKeepers, a local group created in 1999 by Mike Papantonio (local lawyer and Lefty talk radio host), to address the issue to no avail. Their focus on environmental issues is suing corporations with deep pockets instead of advocating for clean water in Bayou Texar.

I refer you to two links here on The Lunch Counter that give a good summary of efforts made to affect positive change. All to no avail. Both posts, Cleaning Up Bayou Texar No Longer A Priority and Mayor Hayward’s Town Hall Tonight condense the issue to who said what, including a comment from Doreen Glennan, a prospective newcomer to the area.

For brevity, I urge you to follow the links provided in the posts mentioned above. A complete summary of all my research on this subject can be found HERE.

Since Mayor Hayward’s tenure, the reporting from the Health Department has been sanitized. What used to be described as fecal bacteria is now called simply “bacteria,” and the posting of signs at the boat ramps to warn the public was discontinued. There’s nothing to be gained by ignoring the nature of problem, except maybe to disguise the truth and not embarrass the new Mayor-based City government while outside advertising campaigns designed to attract tourists and industry are running. I don’t know. To quote my favorite former Secretary of State, “what difference, at this point, does it make?”

A gentleman named Al Garza used to advise the city on matters like this. After talking to him though, it seems his “solution” is to do nothing. That’s not acceptable. What should be done is to contract again with a scientist or organization qualified in determining the source(s) of the fecal contamination, like Dr. Richard Snyder at UWF or some other entity. And, see it through to completion.

Mr. Garza seemed conflicted between the Shit in the water and the chemical contaminants in the sediment of the Bayou. As though the fecal contamination could not be solved without dredging the bayou. And, he said, dredging the bayou would cause more problems by stirring up the chemicals. I’m not a scientist, but seems to me that whatever “problems” would be created by removing contaminated sediment would be solved by the natural flushing and depositing of new sediment that is not contaminated. And it wouldn’t take decades for it to repair itself. Long term, it would be repaired and we won’t have to tout the new Chamber slogan . . .

Visit Pensacola, You’ll love our shit!

Bayou Texar Closed Again, v2.0

Not only Bayou Texar, but Bayou Chico and Bayou Grande as well. The Florida Department of Health officials advise against any water-related activities at those locations due to the potential for high bacteria levels.

Chamber bumper sticker . . .

Visit Pensacola, You’ll love our shit!

It is obvious that “the plan” that the mayor has to remedy this chronic contamination problem is not working.

Link: Three local bayou areas under health alert | Pensacola News Journal | pnj.com.

Mayor Hayward’s Town Hall Tonight

Sorry I won’t be able to attend the town hall meeting at the Vickery Center tonight, but I do have a question for the mayor. (In case you are going.)

Mr. Mayor, at your April 2011 town hall meeting at Gull Point, you said that the city has a plan to deal with the chronic fecal contamination in Bayou Texar. The health department again had to close the bayou last week. Please tell me what the city’s plan for Bayou Texar is, and what has been done so far?

Bayou Texar Closed Again

“Visit Pensacola! You’ll love our shit!” There’s your Chamber of Commerce bumper sticker.

Like water sports? Fishing, swimming, water skiing? Come to Pensacola. But just don’t go in Bayou Texar for any of that. The Health Department has closed it for the umpteenth time due to excessive levels of fecal contamination.

It happens so often now, that the Health Department no longer calls it what it is like they used to. Now they’ve sanitized the warning. Now they just call it ‘bacteria.’ You have to call the Health Department to find out the nature of that bacteria. I called to ask. It’s the same as it has always been. Fecal bacteria.

What’s worse, the reaction to it is also the same. After having abandoned the study to find out the sources of the contamination years ago, the city and county officials continue to ignore the problem. Apparently, unless it has anything to do with BP, they’re not interested in cleaning up their own back yard.

Link: Bacteria prompts Bayou Texar health alert

Health Department Closes Bayou Texar, Again

The Health Department has again closed Bayou Texar because of unsafe levels of fecal bacteria. Only now, they’re not even using the F word. Apparently it has become trivial enough to just call it ‘bacteria.’

The alert was issued after weekly sampling revealed the level of bacteria has exceeded the level established by state guidelines.

Additionally, a health alert remains in effect for Bayou Chico at Lakewood Park.

The Heath Department advises against any water-related activities in these locations.

I’d say that having shitty water ranks right up there with tar balls wouldn’t you? Especially since the Health Department closes Bayou Texar several times a year. For decades now. Yet, for whatever reason, the political class in Pensacola doesn’t seem to mind. And the environmental groups like the Emerald Coastkeepers and the Riverkeepers don’t care either.

Let’s be sure to put that in the ads to lure vacationers down here. “Visit Pensacola, You’ll like our shit!”

The department will continue to monitor the water quality in these areas weekly. For more information, call the Escambia County Health Department at 595-6786.

OK, so we know the Health Department is doing its job by telling us when we should not go in the water. But what are the politicians for?

Link: Health alert for Bayou Texar

What’s In Carpenter’s Creek Is In Bayou Texar

Maybe this sounds like something new to you and City Councilman Diane Mack, but it is old news to City Councilman Johnson (a board member of Emerald Coastkeepers) and DEP representative Sherri Myers, the Health Department and the ECUA.

Carpenter’s Creek empties into Bayou Texar. And for decades now, Bayou Texar has been periodically closed by the Health Department as unsafe for use by humans due to fecal contamination. ‘Chronically’ is a more accurate description than periodically. And the reason is because of what is coming out of Carpenter’s Creek.

To bring you up to date with this severe yet overlooked water quality issue, this post recaps it all. Cleaning up Bayou Texar became my interest in November 2007. Four years later and we’re still kicking the can down the road.

That is why I read with amusement this Viewpoint by Chasidy Fisher Hobbs, executive director for Emerald Coastkeepers of Northwest Florida, rehashing the drinking water issue from 2009.

The Dept. of Environmental Protection knew about Bayou Texar’s condition. It was Sherri Myers that pulled the money out of the study that could have led to fixing the problem. Who knows if this effort to examine Carpenter’s Creek will have positive results or, just make for some good press for a while before being set aside for another decade?

Links:

Bayou Texar Closed Again

Did you ever think that sometimes when trying to make a point that you may as well bang your head against the wall? That’s the way I feel about what continues to happen to Bayou Texar specifically, but Bayou Texar isn’t the only waterway in Escambia County that has similar problems.

Last week, I found out that efforts to finally locate the sources of bacterial contamination in Bayou Texar were scrapped by some yet unknown city officials. And yesterday what do we see in the PNJ? Another closure. A mere two weeks since Bayou Texar was again closed.

Unfortunately for the environment and people that want to use the waterways, and people living in the pricey homes surrounding Bayou Texar, the Health Alerts in the newspaper are generating as much attention as, oh I don’t know, how about as much attention as H.R. 3400, the Empowering Patients (not government) First Act. Bayou Texar’s water quality is being ignored just as much as the health care initiative that was introduced by Republicans in Congress over a month ago. What’s wrong with this picture?

Yes Virginia, conservatives like clean water too! What is the city’s excuse? And, why would the canceling of the needed research to clean up the Bayou not be newsworthy?

Cleaning Up Bayou Texar No Longer A Priority

It was back in November 2007 that I set out to, once and for all, find out what the deal is with Bayou Texar and why it is closed for public use so often. Most, if not all, of the time because of high levels of fecal matter. I interviewed people in the city and county who not only were aware of the longstanding water quality issue there but who would be involved in making recommendations to the city for remedial action.  They included the Health Department, the ECUA, and a professor of biology at UWF.

The culmination of that research is represented in a post here entitled Cleaning Up Bayou Texar dated January 6, 2008. At that time, I was encouraged to learn that a water quality study was already underway under the auspices of Dr. Richard (Dick) Snyder, professor of biology at the University of West Florida. And an update to the Jan 6 post was made on January 8, 2008 that summed up where we were at that point in time. It boiled down to the fact that his study would not be completed until late in 2009 or early 2010, which brings us up to date.

UPDATE 01/08/08: Dr. Richard (Dick) Snyder, the biologist responsible for the current study, was prompt to reply to questions I had regarding the study. Thank you Dick for your quick reply. These were the questions . . .

When do you anticipate completing the report? Will the report, or the work being undertaken to produce a report, actually determine the sources or pathology of the fecal contamination as relates to specific properties along the waterway, including rainwater runoff sources? After determining what is happening to the bayou and why things are happening to the bayou, will making recommendations for remediation of the waterway be part of your report or subsequent reports? Is the subject study a UWF financed project or a federal, state, county or city grant-financed project? Basically, who is paying for it?

This is Dr. Snyder’s reply, which addresses every question, in his own words.

The study will be done over two years to incorporate annual variation in water levels. We will try to identify contaminated ground water as opposed to runoff, with the idea that the groundwater will more likely be septic or sewer malfunction. The data will be given to the DOH and ECUA for them to address any identified problems. Financing is from a fine levied against the Target Corp. for contaminating Carpenter’s Creek, through the West Florida Planning Council and with input from the Bayou Texar Foundation, who is providing some additional funding.

So from the standpoint of what happens next as far as sewage in the bayou is concerned, we wait for the report in late 2009 or early 2010. I suppose we can rest easy in the fact that there are no septic systems in use on the bayou itself. The problem appears to be upstream. Meanwhile, residents around Carpenter’s Creek should know to keep an eye out for septic system failures or sewage system failures and report them to the Health Department (595-6722) or the ECUA (969-3303).

It was with eager anticipation that I followed up with Dick yesterday to get a progress report. With the Bayou Texar water quality still coming up in the local media from time to time, I was confident that soon we would be seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. Was I ever wrong, and were we ever duped into thinking that the city finally took Bayou Texar seriously.

Dr. Snyder’s reply, short and not so sweet. . .

We were never able to do the study. The funds were diverted to the City of Pensacola’a storm water refit project for the area.

related link: Cleaning Up Bayou Texar

Bayou Texar, In Your Head Radio

Had an on-air interview today by Rick Outsen, host of ‘In Your Head Radio,’ publisher of the Independent News, and blogger. Subject of the conversation was focused on my post Cleaning Up Bayou Texar.

Thanks to Rick for bringing the long-standing and long-ignored problem in Bayou Texar to his program and the citizens of Pensacola. And thanks for the plug for The Lunch Counter.

links: In Your Head Radio, 1620am | Cleaning Up Bayou Texar

Cleaning Up Bayou Texar

Referring to this post from last November, I made a point that a local conservation group, the Emerald Coastkeepers, seemed more interested in suing companies with deep pockets and not interested in trying to find out where the sewage comes from that has repeatedly caused the Health Department to close Bayou Texar from human contact. Turns out, they are interested in the sewage problem in the bayou.

Larry B. Johnson, the volunteer in charge of Bayou Texar for the Emerald Coastkeepers is on their board of directors. Larry and I are on the same page on the subject of sewage in the bayou and I have agreed to volunteer to find an end of the sewage problem that has plagued the bayou for so many years. So that’s where I got involved, and now have something to report.

There was a study published by the University of West Florida in September 2006 that was, at that time, the most comprehensive analysis of water quality in Bayou Texar ever done. The Health Department has it for your review on their website. You might need a lawyer and a chemist standing by to assist you in deciphering it. It is very detailed.

After looking at the survey and knowing how many years Bayou Texar has had a sewage problem, I set out to find some answers to these questions. If you have any questions to add, please let me know.

  • Does the Health Dept know which systems are in failing condition?
  • Where are they? Names and addresses.
  • Are any of the properties with failing septic systems within 50 feet of an ECUA sewer?
  • If yes, has the Health Dept taken steps to force the property owners to comply?
  • Has the Health Dept notified the property owners to repair their systems and if so, have the property owners complied?
  • Who is responsible for this problem continuing, the Health Dept or the property owners, or both?
  • Are there any outstanding orders for the ECUA to do any sewer hookups, and if so, how many?
  • Of those hook-up orders, how many of them are on the offending septic systems in the bayou?

With the cooperation of the Health Department and the ECUA, I can report that there are no septic systems facing Bayou Texar. All of the properties on the bayou are on city sewer. I don’t know how long that has been the case, but it is the case now.

Enforcement of codes as relates to sewage falls under the purview of the Health Department. And, according to Philip Davies there, the methods of enforcement they use are definitive and seem to work well. Most often it is handled with a little education to the property owner, and gets into a legal issue if necessary, but in either case, their actions are effective in correcting a problem.

Davies also said that there is a new study currently underway by UWF that is focused on determining the sources of the fecal contamination in the bayou, which necessarily includes Carpenter’s Creek. Carpenter’s Creek, which feeds into the bayou, extends from the bayou on up to beyond Olive Rd and Old Palafox. One quickly realizes how difficult a project this is when you appreciate the size of the area to examine.

There are currently no pending work orders for the ECUA to hookup residents to the sewer system in the Carpenter’s Creek area and no pending actions by the Health Department to residents in the Carpenter’s Creek area.

I questioned whether the dog park on the bayou was the culprit and the answer is no, it is not. Despite the fact that the testing site the Health Department uses for the bayou is right at the dog park, the fecal contamination is not coming from it. They use that site, as opposed to other locations on the bayou, because that is the part of the bayou that has the most public activity.

That is all I have to report at this time. Will report back with a progress report on the current survey that UWF is doing and when they think it will be finished.

UPDATE 01/08/08: Dr. Richard (Dick) Snyder, the biologist responsible for the current study, was prompt to reply to questions I had regarding the study. Thank you Dick for your quick reply. These were the questions . . .

When do you anticipate completing the report? Will the report, or the work being undertaken to produce a report, actually determine the sources or pathology of the fecal contamination as relates to specific properties along the waterway, including rainwater runoff sources? After determining what is happening to the bayou and why things are happening to the bayou, will making recommendations for remediation of the waterway be part of your report or subsequent reports? Is the subject study a UWF financed project or a federal, state, county or city grant-financed project? Basically, who is paying for it?

This is Dr. Snyder’s reply, which addresses every question, in his own words.

The study will be done over two years to incorporate annual variation in water levels. We will try to identify contaminated ground water as opposed to runoff, with the idea that the groundwater will more likely be septic or sewer malfunction. The data will be given to the DOH and ECUA for them to address any identified problems. Financing is from a fine levied against the Target Corp. for contaminating Carpenter’s Creek, through the West Florida Planning Council and with input from the Bayou Texar Foundation, who is providing some additional funding.

So from the standpoint of what happens next as far as sewage in the bayou is concerned, we wait for the report in late 2009 or early 2010. I suppose we can rest easy in the fact that there are no septic systems in use on the bayou itself. The problem appears to be upstream. Meanwhile, residents around Carpenter’s Creek should know to keep an eye out for septic system failures or sewage system failures and report them to the Health Department (595-6722) or the ECUA (969-3303).