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STATE ENGINEERING STUDY SAYS STA DESIGN SERIOUSLY FLAWED

 STATE ENGINEERING STUDY SAYS STA DESIGN SERIOUSLY FLAWED
 WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., August 12 /PRNewswire/ -- A state-sponsored engineering study of the proposed stormwater treatment areas that form the cornerstone of the state's agreement to settle the Everglades lawsuit with the U.S. Justice Department says the STAs are seriously flawed and cannot be depended upon to function as forecast.
 The study, conducted for the Department of Environmental Regulation by the engineering firm of Post, Buckley, Schuh, & Jernigan, Inc., was obtained by the Florida Sugar Cane League attorneys in a public records search.
 The study analyzed the data and the models that served as the basis for determining the size and predicting the effectiveness of the STAs. The firm's analysis suggests that the models "Will not reasonably simulate the operation of the STAs."
 "We have serious reservations concerning the accuracy with which this model simulates the flow through the system," the PBS&J study said. It said the equation used in the models has a "fudge factor" which changes the results.
 The study added that "the corroboration of the...results is of little surprise, or value."
 Sugar and vegetable farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area have argued that a decision to flood 58 square miles of productive farm land and spend in excess of $400 million to create the STAs is not supported by scientific research.
 The study was ordered by DER to examine the South Florida Water Management District's application for a permit in connection with the District's Everglades program. The study examined the viability of the plan to reduce phosphorus in water discharged through the District's pumps into the Everglades.
 "The state study confirms the farmers' position that there is precious little science in the STAs," said Robert Buker, chairman of the Florida Sugar Cane League's Environmental Quality Committee. "It points out once again there are serious technical and scientific questions about the viability of the STA plan."
 In a separate but related development last week, the District admitted it made a mathematical error in the formula used to design the STAs and omitted the amount of bypass water to be treated. These errors caused the undersizing of the STAs by 9,000 acres, the League said.
 A University of Florida agricultural economist contends that flooding 58 or more square miles of farm land to create the STAs and taxing the farmers could cause economic chaos, putting from 11,000 to 38,000 people out of work.
 The creation of STAs is a central part of the state's settlement of the suit by the federal government over the quality of water entering Everglades National Park and the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. The state agreed to convert 35,000 acres of productive farmland into STAs in an attempt to clean water cleaner than rain. The STAs would hold stormwater runoff from the farms in the Everglades Agricultural Area before allowing it to the park or the wildlife refuge.
 The theory behind this plan is that phosphorus in the farm runoff would settle out of the water in these storage areas before the water continued on its way into the Everglades.
 The PBS&J study indicates the techniques appeared to have been used to justify a pre-determined result. PBS&J said:
 Murphy's Laws on Technology: "Always draw your curves, then plot your reading" -- referring to calibrations of factors in the formula used to design the STAs.
 Also: "Following the adoption of these parameters, the 'apparent' long term average settling rate was back-calculated."
 Also: "The phosphorus modeling, aside from the use of questionable settling concept, appears to have some flaws. These problems coupled with the hydraulic modeling shortcomings cast a suspicious shadow on the model, it's results and the interpretation of those results."
 And: "...the techniques used to compute the flows have been far too simplified to reasonably simulate the anticipated field operating conditions." Similarly PBS&J found errors in the computation of phosphorus loads in the various compartments and cells of the STA models. The result, it said, was that the "error in the model grows with each iteration." In another instance, the STA water flow computations were based on seven-foot diameter culverts flowing full. But, the PBS&J study observed, this "does not appear justifiable," since the depth of the water is only four feet.
 The farmers have proposed alternative, and proven effective, methods for reducing phosphorus in the runoff. The farmers' plan includes the use of pollution credits, similar to those in Federal 1990 Clean Air Act, the implementation of effective pumping and farming techniques, as well as other water handling and control procedures.
 Unlike the State's plan to flood farm land, Buker said, the alternatives proposed by the farmers do work and will reduce phosphorus in farm water runoff at a fraction of the cost, without ruining priceless productive farm land or destroying a valuable industry.
 -0- 8/12/92
 /CONTACT: Wragg & Casas, 305-372-1234/ CO: Florida Sugar Cane League ST: Florida IN: SU:


SS-JB -- FL008 -- 6328 08/12/92 16:07 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Aug 12, 1992
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