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SWIM PLAN OVERESTIMATES PHOSPHORUS RETENTION; STORMWATER TREATMENT AREAS UNDERSIZED, SCIENTISTS REPORTS

 SWIM PLAN OVERESTIMATES PHOSPHORUS RETENTION;
 STORMWATER TREATMENT AREAS UNDERSIZED, SCIENTISTS REPORTS
 COLUMBUS, Ohio, Sept. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- The stormwater treatment areas (STAs) mandated by the Everglades settlement agreement are based on inflated phosphorus uptake rates and cannot work as planned, according to a leading wetlands scientist.
 The state of Florida and the South Florida Water Management District have entered into an agreement with the federal government that calls for lowering phosphorus levels in farm water runoff to levels of approximately 50 parts per billion, values cleaner than rain. The agreement and the District's Surface Water Improvement and Management Act that will implement the agreement calls for the construction of four stormwater treatment areas at a cost of $300 to $400 million.
 Dr. Curtis J. Richardson, director of the Duke University Wetland Center, told the IV International Wetlands Conference meeting here that peat soils such as those in the Everglades have very low phosphorus storage rates, and their retention capacity is easily exceeded.
 According to soon-to-be-published papers by Drs. Curtis Richardson and Christopher Craft, "The State of Florida's SWIM Plan has overestimated phosphorus retention capacity by two to three times the natural capacity of Everglades wetlands." The research to quantify the storage rates for the proposed STAs has not been done and the federal government has forced the state to move forward without the necessary data. Richardson and Craft stated, "Initially the SWIM Plan erroneously equated plant uptake, belowground storage data and decomposition taken over several years to be equal to phosphorus retention via long term peat accretion and precipitation...Their limited estimates of accretion rates also appear to give exceedingly high storage rates...Their estimates are nearly two to three times higher than our figures."
 Given these facts, the current STA area would not effectively retain the tonnage of phosphorus required by the settlement agreement, according to the paper.
 Richardson stated in the report that the South Florida Water Management District would need 70,000 to 100,000 acres of STAs to reach the phosphorus concentrations now planned for on approximately 35,000 acres.
 Even if agricultural best management practices (BMPs) can reduce phosphorus in farm water runoff by 45 metric tons a year, the STAs would still have to be approximately 50,000 to 70,000 acres, Richardson said in an interview during the conference.
 Craft and Richardson also reported that the rate of phosphorus uptake by peat soils decreases as the concentration of phosphorus in the water decreases.
 Richardson reported in a recent paper and at the conference that in the late 1970s there was great hope that wetlands could be utilized for wastewater treatment.
 "The euphoria that a simple, cost effective, nutrient retention system was available using wetlands spread like wildfire...(but) it was clear from these early studies that wetland nutrient retention differed greatly among wetland types and was not as effective as upland ecosystems" he said. "Your cannot always apply data from other areas to the Everglades."
 Richardson said variables that control phosphorus storage in wetlands include the age of the soil, the soil type, nutrient loadings and climate, with peat soils having among the lowest phosphorus retention capacity.
 A study conducted for the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation by the engineering firm Post Buckley Schuh and Jernigan, Inc. found that the STA design was also based on a "fudge factor" in a mathematical equation that was used to size the STAs at 35,000 acres.
 Farmers have opposed the STA plan, charging it will result in the loss of thousands of jobs in South Florida. They have proposed a series of alternative phosphorus reduction techniques that can be implemented on farms at a fraction of the $400 million price tag and without losing jobs.
 -0- 9/23/92
 /CONTACT: Ray Casas of Wragg & Casas, 305-372-1234, for Florida Sugar Cane League/ CO: Florida Sugar Cane League ST: Florida IN: SU:


JB-AW -- FL001 -- 2540 09/23/92 10:17 EDT
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Date:Sep 23, 1992
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