Lake Powell Residents continue to complain about runoff from construction

Lake Powell Runoff Issues
Published: May. 25, 2023 at 9:17 PM CDT
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WALTON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Walton County is home to one of the largest dune lakes in north america and residents in the area are adamant about preserving it. But many who live on Lake Powell say they are still seeing floating sludge they claim is coming from a construction project by St. Joe.

“It’s really nasty stuff,” said Rob Thomas, a neighbor.

Thomas has lived on Lake Powell for six years.

“We’ve gone through these five or six times in the last year and most recently a month ago,” said Thomas.

Neighbors say they did not expect their lake views to look like this.

“I’ve had to wade in and try to get it away from my dock that’s probably not a smart thing to do,” said Thomas.

The neighbors claim it’s coming from a construction project by St. Joe.

“We saw the massive land clearing by the lake and we were concerned and then you see the grading, and it seems to the eye that everything will end up in the lake,” said Thomas.

We reached out to St. Joe officials and were told they would not comment. Instead, they told us to reach out to the Department of Environmental Protection.

So, We did, the DEP sent us this information:

“Thanks for reaching out. I know I’ve talked to other reporters at WJGH about this issue, but I don’t think we’ve talked before, so I want to first share some of the history regarding the turbidity issues at Lake Powell.

Last year, DEP took formal enforcement against the St. Joe Company’s contractor, Total Earth Services, after their Watersound Origins construction project resulted in turbid runoff into Lake Powell. DEP required the site to implement additional best management practices (BMPs), which have been effective and assessed them over $22,000 in civil penalties to resolve these water quality violations.

Earlier this month, DEP began receiving new complaints about turbid runoff into Lake Powell, which we are currently investigating.

As part of this investigation, on May 2, 2023, DEP inspected the St. Joe Company’s Watersound Origins Phases 6, 7 and 8 sites. All BMPs were operational and the department found no evidence of turbid runoff from this site.

DEP also conducted a site visit at a nearby construction project by Gulf Coast Utility Contractors for a multi-use path along the west side of Highway 98, where staff observed failed BMPs. DEP has been in contact with the responsible party and instructed them to immediately repair the failed BMPs (i.e. silt fences) and where necessary, install additional BMPs to prevent further discharge from entering the waterway.

I am happy to share a copy of these inspection reports once they are finalized.

DEP is committed to enforcing Florida’s environmental laws and holding environmental polluters accountable. We will continue to monitor the corrective actions implemented at the site and will take any necessary enforcement actions.”

As for the residents. they just want to sludge to go away.

“The damage is significant and underneath the surface, it does not go away but it’s here we hope someday it will go away,” said Thomas.

However, when it will be better is uncertain.

“It’s not the same lake as a year ago, it’s not getting better it’s getting worse,” said Thomas.