State: Efforts should ‘greatly reduce’ silt plume flowing into Ortega River

For months, family living along waterway has noticed silt plume that's blamed on construction site

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A family who lives along along the Ortega River is concerned as silt from a construction site continues to flow into the waterway after heavy rainfall.

The silt plume has been spotted flowing from the construction area at the Roosevelt Marketplace. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection says it is regularly conducting inspections, and further action is planned to address the issue.

News4Jax received a statement Friday from FDEP (full statement below), which says the state is “implementing short-term corrective actions to ensure environmental compliance with all unresolved stormwater issues.” It said it’s efforts should “greatly reduce and prevent” stormwater carrying exposed limerock, which it says is believed to be a main source of the plume.

Sharon Light and her husband, Don, live 11 stories up overlooking the river. They said they’ve noticed the plume repeatedly over the past six months.

Silt plume after heavy rainfall flowing into Ortega River
Silt plume after heavy rainfall flowing into Ortega River (Sharon and Don Light)

Light, the president at Republican Women of Duval Federated, says they’ve lived on the Ortega River for 30 years and that it’s not the first time construction has caused pollution in the river.

“It’s tragic when you think about the animals,” Light said. “The manatees with their calves, the grey blue herons, all the birds all the wildlife that we would sit on top of our balconies and watch come in, you don’t see it anymore.”

The combination of the construction and heavy rainfall, without proper precautions, has allowed silt to flow into a canal that leads to the river. It’s ultimately changed the elevation of the riverbed.

The change in elevation changes the level of the water, and during heavy rainfall, it can also cause flooding.

“I don’t want two foot of water in my garage again when the tide rises,” said Light’s husband, Don. “I would like to see the canal and river out here completely dredged.”

Here is the full statement from FDEP:

“Department staff continues to conduct regular on-site inspections ensuring that responsible parties are implementing short-term corrective actions to ensure environmental compliance with all unresolved stormwater issues. During today’s staff inspection (July 24th), it was observed that approximately 85% of the exposed limerock areas have been temporarily paved over with asphalt and Best Management Practices (turbidity controls in place around storm drains and appropriate placement of silt fencing) are being utilized by the contractor. The remaining 15% exposed limerock will be covered over as well. These efforts should greatly reduce and prevent stormwater carrying exposed limerock and disturbed earth from being carried to the storm-water discharge, which we believe to be the main sources of turbidity plumes traced to the site. The Department remains committed to conducting regular site visits to ensure adequate progress, confirming all short-term corrective actions are working.

“Additionally, as we stated last week, the Department is evaluating potential formal enforcement actions with the responsible parties that may include longer term corrective actions and the assessment of appropriate fines/penalties.”

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