SOUTH PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla – Ponte Vedra residents thirst for artificial sweetener is polluting Guana Lake in a very surprising way.
Sucralose, found in those yellow packets of artificial sweetener like Splenda, was measured in Guana Lake at levels higher than any of Florida’s dirty wastewater treatment facilities.
Sucralose passes through waste treatment plants unfiltered, similar to how the zero calorie sweetener flows through the human digestive system without getting metabolized.
GTM Research Reserve scientists speculate Ponte Vedra’s reclaimed irrigation laced with the sweetener flows through the watershed draining into the lake.
This could explain very high amounts discovered in the lake’s northern side that catches water flowing south from neighborhoods and golf courses above Mickler's Road.
Concentrations in the lake were very surprising according to Dr. Nikki Dix who coordinates all research at the Guana Tolomato Matanzas Research Reserve.
According to Dr. Dix, levels of sucralose reached 1.6 micrograms per liter in the lake surpassing even the highest wastewater treatment facility levels of 1.2 in a statewide study.
GTM Biologist Jimmy Tomazinis is collecting more data that could help reveal something more telling.
On Monday, Tomazinis and WJXT Meteorologist Mark Collins set out in a boat to gather various water samples starting from the southern part of the Guana River and finishing up near Mickler's.
New data will be sent to the lab in Miami, Tallahassee and here in Jacksonville to determine point sources for bacteria concentrations in addition to sucralose levels.
The last sample trip in September revealed a perfect gradient from north to south without any inputs from the west or east sides.
This type of distribution would not arise from septic tank pollution but favors a point source near the Mickler’s weir.
Sucralose is a good indicator bacteria in human waste since it is only consumed by people.
So far monthly routine water quality monitoring found bacteria levels to be in decent standing with no problems from animals or human waste.
The sucralose discovery opens new questions about what other chemicals pass from treatment facilities into the environment.
Labs results could take over a month to analyze but if the results are still high the Florida Department of Environmental Protection will draft an action plan.