Project Greenshores cleanup

Friday, September 18, 2009

There is a cleanup scheduled for Saturday (tomorrow) morning from 7-11 A.M. at the Project Greenshores site on Bayfront Parkway. According to Penelope Bishop from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, if it is "pouring down rain" the event will be canceled, but if it is drizzling the cleanup will take place.


What is stormwater runoff?

Monday, September 14, 2009

With the recent issue of stormwater assessments, I felt it was a good time to clarify what exactly stormwater runoff is, and why it's an important issue. Please see the following information from Mary Gutierrez at the West Florida Regional Planning Council:

What is stormwater runoff?
Stormwater runoff occurs when precipitation from rain (or snowmelt) flows over the ground. Impervious surfaces like driveways, sidewalks, and streets prevent stormwater from naturally soaking into the ground.

Why is stormwater runoff a problem?
Stormwater can pick up debris, chemicals, dirt, and other pollutants and flow into a storm water system or directly to a lake, stream, river, wetland, or coastal water. Anything that enters a storm water system is discharged untreated into the waterbodies we use for swimming, fishing and providing drinking water.

What you can do to reduce stormwater pollution:

  • SHOP WISELY – By products labeled biodegradable, non-toxic, non-phosphorus, or water soluble. WHY? …They readily decompose and will not pollute surface or ground water.
  • STORE PRODUCTS SAFELY – Keep toxic products in original containers, closed and clearly marked in safe storage places. WHY? ...To prevent spillage, which could reach ground or surface waters, and to prevent accidents with children or pets.
  • PROPERLY MAINTAIN SEPTIC SYSTEMS – Inspect systems regularly and have pumped out as needed. Avoid caustic cleaners, chemicals, or solvents and fats, oils and greases. WHY? …They might destroy waste-reducing bacteria or clog absorption fields, which could cause runoff of inadequately treated waste during rain storms to reach our ground or surface waters.
  • USE GARDEN AND LAWN CHEMICALS WISELY – Follow package directions carefully, and only use pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers when other methods fail. Do not apply if rain is in the forecast. (Or just plant native species). WHY? …. Excessive fertilizers and chemicals wash off the property and into surface and ground waters.
  • KEEP IRRIGATION WATER ON THE LAWN AND GARDEN (NOT ON PAVED SURFACES) – Divert rain spouts to unpaved areas or swales, and wash vehicles where water will drain to vegetated areas (Or use a rain barrel or create a rain garden). WHY? … This allows runoff to soak into the soil and not wash off the property into nearby waterbodies after picking up pollutants.
  • COMPOST LEAVES, GRASS AND SHRUB CLIPPINGS – Use these materials as mulch to supplement fertilizers. Do not rake these materials into roadways or swales. WHY? … These materials will decompose, returning nutrients to the soil so that you can use less fertilizer. If placed to roads or swales, yard debris will block drainage flows and end up in your nearest waterbodies.
  • DON’T DRAIN USED MOTOR OIL INTO STORM DRAINS – Take used motor oil and antifreeze to service stations to recycle them. WHY? ...These products are toxic and add pollutants to surface waters if placed or washed into storm drains.
  • SERVICE YOUR CAR REGULARLY – Have your care inspected and maintained regularly. WHY? … To prevent leakage of motor oil, antifreeze and other fluids that can end up in the nearest waterbody. Well maintained vehicles reduce air emissions that also can contaminate surface waters.


Response from School District

Friday, September 4, 2009

Ron Peacock, the Director of the Facilities Planning Department for the School District, sent the following response to Chasidy Hobbs' email I posted earlier:

Ms Hobbs:

As Director of Facilities Planning for the school district, thank you for your interest in our proposed new "state of the art" elementary school that is being planned for the Pace Blvd site. This technology rich, LEED certified facility will incorporate many innovative educational elements. One of these elements will focus on having students study the environment through the adjacent wetlands, the LEED features incorporated in the construction, and the wildlife sanctuary as part of the curriculum.

Regarding the existing environmental conditions on the adjacent properties and any of the property the school district has purchased, it has always been our plan to thoroughly explore and define any contaminants which may affect the proposed project development and the safety and health of our students and staff. The school district received a letter and review memo on August 26, 2009 from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) in response to our prior meetings and submission of phase environmental , site assessment , and site tests reports provided to FDEP. Our continued plan of action is to comply with all recommendations contained in the letter and review memo from FDEP.

To that end, a meeting was held today with our environmental consultants, Architect, civil engineer and district staff to identify and coordinate the next steps of addressing the environmental issues. Direction was given to our environmental consultant (Thompson engineering) to prepare a proposal to perform additional testing and site assessment to comply with the requirements and recommendations of the letter/review memo issued by FDEP on August 25,2009.

Based on the additional assessment findings, the school district will take any and all actions required to mitigate any contaminants found to be a threat to the safety and health of our students and staff in accordance with all state and federal regulations.
Hopefully, this communication addressees your concerns expressed in your email.
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Ronald F. Peacock, Director
Facilities Planning Dept.


School District property on Pace Blvd.

Today, I received the following letter from Chasidy Hobbs of UWF's environmental studies department:

Good day! First, I would like to commend SDEC on the plan to build a LEED certified elementary school, way to be a leader in our community!! (One of my best friends has taught at Ali Yneistra for several years and I have spent much time helping her to organize and prepare each year in that very old and moldy building, needless to say many folks are excited to be moving into a new building).

I am slightly disturbed, however, at the lack of environmental testing which has been completed as of today on the Pace Blvd. property. As I am sure you are all aware a Phase I environmental assessment was completed and a Phase II assessment was then performed based on the findings in the Phase I. However, the Phase I did not mention the fact that creosote laden poles and PCB filled transformers were stored on and/or adjacent to the site which the school plans to build on. Therefore the Phase II assessment did not address these pollutants, in other words there was no testing to see if these pollutants are on the property. Why SDEC’s environmental consultant missed or overlooked this important information is disturbing though not something I can address.

What was tested for and found, based on the Phase I, were PAH’s and these pollutants were found only on the property owned by Escambia County. Therefore, a “case” has been opened by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for the County property; I have been following closely the actions of the Department of Environmental Protections in this case. On August 25th the DEP sent a letter to the County which stated: “based on review of the available information and the previous activities in and around the properties in question, additional assessment is warranted” and those contaminants of concern which additional assessment is warranted are: Benzo(a)Pyrene TEQ, arsenic, Pentachlorophenol, Cresol and PCBs.

Please do not confuse this email as an allegation that the SDEC property is contaminated! Rather, as an environmental scientist and a concerned citizen I am writing to state that these contaminants of concern are highly toxic and NOT something we want on/under a playground for small children. In fact we have already moved a school due to finding some of these pollutants on site (Brown Barge). I know that SDEC is dedicated to helping to provide an excellent education for the children in Escambia County, I hope that SDEC (and the City of Pensacola!) will have the same dedication to the health and safety of the students and teachers coming from Ali Yneistra and Hallmark by following the guidelines DEP has given to Escambia County.

It will be much less expensive to test now and find nothing than it would be to test later and find something. I encourage SDEC to make the tough, yet obviously right, choice to thoroughly test the Pace Blvd. property before beginning construction. I look forward to hearing that SDEC has initiated this additional testing warranted in order to be confident that the property SDEC plans to build on is not polluted.

Chasidy Hobbs
Advisor and Instructor
Department of Environmental Studies
University of West Florida


Sacred Heart stormwater assessment

Recently, a constituent of mine inquired about Sacred Heart's stormwater assessment fee. I raised the issue with City Manager Al Coby and he sent me the following response:


Yes, Sacred Heart does pay storwater fees. In FY '09 under the name of Sacred Heart (not including affiliated operations) the payment was $16,513.

Al Coby


Sacred Heart removed 50 inch + tree

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

At the last City Council meeting on August 27, I asked Mr. Robert Emmanuel, who represents Sacred Heart, about a large tree that Sacred Heart removed around January 2008. The tree, which had a diameter of more than 50 inches, was removed to make way for a sidewalk next to a planned extension of College Boulevard between Airport and Bayou. Neither the road extension or sidewalk were ever constructed.

According to City Manager Al Coby, "The City partnered with Sacred Heart as required to secure a $1,000,000 EDA grant for construction of the road. The City processed the tree removal permit as we would with any other application. However, Sacred Heart was responsible for the construction project including retaining the contractor. Had the road been built, the City would have accepted as a public roadway."

After further investigation, I found out that the new Ronald McDonald House on Bayou was built on property purchased from Sacred Heart. Representatives from Sacred Heart assured the Ronald McDonald House organization that the College Boulevard extension would be built. As I understand it today, the grant will not be funded and this road project has been put on hold indefinitely.

I find it disturbing that all the trees in the path of the planned road extension were clear-cut before funding was secured. Furthermore, Sacred Heart could have easily moved the planned roadway/sidewalk just a few feet in order to save a 50-inch plus tree, but chose not to. Mr. Emmanuel claimed that Sacred Heart Health System is a "good steward of the environment." Their unnecessary removal of trees, including the 50-inch plus tree pictured below, directly contradicts that. Now, under the new language that Sacred Heart was able to get into the tree ordinance at the last minute, their tree mitigation costs are even less than they were under the old tree ordinance.

One councilmember said that no version of the tree ordinance would save trees at the Sacred Heart campus, because they will develop their property either way. However, what should be understood is that due to the new cap for hospitals, fewer mitigation dollars will be paid into the tree fund, resulting in less funding for new tree planting in our community.

Recently a constituent asked me if Sacred Heart is paying a stormwater assessment fee. I have emailed City Manager Al Coby and am awaiting his response.

Below are several photographs of what remained of the 50-inch plus tree which I mentioned above. After Emerald Coastkeeper attorney Matt Schultz inquired about the removal of this tree, the stump was covered by concrete debris as is shown in the last photo.

I would like to state that I do appreciate all the good work that Sacred Heart does in our community, as well as the jobs they create. While I am disappointed in they way in which they chose to participate in the tree ordinance debate, I look forward to working with them to ensure their success in our community while continuing to protect our environment.


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