Tag Archives: Rich Burdell

Bessey Creek “Hybrid Wetland Treatment Project,” What’s That? St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Bessey Creek in 1965, is the exiting point for C-23 into the St Lucie River. The canal was  built between 1959 and  1961.
Bessey Creek (winding left into today’s Palm City) along exiting point for C-23 into the St Lucie River. The canal was built between 1959 and 1961. Bessey Creek used to be a flowing, clean beautiful creek–today it is polluted.(Photo Thurlow Archive, 1965)

Press Release for “Hybrid Wetland Technology Treatment Project Groundbreaking:”

(http://www.martin.fl.us/documents2010/info_release/eng/2015/MC_Info_Release-Bessey_Hybrid_event_FINAL.pdf)

Because of my Sewall’s Point commission position, I received an invitation to attend yesterday’s groundbreaking of Martin County’s “Bessey Creek Hybrid Wetland Treatment Technology Project” ceremony located about 2.1 miles north of SW Citrus Boulevard in Palm City. I was honored that they invited me, so I decided to go. I have read about the project for a couple of years now, but of course I am no expert on chemical cleaning of filthy storm water running into our waterways.

On the way there, I was thinking:

“Does Bessey Creek really start all the way out here?”

I always think of the mouth of Bessey Creek, which intersects with the notorious C-23 Canal as the border of Martin and St Lucie Counties, when I think of Bessey Creek.

Driving so far away from the coast, memories came back to me of Martin County High School in the 1980s, and the great parties off of Boat Ramp Road! (I’ll stop there…. ūüôā

Years ago, before the draining and canal building of the 1920s and after, these Palm City area lands were mostly “wetlands” but now they are “dry.” When I was young, it was mostly cows “out here,” but now it is thousands of people and agricultue.

Bessey Creek area
Bessey Creek area by groundbreaking off Citrus Blvd. (northern  part of photo Google map photo)
This photo is more easterly showing where Bessey Creek exits into SLR. (Google Earth)
This photo is more south-easterly showing where Bessey Creek exits into SLR. (Google Earth) Today’s version of 1965 photo at beginning of this blog post.

The groundbreaking was very well done and elegant Vice-Chair of the Martin County commission, Ann Scott, led the ceremony. Commissioner, John Haddox, was there as well. Deb Drum’s team, ¬†from the county’s Ecosystem Restoration and Management Division of the Martin County Engineering Department is the lead organizer for the project itself. One of the many things they are working on!

The Florida Legislature, especially Senator Joe Negron, and the Florida Department of Agriculture also very much helped with this 3 million dollar “turn dirt” project. According to Mr Budell from the Department of Agriculture, the Bessey Creek project is one of about 10 in the state and mid-sized in comparison.

Deb Drum, MC (Photo JTL)
Deb Drum, MC (Photo JTL)
Senator Joe Negron and Rich Budell, FDACS. (Photo JTL)
Senator Joe Negron, Rich Budell, FDACS and MC Administrator, Taryn Kryzda. (Photo JTL)
Part of area to be constructed. (Photo JTL)
Part of area to be constructed. (Photo JTL)
Artist drawing of project to come. (Photo JTL)
Artist drawing of project to come. (Photo JTL)

I am happy to see the Agriculture Department’s involvement as “Ag.” plays a huge role in the problem in the first place and without them, as powerful as they are, like it or not, we will never get anywhere…

After the ceremony, Tom Debusk from the company “Watershed Technologies” (http://www.watershedtechnologiesllc.com/technology/)¬†gave a presentation explaining how the system operated. The link above is an excellent resource and also has previous articles from TC PALM.

As usual, during the presentation, I had to ask a lot of questions to understand, and Mr Debusk was very patient with me, but basically the remaining pathetic “headwaters” of Bessey Creek start somewhere between Boat Ramp Road and Citrus Blvd, close to where we¬†were all standing. ¬†The county is leasing (for almost nothing) this land from the state.¬†It will be up and running in one year.

How does it work?

Well, simply put, a pond like treatment area will be built¬†and take diverted waters from Bessey Creek and treat them with a combination of aluminum sulfate (basically a salt that is non poisonous and has natural properties to clean water (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminium_sulfate,) and aquatic plants that will “uptake” mostly phosphorus, but also some nitrogen, and other pollutants from the water. So pollutants will be “separated” or “taken in”….leaving the water clean as it meanders to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

We must keep in mind of course, that phosphorus and nitrogen come from the surrounding lands: equestrian community; decorative plant farms; ¬†ranch homes; (fertilizer and animal waste….etc…)

Tom Debusk of Watershed Technologies explains the project. (Photo JTL)
Tom Debusk of Watershed Technologies explains the project. (Photo JTL)
Glass files showing how aluminum sulfate separates the P and N and other pollutants causing them to fall to the bottom and form a clay like substance that can be removed and recycled (as a type of fertilizer) or just put in the land fill. (Photo JTL)
Glass files showing how aluminum sulfate separates the P and N and other pollutants causing them to fall to the bottom and form a clay like substance that can be removed and recycled (as a type of fertilizer) or just put in the land fill. (Photo JTL)
Concentrated removal of pollutants from water, now as hard as a rock.
Concentrated removal of pollutants from water, now as hard as a rock.

I was happy to learn that the chemical aluminum sulfate won’t hurt wildlife (or people), but I did wonder about dealing with “source pollution” so we are not just paying to clean water that surrounding landowners are continually making dirty….I was assured that surrounding areas are being educated not to shovel horse poop along the creek and Best Management Practices are continually being refined. (http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/hot_topics/agriculture/bmps.html)

I drove off thinking feeling good and thinking about how “water/the river” is seeing her day in the sun. I also drove off hoping that with all of our various efforts we can clean up a river whose surrounding wetlands and highlands we have turned into a “drained ant-pile of people.”

….Kudos to Marin County and the State for their efforts!¬†

My "selfie" in front of the the site.
My “selfie” in front of the the site.(12-17-14)