JEA Represents All of Us in Duty to Reduce Pollution

Article excerpt

Byline: Ronald L. Littlepage

The battle lines were drawn at a meeting of the Jacksonville Waterways Commission on Thursday.

On one side was a JEA representative, Paul Steinbrecher, Power Point in hand, giving JEA's view of new tougher pollution standards for the St. Johns River.

On the other was Neil Armingeon, the Riverkeeper, with pictures of a St. Johns River turned green, giving his organization's view on what needs to be done.

It turns out that in this semi-war, where a few nasty shots have been fired in the past few months, the goals are the same -- restoring and protecting the health of the "broken" St. Johns, as Steinbrecher described the river.

We can't lose sight of that. The question is how to get there.

The river is "broken" for many reasons and chief among them is that the river is overloaded with nutrients.

That nutrient overload leads to such things as the algal blooms that turned much of the river into a sickening green mess last summer, which in turn impacts the amount of dissolved oxygen in the river, which is critical to the health of plants and fish.

It's imperative that the amount of nutrients going into the river be reduced.

JEA is a big player in this because its wastewater treatment plants are the biggest polluters in this section of the river.

The argument is over how much the nutrient overload has to be reduced and what level of dissolved oxygen is needed for a healthy river.

JEA is nervous because treating its wastewater to a higher standard would be costly, and the utility argues that anything done should be cost-effective for the amount of improvements made. …