Background: Using the methodology to identify and verify water quality impairments described in Chapter 62-303, Florida Administrative Code, (Identification of Impaired Surface Waters or IWR), Lake Dora was included on the verified list of impaired waters for the Ocklawaha Basin that was adopted by Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Secretarial Order in 2002. Pollutants and nutrient loads exceeded acceptable standards as monitored by FDEP.
The main source of impairment for Lake Dora has been runoff from Lake Apopka via Lakes Beauclair and Carlton. Further, Lake Dora feeds into Lake Eustis through the Dora Canal, thus spreading further impairment through Lake County’s precious chain of lakes.
In response to this impairment, the Lake County Water Authority’s Nutrient Reduction Facility (NuRF) became operational in 2009. While the NuRF facility has been instrumental in reducing nitrogen, phosphorous and other pollutants from Lake Dora, the City of Tavares decided that further mitigation was needed.
In addition, the City of Tavares also needed to alleviate another ongoing issue: local city streets would continually flood during heavy rains. Since the runoff from these rainfalls was not being directed into a treatment facility and “cleaned”, this continual runoff was making its way into Lake Dora and adding to the pollutant problem. In 2008, Tavares commissioned a stormwater study of the downtown area funded by the Lake County Water Authority and conducted by Griffey Engineering.
The study presented three options for the further clean-up of Lake Dora and resolution of the flooding problem. Of the three options, the City of Tavares determined the least disruptive one, while serving the best interest of the taxpayers, was to construct a stormwater treatment facility on the wetlands found behind the Lake County Jail. “After exhaustive study and research, we knew we wanted to create a very special stormwater treatment option that would serve both our environmental goals and the citizens of Tavares,” said Don Griffey.
Ruby Street Stormwater and Beautification Project: Under the direction of Utilities Director Brad Hayes, the City of Tavares sought out best practices and emerging technologies to provide the most advanced and innovative stormwater treatment facility in Florida. Grant funding from Lake County Water Authority and Florida Department of Environmental Protection was awarded to the City of Tavares in recognition of the importance of this project.
Tavares finally settled upon a “hybrid solution” combining both wastewater and stormwater treatment innovations. Instead of a conventional wet detention pond, the City of Tavares project consists of a series of pond cells known as a “treatment train”.
The five pond cells (three deep, two shallow) will contain pond plants known for their abilities to remove phosphorous and nitrogen through their root systems. Further, floating wetlands known as Beemats will provide additional nutrient uptake. A typical wet detention pond will remove about 61% of phosphorous from the stormwater runoff, but this hybrid treatment facility is expected to maximize removal, thus paving the way for a cleaner Lake Dora while eliminating downtown flooding.
To date, the City of Tavares has already won numerous awards and recognitions for this design, all while the project is still under construction. Most recently, Brad Hayes was honored with the 2017 Project of Excellence from the Florida Stormwater Association. He has also been a featured speaker at several conferences around the country. The City of Tavares issues a monthly video to keep citizens and business owners informed of the construction progress.
The City of Tavares is determined to do its part in providing a better Lake Dora, and a better chain of lakes, for future generations.