Just fifty days ago, the lake was clear.
The sudden overgrowth is not a natural occurrence, according to Dr. Ed Carlson, President of the Jungle Terrace Civic Association.
“A cross connection lead to this wastewater discharge,” Carlson said. “We now have clearly bad water quality.”
St. Petersburg’s city report to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection states that due to a misconnected line that was supposed to be hooked to a water treatment plant, nearly 1.7 million gallons of untreated water flowed into Jungle Lake.
The waste polluted and over-fertilized the water, causing a bloom of duckweed that suffocated the surface of the lake and blocked a steady oxygen supply.
No one noticed for almost three months.
According to the city’s public works spokesman Bill Logan, the gushing wastewater spill happened in February, but workers at another plant caught it in on September 27.
“This is a horrible situation and the environmental impact is going on right now,” said Michael Breen, a subcontractor hired by Aquatic Systems Lake and Wetland Management. “We’re done soon, but we’re definitely going to need to come back again.”
According to Breen, his crew was officially hired by the city of St. Petersburg. The city is going through Aquatic Systems Lake and Wetland Management to get the job done.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection threatened a $250,000 fine, then waived it when the city offered a pollution cleanup operation that ensures that the lake will be restored to its previous condition.
Three workers and two machines make up the 1.7-million-gallon-spill cleanup.
For the last three weeks, Breen and his two crew members have spent 10 hours a day, 45 hours a week on the lake.
“We put in extra hours because it’s necessary,” Breen said. “Let Mother Nature grow her plants, we’re just here to harvest.”
Breen and his crew have been hauling loads of green sludge out of the water and piling it on the sides of the lake where the city then comes and collects it for disposal.
For now, the cleanup is over, but the city of St. Petersburg will have to check up on the progress of Jungle Lake to hold up the pollution cleanup operation.
“The people that utilize this park are so thankful,” Breen said. “It feels like the animals, the birds, are thanking us, even the turtles can swim again.”