Frequently Asked Questions

Image of a boat landing

What are Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL)s?

A TMDL is a regulatory term in the U.S.Clean Water Act describing a plan for restoring impaired waters that identifies that maximum amount of a pollutant that a body of water can receive while still meeting water quality standards. Waterbodies that do not meet water quality standards are identified as "impaired" for the pollutants of concern - nutrients, bacteria, mercury, etc.

What are Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPS)?

BMAPS function as the "blueprints" for restoring impaired waters by reducing pollutant loadings to meet the allowable limits established in a TMDL. It represents a comprehensive set of strategies - permit limits on wastewater facilities, urban and agricultural best management practices, conservation programs, financial assistance and revenue generating activities, etc. - designed to implement the pollutant reductions established by the TMDL. These broad-based plans are developed with local stakeholders - they rely on local input and local commitment - and they are adopted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) Secretarial Order for enforcement.

What is a Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit?

Leon County’s MS4 permit requires the sampling of lakes, streams, and sediment to document any impact from stormwater runoff on the natural waterbodies found in the County. It also requires the inspection and maintenance of stormwater management facilities throughout the County, and the permit has a required annual reporting element. Likewise, the MS4 requires ongoing surveillance to detect and eliminate illicit discharges and the improper disposal of hazardous materials into our stormwater systems.

What is the Upper Wakulla River Basin Management Action Plan Focus Area?

The Upper Wakulla River Basin Management Action Plan Focus Area addresses the land area within the state of Florida which contributes to the aquifer discharging at Wakulla Springs. This includes areas of Gadsden, Leon, Jefferson and Wakulla counties.

What is the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)?

The NPDES program established under the Clean Water Act regulates both point source and non-point source discharges to reduce pollutants entering the surface waters. The NPDES Permit program applies to industrial, construction and municipal stormwater discharges into surface waters. 

What is the difference between point source and non-point source runoff?

Point source runoff is an identifiable and confined discharge point for one or more water pollutants, such as a pipe, channel, vessel or ditch. 

Non-point source runoff is water that does not have a single point of origin that flows over the surface of the ground via stormwater and is introduced to surface water or groundwater. 

What are polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)?

PCBs were used as coolants and insulating fluids in transformers and capacitors, and were banned in the 1970s due to their high toxicity. They are very persistent in the environment and bioaccumulate in animals. 

What are On-Site Treatment and Disposal Systems (OTDS)? 

OTDS refer to septic tanks. This term applies to septic tanks and drainfields or drip irrigation systems which dispose of wastewater after treatment.

I live in Leon County but I have a private well. Is my water being tested for safety?

If you live on private well water you are required to do your own testing to ensure water quality safety. You should test your private well annually for total coliform bacteria, nitrates, total dissolved solids and pH levels. If you suspect the presence of other contaminants, you should test for those also using guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency. You can also contact the Florida Department of Health to find out what substances may be common in your area's groundwater.

Is it okay to fish here and can I eat the fish?

Fishing restrictions are generally posted at boat ramps or other points of waterbody access and can include size and bag limits for fish caught as well as known contaminants that pose a threat to human health. Additional information can be found at Florida Department of Health (FDOH) and Florida Fish and Wildlife (FWC).

Why are there so many plants growing in the lake? Aren’t plants in the lake bad?

Aquatic plant growth is a natural process and many of the lakes in our region naturally have abundant aquatic plant populations. In addition, increased aquatic plant growth can be associated with increased levels of nutrients entering the lake through stormwater, septic tanks as well as other human sources. Aquatic plant growth is good because plants can remove nutrients from the water, provide sediment stability and habitat for a wide variety of life. In addition, aquatic plant growth can reduce or prevent large-scale algal blooms.

This waterbody used to look different many years ago, what happened to change it?

There can be many reasons for changes in waterbodies over time. Land development and habitat loss, increasing human populations, droughts and floods, sediment accumulation and stormwater runoff are some of the many impacts to water quality.

What do you look at when monitoring water quality?

Water quality monitoring includes looking at the physical, chemical and biological conditions of a waterbody. We look at the water itself as well as the plants, sediment, animals including fish and any other part of the aquatic environment. We look for indicators of a healthy or unhealthy aquatic environment and identify ways to maintain or improve water quality. During analysis of water quality samples, we take into consideration parameters including presence of nutrients, metals, bacteria, algae, stormwater runoff, total carbon, solids and more. 

Riparian Zone: a riparian zone or riparian area is the interface between land and a river or stream. Plants that grow along the margins and banks of rivers and streams are riparian vegetation.

Stream Substrate: this is the material (sediment) that rests at the bottom of a stream. 

How do I report any illegal activities such as illegal dumping in a stormwater system?

Please report any illegal activities to local authorities. Illegal activities taking place in the City of Tallahassee should be reported to (850) 891-4968. Illegal activities taking place in the unincorporated areas of Leon County should call (850) 606-1500.

Are alligators dangerous? Is it safe to be on the water near an alligator?

Alligators are an important part of Florida’s wetland-based ecology and are both native and protected by State and Federal Laws. When left alone, generally alligators do not pose a threat and prefer to be left alone. However, it is recommended to only swim in designated areas, to keep small pets out of the water and to never feed alligators or provoke them. The best advice is to simply leave alligators alone. If you need to report a nuisance alligator, please contact the FWC Nuisance Alligator Hotline for further assistance.


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