JACKSONVILLE, FLA. — On March 1, the Coastal America Partnership presented its prestigious Coastal Spirit Award to the Tributary Assessment Team (TAT) in Jacksonville, Fla.

The team, which consists of members from the City of Jacksonville, JEA, Duval County Department of Health, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), and Florida Department of Transportation, was created to investigate and identify ways to reduce elevated levels of fecal coliforms in the Lower St. Johns River tributaries and improve overall water quality in this important water body.

The tight collaboration and cooperation among these local and state agencies, managed and facilitated by the project contractor, PBS&J, was critical to the success of the project and resulted in increased cost effectiveness and public awareness. EPA Region 4 Chief Chris Thomas (Pollution Control and Implementation Branch Water Protection Division) and Northeast District Director Greg Strong (FDEP) represented the Coastal America Partnership in presenting the award.

FDEP has verified that 75 tributaries of the Lower St. Johns River have elevated levels of fecal coliform bacteria, exceeding state water quality standards. PBS&J’s project manager, Cheryl Wapnick, led the process development and implementation initiative providing innovative solutions to the identification of sources of fecal coliforms and the development of suggested management actions.

Many of the identified management actions are highly targeted to specifically address the most probable sources and are associated with previously established programs within agencies. This is particularly important because it allows organizations to directly address specific sources while benefitting from the use of existing financial and staff resources resulting in large long-term cost savings to the community.

This project resulted in the identification of numerous sources within ten basins. Corrective actions to eliminate these sources have been implemented. Multiple private lift stations with repetitive failures were identified and the necessary repairs enforced. Causes of observed sanitary sewer overflows have been rectified and preventative measures executed. Potential illicit connections and failing septic systems have also been identified, and ongoing investigations are confirming and eliminating those sources. These solutions prevent bacteria and other pollutants from entering the Lower St. Johns River.

Coastal America is a unique partnership of federal agencies, state and local governments, and private organizations. The Coastal America Awards Program annually recognizes efforts to protect, preserve, and restore the nation’s coastal resources and ecosystems through collaborative action and partnership. The Spirit Awards recognize outstanding partnership efforts that demonstrate the "spirit" of Coastal America.

For more information about Coastal America or PBS&J, please visit www.coastalamerica.gov, or www.pbsj.com, respectively.