Sustainable Living: Tampa Bay water quality

Anni Ellis/WMNF

About our guests

Justin Tramble holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of South Florida and a Bachelor of Political Science from Kennesaw State University. He is a USCG licensed captain, avid angler and advocate of fisheries and habitat conservation. As Executive Director of Tampa Bay Water keepers, Justin works to improve, protect, and preserve Tampa Bay’s watershed through citizen engagement and collaborative community action rooted in science-based solutions.

​Maya Burke is the Assistant Director of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program. She is responsible for strategic planning, grants management, and implementation reporting for the benefit of a healthy bay. Maya has spent more than 15 years working in water resource management and environmental land use planning. She is a graduate of New College of Florida and a native Floridian.

Let’s talk about our Tampa Waters

The reason Justine and Maya were invited at this time is the Clean Water Act is 50 years old. That was amended October 18, 1972, from the Federal Water Pollution Control Act.

The FWPC Act of 1948 was the first major U.S. law to address water pollution. It was a suggestion for per state controls…. this proved minimum.

June 22, 1969, an oil slick caught fire on the Cuyahoga River just southeast of downtown Cleveland, Ohio. The image was described as “the river was on fire”.

This was the big moment that started the amendment to the pollution program. It created more rigid laws to help protect our waterways.

In the 1970’s, Tampa Bay waters were declared dead. With a lot of work from grassroots beginnings it’s now considered a success story.

However, with our massive population increase, it needs a closer look to examine the potential loss.     

How you can help 

To help, skip the fertilizer; Maintain privately-owned sewer pipes and get rid of lawns that contribute negatives which includes pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, fertilizers and SO MUCH WATER.

Using more efficient vehicles like hybrid or Electric cars, bikes, etc. reduces noxious emissions which influence water quality. These small things, adds up!

In the past, we discharged wastewater directly into the bay. Now wastewater treatment plants are vastly improved. Power plants as well need increased scrubbers etc. to improve our air quality. We need to keep our landscape intact and replanted, since the trees clean the environment up FOR US. People like living here because of the beautiful beaches and clean water so it benefits developers to keep it balanced.

Algae Blooms

In Tampa Bay, nitrogen is the main pollutant. It is part of our bodies, and atmosphere, but too much drives algae bloom. Old Tampa Bay gets a lot of green and blue algae bloom. The Species called Pyrodinium bahamense is bio luminescent. Kayakers like the “magic” of the look. BUT this summertime algae bloom is creating light blocking that’s killing the sea grass, which affects everything.

In that area, the closure plan was approved by the state for piney point gypsum stack. That plan is to drill a deep water well system and move the treated wastewater into it. My fear is our drinking water is below ground too. Due to our human condition, it causes a big footprint that we must continue to deal with. However, any environmental decision making is difficult.

As a concerned people, we need to stay alert to water wasters (off time irrigation) and report polluters to get it on the forefront of our issues. This isn’t a left or right issue; politics don’t matter when it comes to water. TBWK is working with local governments to improve how homeowners can do better. Remember, they do litigate when it’s needed for bigger issues.  We need to get our outdated systems updated!

It seems like people aren’t getting properly noticed about risk levels in the bay. It’s very difficult for the average person to find out about these issues since we get very little media coverage. So, keep pushing to encourage more press coverage.

Water Quality Testing 

Tampa bay water keepers do a biweekly anero water quality testing in recreational areas. They test in areas not taking place by southwest water management.

80% of the sites they tested were higher than safe enough to swim in.  During this time of year, the fertilizer and water run off contribute to that read.

The Tampa Bay Water keepers have started a junior ambassador program called “Youth for Tampa Bay” modeled from Miami. The goal is to grow young people to lead the future.


Tampa Bay Water Keepers website

Tampa Bay Estuary Program


To check water quality and provide current information:

Follow our Facebook page Sustainable Living WMNF to stay in the loop and together WE CAN make a difference!

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