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2019 Environmental Stewardship Achievement Award

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Thank you so much to those of you who came to the Southwest District’s 2019 Open House. This event is very special to us every year, because it is our opportunity to spend some quality time with the clients, colleagues and constituents that we work with every day. This year’s Open House is also special in different way because this is the Southwest District’s inaugural year presenting the Environmental Stewardship Achievement Award to recognize those who are working alongside DEP to Protect Florida Together.

The program is intended to recognize businesses, professional and community organizations, and local governments within DEP's Southwest District for exceptional achievements to prevent or reduce impacts on the environment. To be considered for recognition, participants must have demonstrated proactive, innovative and measurable achievements that exceed regulatory requirements and provide a direct benefit to our environment.

The Department received a wide variety of nominations from across the Southwest District covering several disciplines.

I am pleased to announce that the chosen nominee for the 2019 Environmental Stewardship Achievement Award is the Marine Science Station.

The Marine Science Station (MSS) is part of the Citrus County School District and was established in 1967. The mission of the Marine Science Station is to increase student environmental awareness and stewardship through hands-on field and laboratory interactions. The campus is located within a 15-acre coastal hammock and salt marsh habitat alongside the Salt River just off the boundary of St. Martins Marsh Aquatic Preserve and adjoining the Outstanding Florida Waters of Crystal River and Kings Bay.  

The Marine Science Station previously maintained a permitted septic tank onsite which was upgraded in 2007. Due to the proximity to ground and surface waters and in consideration of the availability of Citrus County's central sewer system, the Marine Science Station began efforts to connect to the County's central system in 2016. Understanding that the available central system would provide a greater level of treatment and reduce the impacts to the nearby surface and groundwater systems, the Marine Science Station took proactive steps - ahead of requirements or the Crystal River/King's Bay Basin Management Action Plan BMAP - to ensure that the wastewater effluent discharge impacts from the campus were eliminated.

The Marine Science Station and Citrus County School Board were able to successfully partner with engineering firm, CPH, Inc. in Orlando, Florida where a former Marine Science Station attendee, Mason Gardberg, P.E., managed the project pro bono. With the pro bono engineering and design process along with donated materials for construction, the Marine Science Station also partnered with the Citrus County Water Resources Department to complete this project, reducing environmental impacts from the discharge of wastewater effluent in close proximity to groundwater and surface water systems. The Marine Science Station connected to the Citrus County central sewer in the Fall of 2018 and the onsite system was abandoned.

In addition to their regular programs, the Marine Science Station campus maintains rigorous water conservation measures and also regularly partners with entities to promote environmental stewardship in the community.

The Marine Science Station represents an organization which shows a deep commitment to Environmental Stewardship. Their septic-to-sewer conversion project was wholly for benefit of our environment, an excellent example of a public/private partnership and highlights the types of actions needed to move water quality improvements forward in Florida.

Thank you to the Citrus County Department of Water Resources for nominating the MSS and for their role in the project. Ms. Devon Villareal-Dabbs, the Utilities Compliance Manager and Mr. Ernie Olsen who is the Marine Science Station Supervisor, represented the county and MSS at the Southwest District's 2019 Open House and accepted the award.

Last Modified:
March 27, 2019 - 9:10am

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