District Projects Reduce Pollution Entering Two Polk Lakes

Lake restoration projectsTop: The finished baffle boxes at Lake Eva. Above: The Lake Menzie outfall before and after the restoration project.

Stormwater runoff from urban areas flowing into Lake Eva in Haines City and Lake Menzie in Dundee is 60 to 80 percent less polluted thanks to projects cooperatively funded by the District.

The two Polk County lakes were suffering from polluted runoff that flowed unchecked from urban areas. Since the local governments didn’t have the resources to fix the problems, the District stepped in to help.

“The District’s projects were the first stormwater treatment systems to be implemented for these lakes,” said Keith Kolasa, a senior environmental scientist with the Resource Projects Department. “And these were high-priority projects for the Peace River Basin Board.”

Haines City officials asked the District for help with Lake Eva through the District’s Cooperative Funding Initiative. Polluted runoff flowed into the lake from an open ditch. The city was building a community center nearby, and the eroding ditch was a safety hazard.

Workers built a treatment system that was mostly underground, which solved the safety hazard and treated the polluted runoff at the same time. They added native wetland plants, changing an unsightly mess into an inviting shoreline. The District picked up half of the $378,000 tab, and the city paid for the rest.

The small lake in the town of Dundee was suffering from polluted runoff too, and town officials knew something had to be done.

“The town wanted it, we wanted it, and we found a partner who wanted to share the cost,” said Kolasa. “This project was a no-brainer.”

The town of Dundee wasn’t able to contribute any funding, but town officials donated the land and agreed to take on maintenance once the project was complete. The District, with a matching grant from the state, paid for half of the project’s $209,000 cost, while the Florida Department of Transportation funded the other half.

“These projects gave the District a lot of bang for the buck,” said Kolasa. “We were able to reduce polluted runoff flowing into these lakes and help these towns improve park areas for their residents.”