Tuesday, November 15, 2016


"The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars [or the moon], but in ourselves." -- Wm. Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

Committing possible criminal violations of the Clean Water Act and remaining silent.  Sick.

County should drop its effort to grab the former Mosquito Control property.

That's because St. Johns County Administrator MICHAEL DAVID WANCHICK is an unjust steward of our environment.

WANCHICK proved that by his using Butler Park as a debris staging area for enough solid waste to fill in three Olympic sized swimming pools to a depth of eleven feet, allegedly without ever asking the County's environmental staff. It's time for WANCHICK to go. 

Did willful WANCHICK endangered water quality in our pristine Matanzas River?

We're waiting to see what EPA does on criminal investigation.

Weasel WANCHICK is apparently relying on his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, refusing to talk to the Record or return my telephone message.

Weasel WANCHICK has not returned any telephone message from me since he was hired in 2007.  As Wm. F. Buckley, Jr. once said, "Why does baloney reject the grinder?"

Posted November 15, 2016 03:12 am - Updated November 15, 2016 03:29 am
By EMELIA HITCHNER emelia.hitchner@staugustine.com
Tide causes super headache

The Matanzas River and Intracoastal Waterway got a literal taste of Hurricane Matthew earlier this week after an unusually high lunar tide flooded a temporary debris station at Frank Butler boat ramp.

Some Crescent Beach residents expressed frustration at St. Johns County officials, saying the post-storm trash should have been moved before household contaminants could leach into the water.

“The residents in the area have been trying to get movement on the issue,” said Adam Morley, a captain and environmental educator for St. Augustine Eco Tours. “We saw this coming. Yesterday morning our concerns came true.”

Morley said the community has grappled for the county’s attention for more than a week, worried the buffer zone between trash and water would disappear under full moon tides.

“There was not a whole lot of moving or responsiveness to the neighbors who had been calling,” he said.

So early Monday morning, Morley took matters into his own hands and posted a video on his Facebook page of the tide surge overwhelming the debris pile. A few hours later, massive trucks were loading the trash into their beds and clearing the site.

Attempts to contact county officials regarding the debris pile were not successful.

However, Commissioner Bill McClure did respond via text.

“This is an active transfer station to speed up the debris removal process,” he wrote. “Instead of each truck driving to [Georgia] to dump in the landfill.

“However, I don’t think anyone knew about the supermoon and super tides, so the guys worked from 2 p.m. yesterday [Sunday] all night long to finish the removal before tonight’s super tide at 8 p.m.”

Morley said although he’s glad the county acted, he’s not glad it took an extreme situation to initiate response.

“We unfortunately had to have a high tide breach the area and get into that pile and contaminate the soil and water in order for action to take place,” he said.

The boat ramp is one of several sites used by the county as a staging area for debris collection in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.

Neil Armingeon, the Matanzas Riverkeeper, said he’s not sure how long the debris would have collected before being transferred, but he is certain of one thing: The tides have been a problem.

“Who knows what was in that pile?” he said. “But I think we’re going to continue to see these extremely high tides.”

The swollen river has flooded many of the surrounding areas, he said, adding that the tide this week was even more extreme than the high tide during Hurricane Matthew.

“These tides were almost as high, maybe even higher, than when Hurricane Matthew came. Not the storm surge, but the pre-storm high tide,” Armingeon said. “I think yesterday may have even been a bit higher.”

But he said he’s sympathetic toward the county, understanding the past several weeks have been anything but easy. The changing environment has wreaked as much havoc on nerves as it has on the river.

“One of the biggest threats to the river is climate change. We’re going to see higher tides. We’re going to see greater salinities,” Armingeon said. “I think in the case of the dump, the county didn’t really think ‘Oh, we’re going to have extremely high tides.’ ”

Todd Ehret, an oceanographer for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, said high tides have been surpassing predictions by several inches to a foot.

He clarified that high waters have had little to do with the recent supermoon, contrary to some belief.

“Water levels have been above predictions,” Ehret said. “The catch is that those water levels have been above prediction for the past several weeks. That’s not related to the supermoon. That’s related to some other oceanographic effect.”

November’s supermoon was the second of three supermoon events to happen this year, according to NASA. Monday’s supermoon was the closest full moon to Earth since 1948 and NASA states the event won’t occur again until 2034.

In terms of water levels, Ehret said the moon isn’t the culprit in this case. The cause is still a mystery, but he speculates a change in the Gulf Stream’s position or speed or a long-lasting weather system could be to blame.

“There is definitely something going on that’s creating water levels above prediction,” he said. “But exactly what that is, I don’t know.”

Armingeon said the flooded debris site is a small piece of the big picture. He said he doesn’t believe the river sustained too much damage, but high tide flooding and environmental concerns could be here to stay.

“I think all of us are going to have to realize things are changing,” he said.
Follow replies to my comments


Nigel Owens
The county should set up hazardous waste pickup locations ASAP, there are thousands of paint and other dangerous chemical can already starting to rust. Not mention the coming wave of empty or half empty paint cans coming from reconstruction.

Don't wait till it's leaching into the ground water!!!!!!!!!!

Kate Mullet
Too bad we can't say "climate change' and "global warming" under RIck Scott. County needs to assume higher waters and make emergency contingency plans with that basic reality in the forefront....

Thank you, Adam Morley -- and also to the county for ultimately stepping up and acknowledging the problem. We know these are extreme times, but extreme times are also the new normal.


Warren Celli said...

Neil Armingeon, the Matanzas Riverkeeper, said, “Who knows what was in that pile?”

They should have planned what would be in the piles. Disaster planning is part of an intelligent Riverkeeper's job.

This situation clearly demonstrates that all of the polls self congratulatory baloneyspeak nonsense about how well prepared we were and how well managed the clean up was for hurricane Mathew is just that — baloneyspeak.

It also highlights that there is a significant need to rethink and prioritize clean up of hurricane disaster damage. More emphasis is needed on separating the significantly smaller amount (by volume) of hazardous chemical waste from regular damage waste with two pick ups planned. A smaller faster, more agile pick up of the hazardous waste should be a priority as should having high ground storm proof pre-designated containers or mobile containers at the ready.

More information and cautions about how to deal with damaged and leaky chemical containers and separate them from other waste is also needed, emphasizing that they will get priority and separate pick up. Leak proof hazardous waste container bags should be made immediately available, along with instructions for use. Disseminating and emphasizing those clean up instructions should be an integral part of ALL hurricane preparedness info and drills.

We are spending 20% more this year than last year on the nights of lights to promote our greedy downtown hijacked Saint George Street merchants and many residents still have front lawns choked with debris. I would guess that many of those piles contain damaged and leaky chemical containers.

Anonymous said...

Presumably the river was contaminated when it flowed through the houses causing damage in the first place. Admittedly the trash pile wasn't perhaps the brightest idea, but in all honesty how many of our officials have any experience dealing with such devastation. Yes lessons can be learned but what is the advantage of belaboring the point.

Ed Slavin said...

Emergency planning is required by federal and state laws. Our County Administrator's culpable negligence and lack of whistleblower protection, Inspector General or Ombuds are the root cause -- the Supermoon was foreseeable. It's time for MICHAEL DAVID WANCHICK to go. Let's not renew his contract when it expires. We need a national search for a new County Administrator, one who is not an embarrassment.