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Benthic Monitoring
Overview
In the late 1960’s EPC began monitoring the environment initially by sampling the atmosphere and surface waters for pollutants. After many years of sampling scientist began to realize that much of what falls out of the air and surface waters ends up accumulating in the sediments of our bays and rivers.

These normally unseen sediments (Benthic environment) are ecologically active and very important parts of our overall ecosystem. Sediment, just like air and water, can become polluted and is often a much better indicator of the health of our environment.

Benthic Monitoring Program

In 1993, EPC began a Benthic Monitoring Program modeled after a much larger USEPA program called the Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP). The program called for once a year sampling at randomly selective points under worst-case conditions (mid-August to October).

The program has amassed a huge amount of data for the estuarine waters of Tampa Bay including segments of Manatee and Pinellas counties through year 2000.

The species of invertebrate living in these sediments are collected, sorted, identified, and counted. The sediment grain size is determined and the chemistry (metals, hydrocarbons, PCB's and pesticides) of the sediment is determined. Water quality data is also collected for dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity, salinity, and temperature.

Program Goals
The overall objective of the program is to provide data to estimate the areal extent of specific Benthic community conditions within and among seven Tampa Bay segments. A recently added objective is to monitor conditions is areas potentially affected by proposed increased freshwater production or diversions for potable use.

Beginning in 1999 sampling was expanded in selective tributaries including additional sampling in McKay Bay and Apollo Beach (TECO Big Bend) areas. This enhanced Benthic monitoring was undertaken at the request of the BOCC in order to provide additional protection for portions of Tampa Bay, which are being exploited for the production of drinking water.

For further information on this program, please call EPC's Benthic Section at (813) 627-2600 ext. 1200 or send us an email.