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The Point, Aug. 15, 2022: 'Watershed' project explores the extent of Florida's sewage spill problem

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Watershed: Spillover

Today WUFT News continues its series  WATERSHED, an investigation into statewide water quality marking the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act and Florida Water Resources Act of 1972. Funded by a grant from the Pulitzer Center’s nationwide  Connected Coastlines reporting initiative, UF journalism fellows reported on the state's waters half a century after those sweeping laws. What progress can the state celebrate, and what waters are still ailing, or worsening amid climate change, pollution and outdated infrastructure? What bold actions are possible now?

For today's special series of data stories, SPILLOVER, recent UF graduate Alexandra Harris analyzed two decades of sewage spill records from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The spills, which are strongly correlated with Florida rainfall records, have sent hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage into Florida’s waters and communities.

The stories near you

• WUFT News: ‘Justice for Terrell Bradley’ mural painted over with swastika and ‘God Bless Derek Chauvin.’ "A mural on the Southwest 34th Street wall for Terrell Bradley, who lost his eye to a Gainesville police K9 following a traffic stop, has become a battleground between calls for justice and symbols of white supremacy."

• WUFT News: Alachua County School Board elections: Tina Certain works to fend off District 1 challenge from Daniel Fisher. "The race for the District 1 seat in Alachua County Public Schools features one of two races in which an incumbent is trying to hold onto their seat. Tina Certain is seeking a second term in the race against challenger Daniel Fisher. She and board member Mildred Russell are each seeking to retain their positions in an election cycle that could see voters electing as many as four new members to the county’s five school district seats."

• Florida Politics: The ultimate campus move-in challenge: Rehoming the University of Florida’s iconic bat colony. "Now, with the oldest and most densely occupied bat house dilapidated beyond repair, UF staff will attempt to woo its residents into the newest bat barn, which has remained devoid of bats since its construction in 2017. Staff could begin limiting bats’ access to the old house as early as mid-August, which is when this year’s bat pups will be old enough to begin flying. Then, they will dismantle and eventually reconstruct the old house."

• Ocala Gazette: Ocala officials envision golf carts tooling around downtown. "In Ocala, a pair of downtown meeting sessions will address just where drivers can venture out on city streets."

• WUFT News: WUFT wins two national student Murrow Awards. "WUFT News on Thursday was honored with  two national awards from the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) for work produced in 2021. Reporter Victor Prieto’s story —  Run, Regas, Run — earned student honors for Excellence in Video Feature Reporting. The multimedia piece documented Ocala Paralympian Regan Woods’ journey to the Tokyo Paralympic Games. A team project —  Rising From the Rubble — earned the student award for Excellence in Video Feature Reporting."

Today's sponsored message

We focus our legal attention on these practice areas: • Family Law • Business Law • Estate Planning • Probate • Guardianship

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Around the state

• NPR News/WMFE: Meet the teenager who helped push Florida toward cleaner energy. "For most of his 15 years, Levi Draheim led a beachy life on a barrier island on Florida's east coast, swimming, surfing and sailing in the nearshore waves. He dreamed of someday becoming a marine biologist. But Levi's world is changing."

• WUSF-Tampa: What has changed with early voting and mail-in ballots in Florida? We clear up the confusion. "There are several new laws that go into effect this election. One prohibits people who would help others drop off vote-by-mail ballots from having more than two vote-by-mail ballots other than their own, unless they belong to immediate family members. Elections offices would have to monitor ballot drop boxes. And they will only be available at the same time as early voting hours, meaning voters can’t use drop boxes after hours. And anyone requesting a vote by mail ballot would have to have a driver's license number, state ID or the last four digits of a Social Security number."

• Politico: Florida judge who approved FBI search of Mar-a-Lago faces barrage of antisemitic online attacks. "Magistrate judge Bruce Reinhart, a board member at Temple Beth David in Palm Beach Gardens, has seen sustained antisemitic attacks on right wing message boards and other social media platforms like 4Chan since his name surfaced as the judge who signed off on the FBI’s warrant to search Mar-a-Lago."

• WLRN-Miami: An arrest at a Miami-Dade school board meeting raises civil liberties concerns. "One person was arrested at the July 20 meeting — but it wasn’t any of the women who caused the disruptions. It was a left-wing activist named Caleb Freestone, who a bystander said had been sitting quietly. Now he and local advocates are questioning whether his arrest was politically motivated."

• News Service of Florida: Florida's tax collections topped expectations for the fiscal year that ended in June. "With inflation pushing up prices of taxable items, Florida’s general revenue substantially topped expectations in June and in the recently completed state fiscal year."

• News4Jax: Florida leads the nation in overdose deaths related to new synthetic drug, CDC data shows. "Florida is leading the nation in overdose deaths with a new synthetic drug called eutylone. Eutylone is a synthetic psychoactive bath salt. Just last year it was listed as the seventh most identified drug detected in over 8,000 cases."

• Associated Press: Some Capitol rioters try to profit from their Jan. 6 crimes. "Robert Palmer, a Florida man who attacked police officers at the Capitol, asked a friend to create a crowdfunding campaign for him online after he pleaded guilty. After seeing the campaign to 'Help Patriot Rob,' a probation officer calculating a sentencing recommendation for Palmer didn’t give him credit for accepting responsibility for his conduct. Palmer conceded that a post for the campaign falsely portrayed his conduct on Jan. 6. Acceptance of responsibility can help shave months or even years off a sentence."

• Florida Storms: Why the risk for flash flooding increases after a drought. "A good rainstorm can be welcome in dry or drought conditions. But when the ground is parched, rainwater can fail to saturate the ground, resulting in the risk for a flash flood. ... Currently, the Space Coast and Treasure Coast are experiencing abnormally dry conditions."

• Florida Today ($): St. Johns River three feet below normal as residents fear worse is yet to come. "Less volume and flow into the river that feeds half of Brevard's water supply increases the risk of toxic algae taking hold. The algae makes it hard to treat the water and can fuel fish kills."

• Associated Press: Florida Lawmaker, school district at odds on alleged transgender bathroom attack. "Police in Florida say they will investigate a lawmaker’s allegation that a transgender student may have sexually assaulted a female student in a middle school bathroom over the summer — a rumored attack that school district officials say never occurred and that investigators say they received no reports about."

From NPR News

• Health: Coronavirus FAQ: I'm confused by the new testing advice! Do it once, twice ... thrice?

• World: What daily life in Afghanistan looks like, 1 year after the Taliban takeover

• Politics: The reason why presidents can't keep their White House records dates back to Nixon

• Business: Why Biden's plan to boost semiconductor chip manufacturing in the U.S. is so critical

• Climate: A cataclysmic flood is coming for California. Climate change makes it more likely.

• National: Salman Rushdie remains in critical condition, his son says

• National: The IRS just got $80 billion to beef up. A big goal? Going after rich tax dodgers

• National: For the first time, the Postal Service features mariachi musicians on stamps

About today's curator

I'm Ethan Magoc, a news editor at WUFT. Originally from Pennsylvania, I've found a home telling Florida stories. I’m part of a team searching each morning for local and state stories that are important to you; please send feedback about today's edition or ideas for stories we may have missed to emagoc@wuft.org.

Contact WUFT News by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news @wuft.org