Diving Deep: Examining Threats To The St. Johns River

In a five-part series, Reporter Peter Haden takes a close look at issues threatening the health and viability of Florida's St. Johns River: nutrient pollution, sedimentation, bacterial contamination and the deepening of the river's port.

Peter Haden / WJCT

There are a lot of folks working the docks at the Port of Jacksonville. And Vince Cameron knows them all. He wears a hard hat and a whistle around his neck. He’s the President of the local Longshoreman’s union.

"My dad was a longshoreman for 44 years on these docks before he retired," said Cameron. "Yeah, I’m a child of this port."

He stood looking at a weathered Horizon Lines freighter that just pulled into the Blount Island Terminal from Puerto Rico.

Peter Haden / WJCT

At 310 miles long, the St. Johns is the longest river in Florida. It’s flat and slow - flowing at less than half-a-mile per hour - but not lazy. The St. Johns is the state’s most important river for commerce and recreation. Its significance runs deep, but for some, a stretch of the river needs to run deeper.

Peter Haden / WJCT

Catherine Dillingham's septic tank is pooped out.

"It's old... I just had [it] pumped about two months ago. It was full."

But a full septic tank is not what qualified Dillingham’s home for a new sewer hookup - courtesy of the City of Jacksonville and JEA. It was a more natural and free-flowing feature.

Peter Haden / WJCT

A watershed works like a funnel draining rainwater from an area into a big river - a main stem.

Water gets to the main stem through a system of creeks and streams - tributaries.

When those tributaries get clogged up - as some are in Northeast Florida - things don’t work like they should.

Peter Haden

In the first of six stories on issues facing the St. Johns River, WJCT’s Peter Haden reports on the essentials of nutrients.