MELBOURNE - Baffle boxes are one way that the City of Melbourne is trying to minimize the amount of pollutants that enters the Indian River Lagoon.

“Baffle boxes are underground structures made up of chambers that trap debris, trash, and other pollutants from storm water that flows off of streets and into storm drains after heavy rains. ‘Nutrient-separating’ baffle boxes have an added feature that also removes nitrogen and phosphorus—the two most harmful pollutants going into the Indian River Lagoon,” wrote Dani Straub, City of Melbourne Engineering Project Manager, in an email.

“The baffle boxes are removing between 60-75% of nitrogen and phosphorus out of the water column, depending on the site location.”

According to a memorandum from Ms. Straub to City Manager Shannon Lewis dated December 22, 2020, The Indian River Lagoon Basin Management Action plan calls for the removal of 90,000 pounds of total nitrogen per year and 27,000 pounds of total phosphorus per year.

There are eight baffle boxes at different locations throughout the city. Three baffle boxes have been retrofitted and six more are under construction.

A baffle box at the intersection of Cherry Street and Hickory Street was unanimously approved by the City Council at the January 12, 2021 meeting.

“This baffle box has the potential to remove 980 pounds of total nitrogen and 186 pounds of total phosphorus,” said City of Melbourne City Engineer, David Wilkison at the January 12th Melbourne City Council meeting.

Construction is expected to begin at the Cherry Street location in early 2022, according to Ms. Straub.

The Save Our Indian River Lagoon Citizen’s Oversight Committee provided the City of Melbourne funding in the amount of $91,120 toward the design, permitting, and construction of the project. The Save Our Indian River Lagoon ½ cent sales tax helped provide the funding, wrote Brandon Smith, Environmental Service, Save Our Indian Lagoon Program, in an email.

Bussen-Mayer Engineering Group, Inc. of Merritt Island will perform professional engineering services for the project in the amount of $76,250 from the City’s Capital Approval Project Budget.

“The rest of the construction costs will come out of the city’s storm water utility fund. We do not have a final cost yet because the project hasn’t been designed,” wrote Ms. Straub.

“I’m really glad we’re continuing with these baffle box projects,” said District 4 Council Member Debbie Thomas at the January 12th City Council meeting. “I think this is extremely important and we’re doing our due diligence here in the city of Melbourne to make sure that we’re getting all these bad chemicals before they go into the river.”

“I think our city is definitely aggressive on getting these baffle boxes put in and working to clean up our lagoon,” said Mayor Paul Alfrey at the meeting.

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