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Look for 'Climate Change' to Be Referenced in Blue-Green Algae Report

September 28, 2019 - 6:00am
Blue-green algae on the Treasure Coast in 2018
Blue-green algae on the Treasure Coast in 2018

The Blue-Green Algae Task Force appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in January to study ways to prevent or reduce algae blooms spawned by Lake Okeechobee runoff into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers is nearing completion of its first draft of recommendations to lawmakers.

And it’s apparently going to include data referencing “climate change” and “global warming,” words former Gov. Rick Scott forbid from being mentioned in previous state-funded efforts to address blue-green algae and red tide.

“Cyanobacteria over 3.5 billion years have adapted to just about everything,” said Dr. Valerie Paul, of the Florida Institute of Oceanography (FIO) and director of the Smithsonian Marine Station in Fort Pierce. “But warmer winters allow them to persist into our season.”

The task force reviewed its initial draft Wednesday in Naples that include recommendations related to stormwater, septic tanks and toxicology research. The panel of scientists will also call for greater investment in research and treatment of algal blooms, better procedures on the clean-up and storage of algae slurries and more intensive monitoring of wastewater spills on systems.

“These are high-level recommendations to help us move forward,” Florida Chief Science Officer Thomas Frazer said, noting the task force will continue to collect data and offer direction before the Legislature convenes in January.

Although there is extensive data documenting occurrences of blue-green algae, its potential health risks to people and animals is relatively unknown, said Dr. James Sullivan of Florida Atlantic University’s Oceanographic Institute

“The toxicology is well known but how it gets exposed is not,” he said, suggesting Florida could be a trailblazer by pursuing this line of research because it sits on the “front lines” of potential risks caused by toxins released in the air.

Among draft recommendations is to require the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to inspect and approve septic tanks.

About 12 percent of septic tanks installed nationwide over the last decade are in Florida. Faulty septic tanks are among cited causes in high nutrient counts in some state waters.

“We need to protect against excessive pollution, which remains excessive,” said Dr. Evelyn Gaiser, an aquatic ecologist and researcher at Florida International University.

The Blue-Green Algae Task Force is one of two state-commissioned panels studying algae blooms.

The 10-member Red Tide Task Force, created by the Legislature during the 2019 session, is examining factors that spawn red tide, which devastated the Southwest Florida coast for nearly two years, causing billions in estimated economic losses for the region’s tourist industry.

Its $4.8 million budget is in addition to the $18 million lawmakers set aside over the next six years to finance Sarasota’s Mote Marine Laboratory efforts in monitoring and combating red tide.

In early September, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, announced Mote Marine would receive another $1.9 million in a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grant.

“This funding announcement is great news for our community,” Buchanan said. “Mote Marine works tirelessly to counter red tide and improve Florida’s water quality. I will continue my push in Congress to deliver resources to fight the plague of red tide and protect Southwest Florida’s environment.”

In August, the National Science Foundation awarded more than $1.7 million for Mote Marine’s red tide research program and in June, the National Institutes of Health set aside $6.25 million to study red tide and toxic algae.

In 2018, Buchanan helped get $100 million in federal money to fight red tide and toxic algae.

John Haughey is the Florida contributor to The Center Square.


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Oh, you mean that science that Republicans and Nancy Smith have denigrated in the past . . . . . . like Senator Inhofe's boast "that man-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people" . . . . . Republicans have a long ways to come on climate change before they can be accepted back into the mainstream . . . . . Republican denial of climate change has been like their delusional support for Donald Trump despite all facts to the contrary . . . . . . . PATHETIC . . . .

Senator Inhofe was wrong! Obozo was the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.

Spoken like a true believer in the modern Know-Nothing party headed by Donald Trump . . . . . . what, couldn't you find Obama's birth certificate in Kenya . . . . . . . . anonymous deniers afraid to show their face, their honor or their name . . . . . . PATHETIC

It's happening. The only issue is whether the politicos in charge are willing to take the scientifically-suggested steps to ameliorate it or not!

you cannot embrace truth without acknowledging the obvious.

While septic tanks are part of the problem, developers and big Ag is more so...…………... The septic tank problem can be solved cheaply, far cheaper than a sewage system and it's forever costs, by using alternative toilet tech from drying, composting, etc. ……...……...... There are many to chose from …………….On the others just make up pollution teams to go up waterways to find where the pollution is coming from and fine or shut them down...…......……......There is no need for big government doing it all, just tell big ag to stop sending polluted water out and let them clean up their own mess at their expense, not taxpayers...……...With a program like they did replacing toilets to low flow ones, the same can be done with new toilet tech...……Dredging, harvesting cattails, fish, etc can take nutrients out and used to make ethanol, animal feed, school lunch, food pantries, etc with the fish ...….....And all done at minimum state costs we could have clean springs, river in 15 yrs with most of the money coming from fines by those causing the problem...…….A fiscally and morally smart actually conservative way, No?

If sewage is transported and processed properly, it can be a resource instead of a problem.

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