Florida’s Toxic Algae Problem Can Now Be Seen From Space

Posted in: US Water News
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Article courtesy of Brendan Byrne | July 13th, 2016 | Value Walk | Shared as educational material.

Photo Credit: Value Walk

Seen from space, cyanobacteria, better known as blue-green algae, covers a large expanse of Florida’s Lake Okeechobee. The bacteria has been affecting tourism and commerce in the area. For now, the United States Army Corps of Engineers are just hoping to contain the algae bloom and keep it from flowing downstream into the Atlantic. The main reason for the increase of cyanobacteria is the presence of human activities that have introduced high degrees of phosphorous into the water source.

Why do we have this problem today? Simply said, it’s mainly the fault of humans. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s there were a myriad of businesses who, with the combined effort of Florida’s government, attempted to drain the Everglades in order to develop land in the area. To accomplish this goal, water that usually flowed south from Lake Okeechobee through the Everglades to Florida Bay was rerouted westwards into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers, eventually entering the sea.

Halfway through June, the State of Florida began water testing in several areas around Lake Okeechobee: Fort Pierce Inlet Beach, Blind Creek Park North, Jensen Beach, Bathtub Beach portions of St. Lucie River and several more. As the results came in, it was apparent that some of the samples had exceeded concentrations established as “safe” by the World Health Organization. The test results, though, show low levels of toxicity. Unfortunately, this data is not up-to-date as the latest samples are as early as June 30th. This is before coastal areas around St. Lucie were shut down due to the stench of algae on the Fourth of July weekend. With the samples it has taken, the State has found that there are algal blooms in forty-four locations, the worst situations in St. Lucie County and Martin. The algal blooms have even been detected as far west as Fort Myers near the Caloosahatchee River. To read more on the topic click here.

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