Tag Archives: cyanobacteria

Is Agriculture’s Use of Glyphosate Feeding Lake O’s Explosive Algae Blooms? Professor Geoffrey Norris, SLR/IRL

Writing my blog allows me to meet many interesting people. Recently, fellow Sewall’s Point resident, and active Vietnam Veterans of America member, Mr. Frank Tidikus, introduced me to Canadian and part-time Martin County resident, Professor Geoffrey Norris who is a geologist and algae fossil specialist with a long career at the University of Toronto.

Professor Norris, his wife, and I met at the Prawnbroker and had a lovely exchange. Dr Norris describes himself as such…

IMG_1003
Professor Geoffrey Norris, Ph.D. FRSC

University of Toronto: http://www.es.utoronto.ca/people/faculty/norris-geof/

...In the 1960s, I lived and worked as a petroleum exploration geologist in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Subsequently, I spent almost 40 years at the University of Toronto in teaching and research in  geology…A  geologist by training, I have a specialized knowledge of fossil algae, their ecology, morphology, and distribution.  I have published hundreds of scientific papers on fossil algae and related topics…

Professor Norris shared two papers composed for his property association at Indian River Plantation on Hutchinson Island along the Indian River Lagoon during the 2016 toxic algae extravaganza. Today, I will share the first entitled: “Blue-green algal blooms in the lakes, rivers, and marine waters of south Florida surrounding Lake Okeechobee.” His second, specifically on Sugarcane, I will provide next week.

Professor Norris’ summary and full paper is below. It is excellent in that it is able to relay complex subjects to the everyday reader interested in water quality and improving the plight of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

What is most amazing to me are his comments on glyphosate, most famous for being the active ingredient in Roundup, but now used under many names. Sometimes I hear people screaming so much about Roundup that I tune it out, but Professor Norris’ observations really got to me.

He notes that glyphosate, used excessively in agriculture production around south and central Florida may actually “feed”cyanobacteria (toxic blue-green algae blooms). Also mind-blowing are Professor Norris’ insights into the reproduction of the hungry and ancient cyanobacteria that reproduces through binary fission (copying itself) “producing endless clones” “with no dissipation of mutant genes as a checks and balance to adaptation…”

Yikes! Really?

Blue Green Algie 5.jpg
Blue-green algae mat St Lucie River July 2016, Snug Harbor, JTL
Well, enjoy the reading the paper. And know, together we are making a difference!

Jacqui

 

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L_GLYPHOSATE_2011.png
Public maps info shared by Dr Norris, courtesy of USGA
Blue-green algal blooms in the lakes, rivers, and marine waters of south Florida surrounding Lake Okeechobee 

Executive Summary

  • This report provides basic information on blue-green “algae” and explains that they are actually bacteria (cyanobacteria). These blue-green bacteria form blooms in Lake Okeechobee that in turn are released by the Army Corps of Engineers into canals and estuaries of south Florida.
  • The blue-green bacteria grow by using sunlight as an energy source to synthesize elements from the water into more complex compounds used in their cells. When important nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen are present in excess, the bacteria multiply rapidly and accumulate as highly concentrated masses of cells, called blooms.
  • Blue-green bacteria can synthesize nitrates from atmospheric nitrogen, but also need phosphorus dissolved in water to survive and thrive. If phosphorus is scarce in the water, this limits the growth of the bacteria.  If it is abundant, blooms can be triggered.
  • Run-off and back pumping into Lake Okeechobee from surrounding Everglades agricultural lands and upstream from the Kissimmee River watershed is suspected of providing a potential abundant source of phosphorus for blue-green bacteria, in phosphate-rich fertilizers and herbicides such as Roundup (glyphosate).
  • Glyphosate (2-[(phosphonomethyl)amino]acetic acid) is of particular concern, since it has been used heavily in the agricultural areas around Lake Okeechobee and upstream in the Kissimmee River watershed for at least 25 years. Glyphosate provides a source of phosphorus for blue-green bacteria and recent research by others suggest that glyphosate enhances the growth of blue-green bacteria, which become tolerant and absorb glyphosate directly.
  • The blue-green bacterial blooms released into the St Lucie Estuary (principally Microcystis) are formed in freshwater but appear to be tolerant of dilute salinities, and recent research suggests can build up resistance to increased salinities such as are found in estuarine waters.

Blue-green algal blooms in the lakes, rivers, and marine waters of south Florida surrounding Lake Okeechobee

By Geoffrey Norris Ph.D. FRSC

rosalex@interlog.com

6 July 2016

Introduction

I am a property owner in Stuart, Florida and have been alarmed – along with many others – at the spread of blue-green algae (aka cyanobacteria) into the St Lucie River and adjacent areas by water releases from Lake Okeechobee.  There has been much publicity and calls for action over the years but very little appears to have been done to solve this long-standing problem at any level of government, until very recently.  Now, a State of Emergency has been declared by the Governor of Florida.  Recent initiatives, following public meetings in Martin County thanks to the Board of County Commissioners, have been undertaken by Florida Representative Gayle Harrell and Senator Joe Negron and their colleagues in association with Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson and Rep. Patrick Murphy to urge the Army Corps of Engineers to stop immediately the nutrient-laden discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

Although I am a property owner and tax payer in Martin County, I am also a Canadian snowbird and therefore do not have a vote, which is a little constraining when trying to influence political decisions.  Therefore, I decided to put my energies into assessing what is known about the current situation of the blue-green blooms.  I am a geologist by training and I do have a specialized knowledge in particular of fossil algae that have been extremely important in oil and gas exploration over the decades gone by.  I am not a biologist but I do have some knowledge of the literature on algae – their ecology, morphology and distribution in various environments.  I have published hundreds of scientific papers on fossil algae and related topics and hope that the following – largely based on biological and agricultural literature – will pass muster.

In the following presentation my aims are twofold:

Firstly, to try and answer commonly asked questions about blue green algae (which are actually bacteria) that might be helpful in clarifying some of the technicalities of a complex subject.

Secondly, to highlight what to my mind is the ultimate cause of the blue-green outbreak:  that is, the heavy application of phosphate-bearing fertilizers and herbicides around Lake Okeechobee together with back pumping of agricultural run-off into the Lake.  In particular I believe that the well-known weed killer glyphosate (e.g. Roundup) may be implicated as a major contributor to the problem.  South Florida and somewhat later Central Florida became major users of Roundup in the early 1990s, long before its popularity spread north into the corn and bean belt.

Feel free to pass this article on to others.  I would welcome comments by email at rosalex@interlog.com

What are blue-green algae?

Well, for starters they are not actually algae at all.  They were discovered in the 19th century by biologists using newly invented high-powered microscopes. They noticed a variety of microorganisms living in water, some of them with green pigments in the cells that allowed photosynthesis to occur, similar to the well-known photosynthesis occurring in the much larger land plants and driven by chlorophyll.  But they were much simpler in organization than the large land plants so were called “algae” (singular alga, from the Latin word for seaweed).  Some of these microorganisms contain a rather different bluish pigment and were therefore referred to as “blue-green”, and in these early days were judged nevertheless to be algae – hence blue-green algae.

It was only later that biologists realized that the blue-green microorganisms were crucially different from algae because they had no nucleus in the cell and their pigment was not organized into a “blob” within the cell like most other algae.  In the scientific literature they are now regarded as bacteria and the blue-greens are referred to as cyanobacteria – that is, photosynthetic bacteria that use a blue-green pigment to facilitate the use of the sun’s energy to produce organic compounds needed by these organisms.

It is important to understand this difference between the blue-green cyanobacteria on the one hand and the “true” algae on the other.  I will come back to the difference between bacteria and algae later, and how this impacts on bloom formation.

Meanwhile, the term “blue-green algae” has gained traction in the news media and is now widely understood to be implicated in the blooms of microorganisms that occur from time to time in lakes and rivers in Florida and elsewhere.  I will use either of the terms “blue-green algae” or  “cyanobacteria” depending on the context, or just the neutral term “blue-greens”.  But remember they are actually bacteria.

What are algal blooms?

An algal bloom is the result of rapid increase or accumulation of algae in a body of water.  They can occur in freshwater (lakes, rivers) or in marine water (estuaries, lagoons, coastal embayments).   Different types of algae (including the blue-green cyanobacteria) produce different blooms characterized by green, bluish, yellow, brown or red colors.  The density of pigmented cells in a bloom is enormous, and measured in the hundreds of thousands to billions of cells per liter (1 liter is almost a quart) depending on the species.

Blooms can be quite localized and appear as a streak on the water or can be very large and visible from space, such as the algal blooms that occur from time to time in Lake Erie and measure tens to hundreds of miles in extent.  The recent blue-green algal bloom in Lake Okeechobee was reported to be more than 30 square miles in extent.

What causes blooms?

Blooms occur naturally when the water contains an excess of nutrients such as phosphorus and other compounds.  This causes an increase in the growth of algae leading to very high concentrations of cells that become visible as colored streaks and patches in the water.  Other factors involved in triggering algal blooms include temperature changes, sunlight intensity, changes in water chemistry and changes in water currents.

What are the red tides that occur in Florida?
A red tide is just another name for a bloom of “true” algae in marine water, and in this case a particular algal group called dinoflagellates.  Red tides can be red but more often occur as greenish or yellowish colored water in the coastal areas of Florida.  The term “harmful algal bloom” is often preferred in referring to these dinoflagellate blooms that do indeed harm wildlife and human life in different ways e.g. toxic shellfish poisoning; respiratory illness; mass fish kills.

So what caused the blue-green algal blooms in Lake Okeechobee?

First, it is important to understand that blue green algae are uniquely different.  Not only are they photosynthetic bacteria but they are also capable of manufacturing their own supply of nitrates from nitrogen in the atmosphere, one of their crucial nutritional requirements.  So the blue-greens have plenty of nitrogen to live on but they also need other important elements and compounds to thrive.  One of these is phosphorus, which often occurs naturally in water in trace amounts as phosphates.  If phosphorus is scarce, then this limits the growth of the blue-greens even though they have potentially a lot of nitrates available.  The amount of phosphorus available becomes a limiting factor for growth of the blue-green algae.  If phosphorus becomes more abundant in the water, then the blue-green algae thrive and multiply until they become visible as a bloom.  It is believed that high phosphorus concentrations in Lake Okeechobee are capable of triggering blue-green algal blooms.

So where did the phosphorus come from in Lake Okeechobee?

Lake Okeechobee is surrounded by agricultural land that is being intensively farmed.  Run-off from the farmland appears to be entering Lake Okeechobee, and this includes various phosphate-rich fertilizers and herbicides such as Roundup (glyphosate).

But Lake Okeechobee water levels are higher than the surrounding plain.  How can run-off into the Lake happen?

Well, firstly, Lake Okeechobee and the surrounding farmland share a common water table.  Transfer of minerals and soluble organic compounds can occur through the groundwater.  But probably more importantly, until recently it was common farming practice to back pump excess run-off water from the agricultural land into Lake Okeechobee.  Almost certainly this had led to the accumulation of phosphorus and other nutrients in the Lake as well as unused agricultural chemicals.  Aerial transmission into the Lake from crop dusting is also possible.

So now that back pumping has been discontinued will this solve the problem?

Not really, because although farmers now are not allowed to back pump into the Lake, the South Florida Water Management District has responsibility to alleviate the threat of flooding.  They can – and do – back pump surface water from the surrounding land into Lake Okeechobee, if excessive rainfall conditions threaten to flood the communities around the Lake.  Rainwater running off the agricultural land will still contain phosphorus and other compounds derived from fertilizers.  Furthermore, from time to time the Army Corps of Engineers controls the level of Lake Okeechobee by releases of lake water into the canals, which in turn feed into the estuaries around Stuart and other coastal communities.

Are there any other agricultural products that are contributing to the appearance of blue-green algal blooms?

Yes, there is one in particular that is of great concern.  Glyphosate is the active ingredient in the well-known weed killer Roundup.  It is used intensively by farmers over much of North America.  South Florida is one of the areas where it is being used very heavily in agriculture, and has been since at least 1992 (the earliest available data).  A little further to the north, Central Florida’s usage of glyphosate surged in 1993 and continued until 2013 (the last available data) and may also be a source of glyphosate in Lake Okeechobee but originating further upstream in the Kissimmee River watershed and its interconnected lakes.

http://water.usgs.gov/nawqa/pnsp/usage/maps/show_map.php?year=2001&map=GLYPHOSATE&hilo=L

Why is glyphosate of such concern?

Glyphosate is an organic compound with phosphorus as an important component as well as nitrogen in its chemical make-up. It was invented by Monsanto chemists, brought to market in 1974, and its chemical name is N-(phosphonomethyl)glycine (aka 2-[(phosphonomethyl)amino]acetic acid)  –  glyphosate for short and much more easily remembered.  Monsanto’s patent on glyphosate expired in 2000 and since then it has been manufactured by dozens of companies with a significant drop in price and therefore increasing popularity with farmers.  In 2007 it became the most-used herbicide in agriculture in USA.  It works as a weed killer by inhibiting the production of certain plant amino acids and enzymes.  After it has done its deadly work, some of it can break down in the soil into simpler molecules of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and phosphorus.  Excess glyphosate can run off into water, particularly at peak farming times.  Its use has been expanding in the agricultural sector by about 20% per year for the last several years.

So far, so good.  It kills most green plants, if that is what you want.  I personally use it to kill poison ivy on my property.  Unfortunately, it has become apparent through a number of recent laboratory-based studies that glyphosate does not act as a killer for some blue-green algae, aka cyanobacteria.  Firstly, the blue-greens love the phosphorus in glyphosate or its degradation products, which otherwise is a limiting factor in their survival.  They thrive on increased phosphorus.  Secondly and more insidiously, recent research has indicated that glyphosate actually enhances the growth of blue-greens.  The blue-greens apparently have the ability to absorb glyphosate directly from the water and some are tolerant to it or become adapted to it by rare genetic mutations.

OK, but rare genetic mutations are just that – rare!  So what?

Well, you remember that blue-greens are actually bacteria, not true algae.  As such their genetic material is distributed throughout the cell, and they reproduce by binary fission producing endless clones.  There is no “mix-and-matching” of chromosomes and genes such as occur in nucleated organisms using sexual reproduction that tends to dissipate the effects of mutant genes.  Once a cyanobacterium has undergone a mutation, that mutant gene is replicated again and again as the cell divides.  It produces clones of the mutant cell, and if that mutant has an advantage (such as resistance to or affinity for glyphosate), it will rapidly spread.

A more familiar example is the recent rise to prominence of so-called superbugs that are resistant to antibiotics.  Human infections are often related to bacteria that enter the body, and are treated by the intake of prescribed antibiotics as a course of treatment for a number of days.  If the antibiotics are not taken for an adequate period of time, the residual bacterial population includes mutants that resist the drug in question, and in turn that drug becomes less and less effective against new infections. This way a superbug is created e.g. MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus).  So think of the blue-greens as bacteria (which they are) and glyphosate as an antibiotic (which it is).  Those blue-green cyanobacteria that survive the glyphosate thrive as mutants and have the capacity to spread widely.

Do blue-green blooms last forever?

No.  Eventually the blue-green bloom uses up available resources and requires more nutrients than are available leading to a decline in the number of cells in the water column.  Also in temperate climates, the onset of winter temperatures can put an end to algal blooming for that season.

Then what happens?

The blue-green cells die off and sink to the bottom of the lake or estuary.  Other bacteria move in and use the debris from the dead blue-greens as a source of carbon, and use oxygen in the water to fuel their own growth.  This in turn leads to oxygen depletion that can be very severe.  Without oxygen in the water, normal aquatic life becomes impossible and a dead zone is created: fish move away, and other organisms die that can’t move into more oxygen-rich environments.

How many blue-green algae/cyanobacteria exist?

About 2500 living species have been described in the literature but probably double or treble that number exist and await discovery and description.  They have a very long geological history.  Fossilized blue-greens have been discovered in rocks 3.5 billion years old.

How many are harmful?

Only a dozen or so species are actually harmful when they form blue-green blooms and emit toxic substances.  In the recent outbreak, Microcystis aeruginosa has been identified as a bloom-forming cyanobacterium together with a couple of others.

So which blue-greens are responsible for the Lake Okeechobee and St Lucie River blooms?

The Florida Dept of Environmental Protection (DEP) took a number of samples from sites in Martin County and adjacent areas from Late May to Late June 2016 and the results are available at their website:

https://depnewsroom.wordpress.com/south-florida-algal-bloom-monitoring-and-response/

Most samples are reported as “mixed algae; no dominant species in the sample”, but a few are reported with more detail (numbers are depth in meters):

Martin County

St. Lucie River, Central Marine Marina (N 27° 12′ 55″, W -80° 15′ 18″)

0.3 Dominant taxon: Microcystis aeruginosa
Martin County

Dire Point Canal (N 27° 12′ 24.47″, W -80° 16′ 16.90″)

0.3 m mixed algae; no dominant species in sample though specks of Microcystis aeruginosa present.
Martin County

SE Harbor Pointe Dr. (N 27° 12′ 12.44″, W -80° 12′ 44.77″)

0.3 m mixed algae; no dominant species in sample though specks of Microcystis aeruginosa present.
Martin County

C-44 and S. Fork Mouth (N 27° 7′ 46.13″, W -80° 15′ 58.02″)

0.3 m mixed algae; no dominant species in sample though specks of Microcystis aeruginosa present.
Martin County

S-80 (N 27° 06′ 41.87″, W -80° 17′ 06.08″)

0.5 m Dominant taxon: Planktolyngbya limnetica
Martin County

Lake Okeechobee – Port Mayaca S 308 C Upstream Lake Side

N 26° 59′ 6″

W -80° 37′ 16.5″

Water column Dominant: Microcystis aeruginosa
Hendry County

Lake Okeechobee near Channel Marker 9B

N 26° 46′ 36.6954″

W -80° 54′ 8.676″

Water column Co-dominant taxa: Microcystis aeruginosa and Dolichospermum circinalis

Clearly, Microcystis appears to be important in several blooms, but quantitative and qualitative data are not provided for the majority of samples, making further evaluation impossible at this time. Dolichospermum (aka Anabaena) is a well known blue-green that produces nerve toxins and liver-damaging toxins, as does Microcystis. Planktolyngbya limnetica is another well known toxic blue-green.

How adequate has the sampling and analysis program by DEP been?

It is difficult to say for sure, since DEP only provides results of their program, not the sampling and analytical strategies themselves.  However, from what can be gleaned from their website it would seem that during the month of June 2016 DEP collected 24 samples from 7 counties (Martin, Palm Beach, St Lucie, Lee, Charlotte, Hendry, Glades) over a 29 day period, covering a transect from the Atlantic coast to the Gulf of Mexico (Stuart/Palm Beach to Fort Myers).  Of those 24 samples, 83% were reported “mixed algae; no dominant species in the sample” without further details.  I would judge this to be a token response to what is clearly a major emergency.  The analytical results appear to be lackluster to judge from details available on the website.  No doubt DEP activities are constrained by their budget, but the lack of urgency in attempting to characterize these blooms is disappointing at best and may eventually be judged negligent to some degree.

What is known about Microcystis aeruginosa?

Quite a lot.  It is the most common harmful algal bloom-forming species in freshwater.  The cells are tiny but colonies can be macroscopic in size and contain gas vesicles that allow the colonies to be buoyant and float to the surface of the lake.  It produces both neurotoxins and hepatotoxins that contaminate the water and have been known to kill  dogs, other large animals and livestock in general that drink the polluted water.  The toxins may be carcinogenic.   Microcystis has a drastic effect on dissolved oxygen in the water that can lead to mass fish kills.

Can blue-green algae live in salt water?

This depends on the species.  Many truly marine blue-greens are known in seas and oceans where they play an important role in nitrogen fixation and are important components of the marine ecosystem.  In the case of Stuart and the St Lucie inlet and estuary, these natural estuarine waters have been diluted and/or replaced by fresher water discharges from Lake Okeechobee as shown in recent Florida Oceanographic Society water quality reports:

http://www.floridaocean.org/uploads/docs/blocks/867/160630.pdf

In turn this has allowed freshwater blue-greens such as Microcystis to establish colonies and blooms in areas that otherwise would support more saline organisms.  So, for example, on June 30th 2016, the north and south forks of the St Lucie River, the St lucie River adjacent to Sewells Point, and the Manatee Pocket were reporting salinity values in the range of zero to 13 parts per thousand, areas which otherwise would be in the range of 15 to 30 parts per thousand.  Hence some of these diluted saline waters can now support freshwater blue-greens.

Alarmingly, recent laboratory-based research has shown that some blue-greens – such as Microcystis – can build up resistance to increased salinity and, therefore, if this happens in the natural habitat can expand their range from freshwater to higher salinities.

What can be done to improve the situation?

If you have a vote at any level of government, contact your elected politicians to highlight the urgent nature of the blue-green blooms and to bring pressure to bear to use available resources to solve the matter.

  • Stop the back pumping of run-off water by anyone into Lake Okeechobee.
  • Curtail the heavy application of phosphorus-rich agricultural chemicals in farmland surrounding Lake Okeechobee.
  • In particular, request a thorough scientific investigation into the effects of glyphosate (Roundup) on blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) and their blooms.
  • In the long run, demand that the dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee be rebuilt with a view to diverting southwards the impounded waters back into the Everglades.
  • IMG_1003 2.JPG
    Dr and Mrs Norris
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Cheerio!

“Too Unthinkable,” the Complete Destruction of the St Lucie River, SLR/IRL

"Too Unthinkable" sits in the algae waters of the St Lucie River. JTL
“Too Unthinkable” sits in the algae waters of the St Lucie River-with Evinrude motor. JTL 6-26-16

The blue-green algae, the cyanobacteria–sometimes toxic— that we first saw in aerial photos over Lake Okeechobee weeks ago, is not only here,  it is everywhere…our river has been made completely fresh by our government. Now the algae is blooming fluorescent green-blue, dying a putrid brown-green, flowing out of our inlet, and poisoning not only or rivers’ shores but our beaches.

On the widest level, this is a health hazard brought upon us by a “knowing government.” Our state, federal, and local governments  have seen this coming for years. The slow and steady destruction of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon is well documented.

The St Lucie River was first declared “impaired” by the state of Florida in the year 2002. I have been blogging about this for four years.
(http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/SLE_Impairment_Narrative_ver_3.7.pdf)

Now, in 2016, all of Martin County’s beaches and the southern most beach of St Lucie County are closed. Palm City; Stuart; Rio; Sewall’s Point, Jensen. All waters are off limits. “Don’t Touch the Water.” –A health, safety and welfare issue for the people, a nightmare for local government, and a complete environmental and economic disaster for us all.

Included for purposes of documentation– to be added to the thousands of other posts on social media this weekend— I share the following, some that were shared with me…Divided into 8 sections: 1. Algae in the waves at Bathtub Beach, by JTL; 2. algae aerials at C-44, S-80, and S-308,  by Dr Scott Kuhns; 3. Lake Okeechobee and St Lucie River’s extensive algae bloom, by jet pilot Dave Stone, and local pilot Ron Rowers; 4. Rio, a residential disaster, Jeff Tucker; 5. Sewall’s Point as seen from the Evan’s Cray Bridge with a river full of algae by walker Tracy Barnes; 6. Rebecca Fatzinger’s duck eating algae;  7. my Uncle Dale Hudson’s lead to Snug Harbor’s Marina “a multimillion dollar disaster,” and 8. Really blue-algae at Central Marina, Stuart/Rio.

The outpouring of the public is immense, and the powers that be, must look our way. Document, call, write, demand, and VOTE.

Jacqui

 

I. Bathtub Beach, JTL

Algae rolling in the tide at Bathtub Beach on Hutchison Island, 6-26-16, JTL
Algae rolling in the tide at Bathtub Beach on Hutchison Island, 6-26-16, JTL

Link to video: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYo6RNg3a1Y)

 

II. Photos by Dr Scott Kuhns Lake Okeechobee, Port Mayaca (S-308), St Lucie Locks and Dam (S-80) and C-44 canal. All aerial photos taken 6-25-16.

St Lucie Locks and Dam 6-25-16 Dr Scott Kuhns
St Lucie Locks and Dam 6-25-16 Dr Scott Kuhns
East side of Lake O north of Port Mayaca 6-25-16, SK
East side of Lake O north of Port Mayaca 6-25-16
S-308 structure at Port Mayaca, heavy glare on Lke Okeechobee--bloom visible on bottom side of photograph.
S-308 structure at Port Mayaca, heavy glare on Lke Okeechobee–bloom visible on bottom left area of photograph.
C-44 Canal connecting to St Lucie River
C-44 Canal connecting to St Lucie River
C-44 canal
C-44 canal
C-44 canal
C-44 canal
Near Fuge Street in Martin County approaching Palm City
Near Fuge Street in Martin County approaching Palm City from C-44 as it connects to the South Fork of the St Lucie River where original curves still can be seen.

 

III. Professional jet pilot Dave Stone coming from Lee County to Martin County  6-26-16.

Aerial Video St Lucie River approaching North River Shores at 700 feet.

Link to video: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8WLU6uLUKHo)

Lake Okeechobee from 13,000 feet, Dave Stone 6-26-16.
Lake Okeechobee from 13,000 feet, Dave Stone 6-26-16. Mr Stone said algae on the top of the lake is visible as far as the eye can see.
Near the Harborage Marina in Stuart, Roosevelt Bridge in background
Near the Harborage Marina in Stuart, Roosevelt Bridge in background

 

...
...
Rio approaching Roosevelt Bridge from Sewall's Point
Rio approaching Roosevelt Bridge from Sewall’s Point
....
….
....
….
...
Sewall's Point SLR
Sewall’s Point SLR
Sewall's Point
Sewall’s Point
Floridian
Floridian on west side of SLR–the border of Martin and St Lucie Counties.

 

IV. Jeff Tucker, Rio

Rio St Lucie River, Jeff Tucker
Rio St Lucie River, Jeff Tucker 6-24-16
...
...
…green algae turning blue=toxic.

Video link Jeff Tucker, Rio: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DG687c8mgc)

 

V. Tracy Barnes walking over Evans Crary  Bridge from Stuart into to Sewall’s Point

Shoreline of Sewall's Point, Tracy Barnes 6-25-16
Shoreline of Sewall’s Point, Tracy Barnes 6-25-16

Video of Sewall’s Point walking over bridge. River full of algae.
Link to video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pEg9OPuN2w )

VI. Rebecca Fatziner’s duck in SLR

Duck in St Lucie River's bloom, Rebecca Fatzinger 6-24-16.
Duck in St Lucie River’s bloom, Rebecca Fatzinger 6-24-16.

VII. Dale Hudson, alerted Ed and I to Snug Harbor Marina where we took these photos yesterday.

Snug Harbor Marina, JTL Ed looks on.
Snug Harbor Marina, JTL Ed looks on.
blue on wall
blue on wall
dead oysters
dead oysters

VIII. *Central Marina, Rio/Stuart blue algae

Central Marina blue green algae
Central Marina blue green algae
....
….
Green algae turning blue at Central Marina.
Green algae turning blue at Central Marina 6-27-16.
....
….

 

“Too Unthinkable”

"Too Unthinkable" sits in the algae waters of the St Lucie River. JTL
“Too Unthinkable” sits in the algae waters of the St Lucie River, 6-26-16. JTL
SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44 canal is the canal most southerly in the image.
SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44 canal is the canal most southerly in the image, Lake O is released into the SLR through the C-44 canal. All canals and the lake destroy our estuary.  The water must be redirected south and stored north and south. Fill the canals in; they have killed this area. JTL

Blog from 2014 on impairment of SLR: (https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2014/03/26/impairment-of-the-st-lucie-riverindian-river-lagoon/)

*blue algae photos, #8, added to this post later in afternoon on same date this was originally published. JTL

#SkyWarrior’s Report SLR/IRL, Father’s Day Weekend 6-19-16

In our continued documentation of the 2016 Lake Okeechobee event, my husband Ed and I flew over the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon around 5:00pm on Father’s Day, 6-19-16, at the very end of an outgoing tide. Being a stormy day, there was poor lighting, but it was easy to see the darkness that enveloped the river due to the discharges of surrounding agricultural canals, and tidal runoff, and especially the high and long-going releases from Lake  Okeechobee. The dark plume hugged the coast and jutted far out into the Atlantic having no clear edge as it was churned up from high winds and waves.  Nonetheless from above,  it’s shadow was visible for miles all the way south to the Jupiter Inlet.

Over the weekend there were multiple reports of algae blooms throughout the river and canals. Below are photos from a family boat ride in the vicinity of the Harborage Dock in Downtown Stuart yesterday, showing foam and algae at the shoreline and tiny specks of algae dispersed throughout the entire river.

“One resident nearby of Stuart, Dr Vopal, texted: “The river is pea green! …It is time for the legislators to look at this river and consider the health of the people that live on it. ”

Over the weekend just to me and on Facebook there were reports of algae blooms not only in Stuart but along the C-44 canal, the condo/marinas along Palm City Road, the eastern area of Lake Okeechobee itself, the St Lucie Locks and Dam, the St Lucie River near Martin Memorial Hospital, Sandsprit Park, Phipps Park, and Poppleton Creek. Certainly there were many others.

As most of us know, the Army Corp of Engineers has been discharging into the St Lucie River since January 29th, 2016. The river is almost completely fresh thus these freshwater blooms— that are in the lake and upper agricultural canals prior to being released into our river (cyanobacteria is a freshwater bloom)—and then they spread throughout the river once it too is fresh from all of the discharges. Since the ACOE has been releasing since January and there has been so much rain conditions are really bad.

Ed and I will continue to document. Our region’s entire quality of life is at stake. Nothing affects our local economy more than our river. We all must continue pushing to send water south to be cleaned and conveyed to Everglades National Park as Nature intended. Call our elected officials at every level. And vote on Aug 30th in the primary.

Fondly,

Jacqui and Ed, #Skywarriors since 2013

 

Photos of SLR/IRL -Sewall’s Point, Sailfish Point, St Lucie Inlet, Sailfish Flat’s former seagrass beds, Jupiter Island, Atlantic Ocean’s “protected” nearshore reefs.

 

Photos shared over weekend: Phipps Park, C-44 canal, St Lucie Locks and Dam, Sandspsprit Park also from family Father’s Day boat ride Harborage Marina, Downtown Stuart.

Lake O algae bloom shared by boater and posted by M. Connor just prior to weekend.

Sources of water ACOE/SFWMD june 2016
Sources of water ACOE/SFWMD june 2016
SFWMD canal and basin map. C-44 canal is the canal most southerly in the image.
SFWMD canal and basin map. According to Florida Oceanographic only 17% of water went into the SLR before the agriculture canals of C-23, C-24, and C-44 were dug in 1920s-1960s. Lake Okeechobee discharges on top of canal dumps are killing an already very stressed estuary. These waters must be redirected south and stored in other places that need the water. This overabundance of water is killing the St Lucie.
River Kidz and Treasure Coast Rowing Club youth led a river clean up and planting of native vegetation to filter water during incoming and outgoing tides at Poppleton Creek. The creek was filled with an algae bloom. photo TC Palm
River Kidz and Treasure Coast Rowing Club youth led a river clean up and planting of native vegetation to filter water during incoming and outgoing tides at Poppleton Creek. The creek was filled with an algae bloom. photo TC Palm

Cyanobacteria/Blue Green Algae/Microcystis: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyanobacteria
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microcystis_aeruginosa

“Don’t Expect Protection,” Toxic Algae Blooms 2016, SLR/IRL–Caloosahatchee

The photos below of a severe algae bloom were shared yesterday by Rick Solvenson and Brenda Brooks who live on the Caloosahatchee River near Olga. This is on the south side of Caloosahatchee River near Fort Myers’ shores, just downstream of the Franklin lock. There is a second set of photos taken last Sunday and yesterday by Michael and Michelle Connor of Martin County along the side of Lake Okeechobee and at Port Mayaca.

So far in 2016, algae blooms have been reported in Lake Okeechobee, the St Lucie Canal,  Palm City, (C-44) and the Caloosahatchee (C-43). The ACOE continues to discharge these algae filled waters from the lake into the estuaries St Lucie and Caloosahatchee with the support of the South Florida Water Management  District, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Department of Health, and the knowledge of the Governor and Florida State Legislature.

From what I have read to date, the cyanobacteria toxic algae blooms reported thus far have not yet tested “high enough” to warrant concerns at the level of the World Health Organization…not yet, but if they do, —-expect some information, but don’t expect protection. Florida is not providing such these days, not to us anyway.

This is absolutely unacceptable.

DEP:http://www.dep.state.fl.us/Labs/biology/hab/index.htm

FDH: http://www.floridahealth.gov/ENVIRONMENTAL-HEALTH/aquatic-toxins/index.html

WHO: http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/bathing/srwe1execsum/en/index6.html

TC PALM: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/indian-river-lagoon/health/low-levels-of-toxin-found-in-lake-okeechobee-algae-bloom-32ba0e44-cd9f-1a9a-e053-0100007fd083-379388811.html

Google maps
Google maps
map
map
Photos by Rick Solvenson, Caloosahatchee River 5-23-16.
Photos by Rick Solvenson, Caloosahatchee River 5-23-16.
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Map Port Maraca and south side of Lake O in MC
Map of Port Maraca and south side of Lake O in MC.
Port Mayaca 5-23-16
Port Mayaca 5-23-16 (Mike Connor)
Lake O
Lake O
Lake O's south side in Martin Coutny
Lake O’s south side in Martin County
Close up
Close up
Redirection of water to the estuaries. Late 1800 and early 1900s.(Map Everglades Foundation.)
Redirection of water to the estuaries supports and protects the EAA south of the lake. (Map Everglades Foundation.)

 

 

 

Sucking-in the Algae Bloom, Lake Okeechobee’s S-308, SLR/IRL

Lake Okeechobee's S-308 at Port Mayaca, Ed Lippisch, May 13, 2016.
Lake Okeechobee’s S-308 at Port Mayaca, Ed Lippisch, May 13, 2016.

The first time I ever laid eyes on Lake Okeechobee, I was eleven years old. I remember thinking that I must be looking at the ocean because I could not see across to the other side. Just enormous!

In spite of its magnificent size, over the past century, Lake Okeechobee has been made smaller–around thirty percent smaller– as its shallow waters have been modified for human use–pushed back, tilled, planted, diked, and controlled. Today, it is managed by the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corp of Engineers. Sprawling sugar fields, the Everglades Agricultural Area, (EAA), canals, highways, telephone poles, train tracks, processing facilities, a FPL power plant, and small cites surround it.

S-308, (the “S” standing for “structure), opens easterly into the St Lucie Canal, also known as  C-44, (Canal 44).  About twenty miles east is another structure, S-80, at the St Lucie Locks and Dam. It is S-80 that is usually photographed with its “seven gates of hell,” the waters roaring towards the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, and the City of Stuart, but it is actually S-308 that allows the waters of Lake Okeechobee “in” from the lake in the first place.

Such a fragile looking structure to be the welcome matt of so much destruction…a sliver unto an ocean. So strange…

Today I will share some aerial photos that my husband took on Friday, May 13th, 2016 at about 700 feet above the lake. I asked Ed if from that height he could see the algae bloom so much in the news last week even though over time blooms migrate, “bloom” and then sink into the water column, becoming less visible but still lurking.

“Yes.” He replied.

” It’s harder to see from that altitude, and it depends on the light, but it’s still visible. It’s green in the brown water. The lighting shows were it is. You can see a difference in texture about 100 yards west of S-308. It is not right up against the structure, but further out. Boats are driving through it leaving a trail. It’s appears that is slowly being sucked in to the opening of the S-308 structure , like when you pull the drain out of the sink….”

S-308
S-308 at Port Mayaca, Indiantown, Martin County. Ed Lippisch, 5-13-16
Dike around Lake Okeechobee near S-308
Dike and rim canal around Lake Okeechobee near S-308. Ed Lippisch, 5-13-16
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opening S-308
opening S-308 EL
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…Looking towards S-308 from Lake O, boat going through bloom. Ed Lippisch, 5-13-15
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Remnants of bloom seen bunched in waves. Ed Lippisch 5-13-16.
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C-44 or St Lucie Canal
C-44 or St Lucie Canal that is connected by S-308 to Lake Okeechobee.EL
Algae bloom in C-44 near Indiantown just east of Port Maraca and S-308.
Closer view of algae bloom in C-44 near Indiantown “downstream” of Port Maraca and S-308 headed to Stuart. (JTL 5-10-16)
SFWMD basin map for SLR showing S-308 and S-80 along with other structures.
SFWMD SLR basin and canal map showing S-308 and S-80 along with other structures.
This aerial was taken last week by Will Glover and shows a larger bloom not far from Pahokee in Lake Okeechobee. Pahokee is south of S-308 on the southern rim.
Algae Bloom in Lake Okeechobee: This aerial was taken last week by Will Glover as he was flying over Lake Okeechobee in a commercial airplane. It was shared on Facebook.

TC Palm’s Tyler Treadway reported on 5-13-16: “The lake bloom was spread over 33 square miles near Pahokee, the South Florida Water Management District said Thursday. The Florida Department of Health reported Friday the bloom contains the toxin microcystin, but at a level less than half what the World Health Organization says can cause “adverse health impacts” from recreational exposure.”

Map of cities around Lake O and trail you can take to see this area.

Pahokee is south and west of Port Maraca and S-308. (Florida Trails)

Do the ACOE and SFWMD Release Toxic Lake O Water Into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon?

Paint colored shocking green algae at the gate entering Lake Okeechobee,     2009. (Photo from video by Jacqui thurlow-Lippisch)
Paint colored shocking green algae at the gate entering Lake Okeechobee, 2009. (Photo from video by Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch.)

I am well aware that the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon have location specific e. coli bacteria problems, as well as “overall water quality problems,” due to our local canals. This summer has been a great example of such with our SLR/IRL waters colored putrid brown all the way to the St Lucie Inlet just from releases from C-44, C-23, and C-24 canal basin runoff releases.

This is why it is beyond my comprehension, that with such terrible local water issues, our state and federal agencies can legally and in good conscious, “if necessary,” on behalf of flood control, release more nutrient, sediment filled waters into our SLR/IRL through Lake Okeechobee when they know that those waters often contain Microcystis Aeruginoas, a cyanobacteria that can produce health threatening toxins through its blue-green algae blooms.(http://www.doh.wa.gov/CommunityandEnvironment/Contaminants/BlueGreenAlgae.aspx)

Various SLR 2013 photos of cynanobacteria. Bob Voisenet, Mary Radabaugh, Jenny Flaugh, Douglas Ashley.)
Various 2013 SLR photos of  microcystis aeruginoas, cynanobacteria. (Bob Voisenet, Mary Radabaugh, Jenny Flaugh, Douglas Ashley, Gary Hendry.)

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In 2013, the Martin County Health Department, through spokesperson, Bob Washam, urged residents to avoid contact with the algae in the entire estuary from the St Lucie Canal to the St Lucie Inlet. Luckily with our local, “yuk” releases, we have not had that situation occur yet in 2014.

I have had two personal experiences witnessing these blue-green blooms. The first was during a boat ride into Lake Okeechobee, September 5, 2009, and the second was last year (2013)  with the Everglades Foundation team, at the St Lucie Locks and Dam when the ACOE was releasing. As we walked over the gates,  I clearly saw bright blue-green algae on the side of the dam allowing in Lake O water. Believe it or not, the SRWMD was testing the water right there… Mark Perry from Florida Oceanographic was with me and I ask him:

“Mark, is that “toxic” blue-green algae?”

Mark replied:

“Yes, blue-green algae can be toxic is most prevalent in fresh water systems. It is often in the lake.”

“And they are releasing it into our river?!”

I stood there in a daze….amazed.

Then I recalled the boat trip I had taken with my husband and dogs in 2009,  and how we had seen the blue-green algae clearly along the edges of the locks while going into the lake and I had videotaped it.  I am including some photos I took of that video below.

photo 5 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4

boat ride

When Senator Rubio visited  Stuart on behalf of the SLR/IRL, I told this story….I have told it many times at many official meetings to no avail. I think it a significant issue. Anyway…

So far this year, with the releases from our local canals, toxic algae, or Cyanobacteria, has not been reported in the SLR/IRL. It could be in the future, but it is less likely than when the ACOE is releasing from the lake. Why? Because often when they release from the lake it is TREMENDOUS amounts of freshwater, even more than comes from our local canals. Plus the blue-green algae is already in the lake as its fresh.

According to Bob Washam, blue-green algae was first reported around 1995 and it was blue! They thought it was a paint spill. The outbreaks have been more common since this time the worst being in 1998. Whether blue or green in color, it is bright. Very bright. You can see it.

How could our government, in essence, “poison its own people,” and how can we allow this, especially when we can see it?

We must push our government for change. Health, safety and welfare is something we rightfully deserve. Send the water south. 

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Army Corp of Engineers (http://www.usace.army.mil)
South Florid aWater Management District (http://www.bing.com/search?q=south+florida+water+management+district&form=APMCS1)