Tag Archives: drawing the line

Drawing the Line, Toxic Algae Releases, St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Toxic algae bloom at the gates of S-308 Port Mayaca, Lake Okeechobee, 4-28-15.
Toxic algae bloom at the gates of S-308 Port Mayaca, Lake Okeechobee, 4-28-15.(JTL)

The word is out. There have been sightings of bright green, toxic-looking algae in Palm City,  just two weeks after the Army Corp of Engineers, with the blessing of state agencies, began releasing toxic waters from Lake Okeechobee. Such has been the fate for many years for our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, but now we’re “on it.”

As we continue to document this issue, we can draw the line on abuses from Lake Okeechobee, and promote change within the law.

What is the procedure for our government to “dump toxic algae” anyway?

Well, at this point according to my research, the process goes something like this:

–the South Florida Water Management District test water quality at various locations in Lake Okeechobee; if they see a substantial algae bloom, they contact the Department of Environmental Protection, DEP, a state agency, who then test for toxins; if the bloom is toxic, the DEP then contacts the Florida Department of Health who together with DEP is responsible for communicating with others such as the Florida Wildlife Commission, local governments, the public and the Army Corp of Engineers. Then if the bloom is not too much of a health hazard…the blessing is given to the ACOE to dump.

How quaint…what teamwork, don’t you think?

I think our state and federal agencies have dumped many times with out us really understanding what was happening and we thought the algae was coming just from our own watershed….certainly the problems of our own, over-enlarged watershed exacerbate the situation, but there is no question the microcystis species of algae comes from the lake and that the lake has poisoned our estuary over the years so the bacteria/algae is latent in the fresher areas of our river now, at all times….

Anyway, as we have seen this round of releases, the ACOE and the state agencies decided on May 1st to release the toxic algae into the St Lucie River even after a call regarding the toxic algae from Senator Joe Negron, and inquiries from Congressman Patrick Murphy’s office. After great study, and determining the bloom was toxic, but not “too toxic,” the various state agencies determined the salinity in the St Lucie River would “break up the bloom,” a freshwater bloom known as microcystis that can only grow in the lake. So then the ACOE opened the gates.

For two weeks the fresh waters of Lake Okeechobee have flowed through S-308 and S-80 into the C-44 canal into the St Lucie River….

S-80 at St Lucie Locks and Dam, photo by Dr Scott Kunhs, 2013.
S-80 at St Lucie Locks and Dam, photo by Dr Scott Kunhs, 2013.

And as our estuary becomes fresh, losing salinity due to these freshwater releases, the microcystis species of algae can now grow and reproduce in the river. In 2013, the river was so fresh that even at the Crossroads of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, off of south Sewall’s Point, toxic microcystis blooms blossomed from shore to 40 feet off the peninsula– a peninsula that basically sits inside the mouth of the St Lucie Inlet!

We must remember as mad as we are, not to kill the messenger….

Our state and federal agencies are the “messenger,” as well as the “executioner,” in this scenario. The guiltily who created this poison water of Lake Okeechobee, and how they are protected is a story for another blog, and one we all actually know quite well.

Kenny Hinkle's photo of toxic algae near S-308 in lake Okeechobee 4-24-15.
Kenny Hinkle’s photo of toxic algae near S-308 in lake Okeechobee 4-24-15.
Algae
Algae photo shared on Facebook, Rivers Coalition, Diana Pegrum,  Palm City 5-18-15.
Photo Ch 12 reporter Jana Ensbach shared on Facebook 5-18-15.
Photo Ch 12 reporter Jana Eschbach shared on Facebook 5-18-15.

DEP History and condition of C-44 canal: (http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/C-44%20Canal%20.pdf)

DEP:(http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/bgalgae/faq.htm)

Florida Dept. Health: (http://www.floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/aquatic-toxins/cyanobacteria.html)

Florida Wildlife Commission: (http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/health-disease/other-wildlife/cyanobacteria/)

SFWMD -no information came up for my SFWMD search on this subject: (http://www.sfwmd.gov/portal/page/portal/sfwmdmain/home%20page)

ACOE (HABs) Questions and Answers:(http://www.lrl.usace.army.mil/Portals/64/docs/CWProjects/WaterQuality/General%20Lake%20Questions%20and%20Answers%20on%20Algae%20Blooms.pdf)

Understanding Cyanobacteria or Toxic Algae: (https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2015/05/05/understanding-cyanobacteria-or-toxic-algae-slrirl/)