My husband, Ed Lippisch, flew today from Clewiston to Port Mayaca, 6-10-20, 9:30 am, and this was the view of all southern Lake Okeechobee: giant steaks of cyanobacteria also known as blue-green algae. Unfortunately, pictures such as these have become commonplace and definitely existed years before we realized the frequency or the accompanying scary health issues.
“Eutrophication and non-point pollution,” words found in Florida’s scientific literature since the 1970s, have documented and warned of the deteriorating state of Florida’s water quality -due especially to agricultural fertilizer and residential fertilizer runoff. Recently elected Governor Ron DeSantis and the SFWMD have very much addressed this issue and I encourage all governmental agencies to become even more strict regarding such. We must do more. The greatest help of all could continue to come from increasing restrictions and documentation on non-point pollution supported by our state legislature. Programs such as “Be Floridian” and Florida’s Department of Agriculture’s Best Management Practices are noteworthy, but obviously, they are not enough.
The most important thing for coastal residents along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon and the Caloosahatchee to know is that the cyanobacteria is there, and fight accordingly. Presently, Lake Okeechobee is at 12.10 NGVD and in spite of recent torrential rains there is no pressure for the ACOE to discharge. If a hurricane such as last year’s Dorian comes to visit, it will be a different story.
I am sad to see these eutrophic waters, but forever grateful to my husband, Ed, who since 2013, has been our eye in the sky.
excessive richness of nutrients in a lake or other body of water, frequently due to runoff from the land, which causes a dense growth of plant life and death of animal life from lack of oxygen.
Although once known for her great life and beauty, modern-day Lake Okeechobee, has been dying for years…
Since the early 1970s, scientists were forecasting the imminent demise of the huge lake due to the tremendous influx of fertilizers and waste (oddly termed “nutrients”), especially from the Kissimmee River. The river had been channelized in the 60s, made straight, for flood control and the “benefit” of creating more agricultural lands. This was done by none other than the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and, of course, supported by Florida politicians.
All of these problems were one of the reasons that Florida politicians reversed course and took action in the 1970s to do something for the environment. According to the book River of Interests “during the 1972 legislative session, the Florida Legislature passed several land and planning measures, including an authorization of a major study on eutrophicationof Lake Okeechobee.”
Although, I could not find any of the original reports of the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation, (the original name of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection – God forbid we say the word regulation!), I did come across the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency National Eutrophication Survey of 1977.
Nonetheless, there have been positive changes in the characters!
A huge thing that has changed is that the Belle Glades sewage treatment plant, that once discharged into the Hillsborough Canal and was back pumped into Lake O, ~approximately 1/3 of the year, no longer does. This is no surprise. When I was a kid in Stuart in the 70s, there were still houses along the Indian River Lagoon that discharged sewage directly into the river! GROSS!
So I guess the plot has changed bit, but not enough yet to save Lake Okeechobee. We need to change the channel and do what we have known we need to do since I was ten years old…
You can read the full 1977 report at this long link below:
Today we will get a science lesson and see some new shocking photos…
Eutrophication: (Ecology.) (of a lake) characterized by an abundant accumulation of nutrients that support a dense growth of algae and other organisms, the decay of which depletes the shallow waters of oxygen in summer.
Today’s blog shares new aerial photos by Dr Scott Kuhns taken 6-22-16 of the extensive blue-green algae cyanobacteria bloom on the western side of the C-44 Canal being sent through S-80. The photos show a condition caused by mixture of polluted Lake Okeechobee and C-44 agricultural basin water filled with an overabundance of nitrogen and phosphorus primarily from decades of intense agricultural farming north, south and around Lake Okeechobee. Scientists have documented this condition of “eutrophication” since the late 1960s and predicted it would worsen unless serious corrections were put in place.
These nutrients, now out of control, feed algae blooms and have caused the eutrophication (or overabundance of algae growth) of Lake Okeechobee. The St Lucie River is now experiencing this due to our manmade connection to the lake. Our agricultural canals of C-44, C-23, C-24, and C-25 are culprits too. The giant releases from the lake and canals make our river fresh and seeded with algae water. Sometimes growing toxic.
The bloom on the west side of S-80 at St Lucie Locks and Dam was first documented by local activist this time in late May. The ACOE has been dumping since January 29, 2016. The river is now almost entirely fresh. Perfect for blooms.
Yesterday the St Lucie River went up in algae with multiple reports throughout the entire river from Palm City, Rio, Stuart, Jensen, and Sewall’s Point. Could there be a correlation considering the bloom started in the eutrophic lake ? How could there not be.
Dr Kuhns’ comment?
“Ridiculous!!! What does it take?”
We should not be connected to the lake. Agricultural canals should be redirected. There must be storage to treat this algae water. It should not be sent into our estuary destroying property and the environment.
Does the above photo make your stomach turn? What is it?
It is a HAB or Harmful Algae Bloom, taken four days ago, right here in Martin County.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, “over the past century, alterations of land use and acceleration in the rate of cultural eutrophication have led to widespread increases in harmful algal blooms in Florida, including toxin-producing species.”
First, what is “eutrophication” and why is it “cultural”?
Eutrophication is is when a body of water becomes enriched in dissolved nutrients (such as synthetic phosphorus and nitrogen from fertilizer) that stimulate the growth of aquatic plant life usually resulting in the depletion of dissolved oxygen and a “bloom.” These algae blooms can be toxic.
“Cultural means “created by humans.”
So what are we doing about this especially since “we” caused it?
In my opinion, as usual, our state governors and legislatures did not pay significant attention to these studies, and failed to implement policies that would help overcome this crisis issue. How many of them even read the report?
Case in point, recently, it was the local governments and local residents of the towns, cities and counties along the west and east coasts of Florida who advocated and achieved strong fertilizer ordinances not allowing fertilizer use during the rainy season while the state continues to fight and support less restrictive rules.
1. Time-Series Sampling in Pinellas and Manatee Counties) Researchers conduct detailed sampling to better understand when, where and under what conditions harmful algal blooms form.
2. Tampa Bay Monitoring ProgramResearchers monitor 10 sites in Old Tampa Bay for the presence of, or conditions favorable to, harmful algal blooms.
3. Red Tide Offshore Monitoring Program
Encouraging people to learn about the program and learn how to become volunteers, collecting water samples around the state to help scientists monitor the Florida red tide.
4. Monitoring Toxic Algae Species and Shellfish in the Indian River Lagoon (2002-present)
Periodic testing of water samples and clams provides an early warning of bloom occurrences and shellfish toxicity and minimizes the risk of human exposure to saxitoxins.
Those are great present HAB programs, so why don’t we hear more about them and why don’t they include Lake Okeechobee, obviously the toxic algae is there as well…
Here at home, when the gates of S-308 open from Lake Okeechobee to the C-44 canal that is connected to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, the algae in the photo above goes directly into the our river system.
It is 2014. The state has been studying this problem since 1997. They do not have all the answers but we do know by now that HABs are fed by cultural eutrophication due to clearing of land that can no longer clean water on its way to estuaries, rivers and lakes; building of towns and cities that create concrete and asphalt barriers to water reabsorption; fertilizer and other runoff; oil/chemicals from thousands of miles of highway and roads; septic effluent; canals and redirection of water such as Lake Okeechobee to the St Lucie and Caloosahatchee; agriculture’s heavy destruction of native lands and the fertilizer and chemical runoff associated with their business, unregulated golf courses fertilizer run off and re-use of high nutrient water resources….it’s endless.
It is said that “ignorance is bliss,” well the state of Florida doesn’t have that luxury anymore.