Tag Archives: microcystis aeruginoas

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/)

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.)

photo

photo

photo 1

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)