Tag Archives: phosphorus and nitrogen

John Moran’s “Florida’s Summer of Slime: Stuart and Lake Okeechobee”

It’s an honor to present:

“Florida’s Summer of Slime: Stuart and Lake Okeechobee,” photo essay by John Moran, August 2018

I reported last month on the plight of the Caloosahatchee River and its befouled waters flowing from Lake Okeechobee; delivering slime to waterfront neighborhoods in Fort Myers and Cape Coral along the way to the Gulf Islands of Southwest Florida.

Next up on our Summer of Slime photo tour is a visit to Stuart and Lake O…Stuart and environs is a glistening jewel born of water. It may well top the list of Florida cities in shoreline per capita. There’s simply water everywhere. Two forks of the St. Lucie River, the Indian River Lagoon, canals and peninsulas and islands, and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. Stuart is pictured above; below is neighboring Hutchinson Island.

But it wasn’t Stuart’s reputation for abundant clean water that drew me south from Gainesville with my cameras. In effect, I’ve become a traveling crime scene photographer—and slime is the crime. A devastating outbreak of toxic algae has once again hit the St. Lucie River and the Treasure Coast, fueled by the polluted waters of Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River basin to the north. Damaging headlines trumpet the story to the nation and the world and Governor Scott has declared a state of emergency. It’s déjà vu all over again.

My hosts in Stuart were water blogger Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch and her husband, Ed Lippisch.

Ed took me up for a photo flight in his Piper Cub so I could get the big picture.

Seen from a small plane at 500 feet, Florida is a beautiful place.

Here’s Lake Okeechobee and the western terminus of the St. Lucie C-44 Canal. Administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Port Mayaca Lock and Dam has the capacity to discharge 14,800 cubic feet of water per second downstream to Stuart and the St. Lucie River Estuary, 26 miles away.

Sugar industry representatives say the water coming out of Lake Okeechobee is not the problem and that the algae outbreak in Stuart is primarily caused by Stuart’s own septic tanks and urban stormwater. This claim is contradicted by the extensive algae mats seen along the C-44 Canal between the Port Mayaca and St. Lucie Locks, well upstream from Stuart.

Lake Okeechobee historically drained south to Florida Bay, not east and west to the Atlantic and Gulf. The C-44 canal was built in 1916 to divert floodwaters to the coast.

A view of the St. Lucie Lock and Dam, several miles southwest of Stuart. On the day of my photo flight in late July, the dam gates were closed, visibly holding back algae from flowing downstream. Look closely and you can see what some people call The Seven Gates of Hell.

The St. Lucie Lock and Dam are an integral part of South Florida’s complex web of water management structures, born of an age when the Everglades was reviled as a watery wasteland and America was driven to drain it.

Below the St. Lucie Lock and Dam, in Palm City and Stuart, you can still find waterfront homes untouched by the algae bloom. But that’s no consolation for the thousands of Martin County residents whose lives are in upheaval once again this summer. The familiar pattern of algae outbreaks is fueled by fertilizer, manure and urban sources of nutrient pollution, including septic tanks.

All of this is compounded by denial and neglect by elected officials and agencies to whom we entrust the important work of environmental protection and public health.

Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch took me on a driving tour of the C-44 Canal from Stuart to enormous Lake O, which is more like a stormwater treatment pond than a biologically healthy lake. “There are toxic algae blooms across the globe, but only one place where the government dumps it on you: Florida,” she says.

It’s not just the algae from Lake Okeechobee causing headaches along Florida’s east coast; the sheer volume of freshwater discharges is an environmental pollutant that overwhelms the estuary.

The Lake O gunk visible in the satellite view, above, is shown in the detail photo below.

Fishermen are still drawn to Port Mayaca. On the day we visited, I counted nine.

Dinner in hand (speckled perch), Felix Gui, Jr. has been fishing Lake O for 30 years. “The algae doesn’t affect the fish,” he says. “They eat the same, algae or no algae, and I haven’t gotten sick.” Experts have warned against eating fish exposed to the algae.

A Martin County Health Department sign at Port Mayaca warns against contact with the water but I saw no messaging about whether fish caught in these waters is safe to eat.

Enroute home to Stuart, Jacqui and I stopped at deserted Timer Powers Park on the St. Lucie Canal in Indiantown.

At the St. Lucie Lock, a surreal scene of impaired water, above, and a vortex of slime, below, waiting to be flushed downstream.

A pair of jet-skiers signaled for the lock to be opened, and another pulse of algae-laden water is released towards Stuart and the coast.

Wouldn’t want to anyway, thanks.

Further downstream, the algae spreads…

Nearing the coast, Rio Nature Park and the neighboring Central Marine in Stuart are slimed again. This was the epicenter of the infamous Treasure Coast algae outbreak of 2016.

Reporter Tyler Treadway of TCPalm gathered a sample of the polluted water from a canal behind the offices of Florida Sportsman magazine in Stuart.

Staff complaints of headaches, nausea and dizziness prompted Florida Sportsman publisher Blair Wickstrom to temporarily close the office in late July. “It smells like death,” he said.

The Shepard Park boat ramp parking lot in Stuart was nearly empty on the day we visited.

A man on a mission, Mike Knepper, above and below, posts videos on his Youtube channel documenting the degradation of natural Florida.

“It’s totally unacceptable to me what we’re doing to this planet because we’re very rapidly destroying it,” Knepper says. “My children and grandchildren will be paying the price for all the bad decisions we’re making today. I want to be able to look them in the face and say, ‘I tried to make a difference.’”

Dead-end canals along the St. Lucie River with their limited water exchange have been hardest hit by the toxic blue-green algae, which scientists refer to as cyanobacteria.

A growing body of medical research links exposure to cyanobacteria with neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s, ALS and Alzheimer’s. Google it.

Meanwhile, we’re getting conflicting messages from officialdom. Martin County has erected signs warning against contact with the water but the Florida Dept. of Health website, under the heading How to Keep Your Family Safe While Enjoying Florida’s Water Ways, has this to say: “Cyanobacteria/ blue-green algae…are naturally occurring in Florida’s environment and are also found all over the world. They are part of a healthy ecosystem and help support a wide variety of aquatic life.” (http://www.floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/aquatic-toxins/cyanobacteria.html) In other words, Lighten up, Florida. This is just nature being natural.

An open question remains: What will become of the value of the Florida brand when the world fully sees what we have done to our waters?

Even in disaster, strange beauty emerges.

Greg Fedele has lived in his water-front home since 1991. He grieves for his loss. “I have three kids who can’t enjoy the waterways of Martin County like I did growing up.”

The sign at Ocean Blue Yacht Sales in Stuart echoes a wide swath of community sentiment. Asked to describe in a word how the algae outbreak has impacted his business, president Bryan Boyd replied, “Horrible. The last three years, our bay boat sales have been a third of what they used to be.”

A roadside sign seen in Stuart in late July. If you’re wondering what you can do about the ongoing crisis of Florida waters, we are called to consider our own water footprint, learn about the issues and get involved. And never forget that elections have consequences. Vote for Clean Water. (https://www.bullsugar.org/#)

What we have here in Florida is not just a crisis of water, we have a crisis of democracy and civic engagement.

From the beleaguered springs of North Florida to the sickened rivers and coasts of South Florida, we must understand that no savior is waiting on the horizon who will fix this thing for us.

It took a group effort to create this mess and we need all hands on deck if are to reclaim our waters. Florida needs environmental patriots willing to face down politicians funded by wealthy interests who think nothing of sacrificing our public waters on the altar of their private profits.

We don’t have the luxury of time to get this right. We are losing our waters now. This is our moment. It’s time to set aside our differences and focus on what is at stake, for this is nothing less than a battle for the soul of Florida.

The pictures don’t lie. We the people of Florida bear witness today to nothing less than a crime against nature, and a crime against the children who shall inherit our natural legacy.

A long time ago, Florida political leaders—Republicans and Democrats in common cause—understood there can be no healthy economy without a healthy environment. They wisely enacted laws and regulatory safeguards accordingly.

But that was then and this is now. It’s time to end the popular fiction in Florida that we can plunder and pollute our way to prosperity.

Gov. Reubin Askew said it best when he declared in 1971, “Ecological destruction is nothing less than economic suicide.”

In this, our Summer of Slime, can I get an amen?

by John Moran
August 2018

web: http://johnmoranphoto.com
email: JohnMoranPhoto@gmail.com
cell: 352.514.7670

Feel free to forward or post this photo essay as you wish; attribution is appreciated. Please share this with elected officials and ask them: what’s their plan to clean up our waters?

“New Turf” –Scotts Phosphorus and Nitrogen Free Fertilizer/Adapting to an Educated Public, SLR/IRL

Scotts
As all fertilizer companies, Scotts has traditionally developed many products heavy in phosphorus and nitrogen, they are now producing products with no nitrogen and phosphorus. Amazing. (Public photo)

It is a good thing when one sees the market adapting to an educated public rather than fighting it.  For me, this is especially rewarding when it comes to adapting to a public educated on fertilizer use, and how it  negatively affects the health of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon.

In 2010 the Town of Sewall’s Point passed the first “strong fertilizer ordinance” with a black out period on Florida’s east coast. A blackout period is a period when no fertilizer using phosphorus or nitrogen is allowed during a designated time frame that corresponds with South Florida’s rainy season. Due to fertilizers role in the destruction of waterways and increased harmful algae blooms, this idea first took shape on Florida’s west coast in 2007.

Although local governments can affect residential fertilizer, farmers are dealt with separately through the Dept. of Agriculture. So anyway—–

After Sewall’s Point, Martin County a much bigger player,  soon followed with a black out period and the domino effect ensued. River advocates worked tirelessly, and within about one year St Lucie, Indian River, parts of Brevard and Volusia counties, also along the lagoon, had jumped on board. The public showed they were willing to put “skin in the game” to achieve clean water. Many are rethinking “green lawns” in general…and becoming ever MORE EDUCATED.

Recently, Dianne Hughes, who works for Martin County, sent out an email announcing that Scotts Fertilizer would be launching a new “Florida-Friendly Lawn Supplement in Key Test Markets.” I would image this will include “us.” Dianne has worked very hard on promoting the BE FLORIDAN, a program thats model includes fertilizer education and a summer black out period. (http://befloridian.org)

A photo from DEP showing a yard along the North Fork of the SLR. In instances like this it is easy to see the negative effects of fertilizers.
A photo from DEP showing a yard along the North Fork of the SLR. In instances like this it is easy to see the negative effects of fertilizers on area waterways.

Dianne’s email read:

Scotts® Launches New Florida-Friendly Lawn Supplement in Key Test Markets

Scotts® Smarter Solutions for Cleaner Waterways Initiative Brings New Lawn Response™ Nitrogen and Phosphorus Free Product to Florida

West Palm Beach, FL (July 15, 2015) – As part of it’s Smarter Solutions for Cleaner Waterways initiative, ScottsMiracle-Gro, announced the launch of Scotts ®Lawn Response™, a nitrogen and phosphorus free lawn nutrient supplement that will help residents in communities with local fertilizer restrictions support the health of their landscapes. This new product is the latest addition to the Scotts® portfolio in Florida and is a lawn nutrient supplement that replenishes essential micro-nutrients for improved plant health. Produced in Florida and specifically for Florida lawns and gardens, Lawn Response™ is currently available in select areas of the state.

Designed to use on any grass type, outdoor plants and trees, Lawn Response™ is nitrogen and phosphorus free and is compliant for use throughout the year, even during the summer for communities that have localized fertilizer restrictions in place.

Interesting!

In 2013, Scotts also created a phosphorus free fertilizer: (http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/business/2013/05/10/scotts-drops-phosphorus-from-lawn-fertilizer.html)

Kudos to Scotts for these changes. Kudos to Scotts for listening and adapting to the public. Kudos to Scotts for realizing you can still find a market and make money and protect the environment. I  won’t tell them though that I have not put any fertilizer on my almost grassless yard for over six years and it’s still green. 🙂

_________________________________________________________

FULL PRESS RELEASE:
For Immediate Release
Contact: Molly Jennings; (561) 681-7683
molly.jennings@scotts.com

Scotts® Launches New Florida-Friendly Lawn Supplement in Key Test Markets

Scotts® Smarter Solutions for Cleaner Waterways Initiative Brings New Lawn Response™ Nitrogen and Phosphorus Free Product to Florida

West Palm Beach, FL (July 15, 2015) – As part of it’s Smarter Solutions for Cleaner Waterways initiative, ScottsMiracle-Gro, announced the launch of Scotts ®Lawn Response™, a nitrogen and phosphorus free lawn nutrient supplement that will help residents in communities with local fertilizer restrictions support the health of their landscapes. This new product is the latest addition to the Scotts® portfolio in Florida and is a lawn nutrient supplement that replenishes essential micro-nutrients for improved plant health. Produced in Florida and specifically for Florida lawns and gardens, Lawn Response™ is currently available in select areas of the state.

Designed to use on any grass type, outdoor plants and trees, Lawn Response™ is nitrogen and phosphorus free and is compliant for use throughout the year, even during the summer for communities that have localized fertilizer restrictions in place.

“Last year we publicly committed to help create solutions for Florida’s one-of- a kind environment and the launch of Lawn Response ™ is part of that commitment. Several Florida communities concerned with excess nitrogen and phosphorus in local waterways have restricted the use of lawn fertilizers during the summer season. We recognize that nitrogen is an essential building block for all plant life and while there is no substitute, Lawn Response ™ gives residents a new lawn care option that will help to keep plants healthy, hearty and drought resistant“,” said Mark Slavens, ScottsMiracle-Gro Vice President of Environmental Affairs.

ScottsMiracle-Gro along with leading academic institutions have long agreed that by naturally filtering and storing water before it reaches stormwater treatment centers and local waterbodies, a healthy lawn promotes cleaner waterways. Lawn Response™ features a micro-nutrient packet that includes Iron, Potassium, Magnesium and Calcium, which can enhance greening and increases water efficiency.

Last year, ScottsMiracle-Gro’s “Smarter Solutions for Cleaner Waterways” initiative included a three-year, $5 million commitment to in-state water quality research, habitat restoration, consumer education and green infrastructure improvements. The company is supporting local independent research to determine the sources of pollution in the Indian River Lagoon; results from which will help create solutions to improve the lagoon’s water and wildlife, and create a model that can be replicated for other sensitive waterways. Through its partnerships with additional local partners, Scotts is helping to restore more than 20 acres of salt marsh plants will be restored in Tampa Bay, and supporting research on the Bay’s long-term environmental resiliency. Grants to community gardens, farms and greenspaces throughout Florida have protected more than 47,600 square feet of land. The addition of Lawn Response™ nutrient supplement is an extension of that initiative and demonstrates ScottMiracle-Gro’s continued commitment to Florida’s waterways.

The development of Scotts® Lawn Response™ is consistent with the company’s long history of innovation. Over the past several years, ScottsMiracle-Gro has developed products designed to preserve and protect the local water bodies by removing phosphorus from their Turf Builder® lawn maintenance products, and reducing the amount of total nitrogen while also increasing the amount of slow-release nitrogen in fertilizers. Additionally, the company has developed a SNAP® lawn care system that eliminates product pouring and possible spills and continues to make advances in product applicators, like EdgeGuard®, that help consumers apply the product correctly and on-target.

For more on the product launch and additional information on the Florida Smarter Solutions for Cleaner Waterways initiative, visit http://www.scotts.com/Florida.
About ScottsMiracle-Gro

With more than $2.8 billion in worldwide sales, The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company is the world’s largest marketer of branded consumer products for lawn and garden care. The Company’s brands are the most recognized in the industry. In the U.S., the Company’s Scotts®, Miracle-Gro® and Ortho® brands are market-leading in their categories, as is the consumer Roundup® brand, which is marketed in North America and most of Europe exclusively by Scotts and owned by Monsanto. In the U.S., we operate Scotts LawnService®, the second largest residential lawn care service business. In Europe, the Company’s brands include Weedol®, Pathclear®, Evergreen®, Levington®, Miracle-Gro®, KB®, Fertiligène® and Substral®. In 2015, the Company ranked in Forbes 100 Most Reputable Companies in America. For additional information, visit us at http://www.scottsmiraclegro.com.

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Molly Jennings ·
This email was sent to DHughes@martin.fl.us.