Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Florida's Rainy Summer Spreading Toxic Algae to Florida Waters 

What causes toxic algae? Sewage, wastewater, chemical fertilizer and manure from farms that enter waterways. All spur the growth of algae. Photo: Lynn Betts, NRCS

ST. LUCIE, FL – This summer's unseasonably heavy summer rains are not just spurring the growth of toxic algae in Florida's coastal waters. A new report by the National Wildlife Federation and Resource Media found that at least two of the state's inland waters - the St. Lucie River and Lake Harris - have had public health advisories issued this summer because of algae. These outbreaks killed dozens of dolphins, manatees, birds and fish.

Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation, warned that, beyond the impact on wildlife, the green slime can cost the state millions in greenbacks from lost tourism.

"If they encounter beach closures or they have public health notices, tourists are probably less likely to come back. That's money that's going to go someplace else," Fuller said.

You can read the report here.

Scientists attribute the algae to runoff from industrial agriculture and urban stormwater that is aggravated by warming waters caused by climate change. No federal agency tracks lake closures or health advisories. Fuller said that is one reason the problem has not gotten national attention - until now.

Currently, Congress is considering legislation that would fund Everglades restoration, which Fuller pointed out is necessary to help repair the damages. However, he said, reports like this emphasize the importance of regulations to prevent water pollution in the first place.

"We have to reduce our nutrient discharges into our waterways, and we have to better be able to store and treat water," he said.

The report recommended increasing demands that industrial agriculture employ ways to retain runoff nutrients on farms and adopt water pollution limits with regard to phosphorous and nitrogen discharge - two key ingredients of fertilizer. 

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