Regarding the cyanobacterial “blue-green algal” blooms in South Florida, microcystis aeruginosa likes warm water and needs an abundance of nutrients, nitrogen, but especially phosphorus. As it grows in the nutrient-rich waters of Lake Okeechobee, it then gets carried to the coasts through canals. Along the way, it gains more nutrients from agricultural runoff, septic tank leakage and other sources, such as equestrian waste, that I have studied for over a decade.
Recently, my friend and colleague Dr. Brian Lapointe of Harbor Branch Oceanographic was misquoted in the Palm Beach Post when they said that he said, “It’s not the lake.” I have spoken with him, and it should have said, “It’s not just the lake.”
Dr. Lapointe and I currently have a grant proposal in with NOAA for more than six months now to study nutrients and their sources in the C-51 basin. Hopefully, we can get funded to increase our efforts. I sampled the C-51 on Saturday, June 25 and have pictures of this blue-green algae moving east to the Lake Worth Lagoon.
All sources of nutrients must be greatly decreased to stop future catastrophes:
1. Buy more land adjacent to the Kissimmee River to let the flood plains become the riparian marshes that they were historically. This slows water input to the lake and removes nutrients.
2. Buy the sugar lands south of the lake as we, the people, voted on and create larger Stormwater Treatment Areas (aka, nutrient removal cells or filtering marshes).
3. Have animal manure, notably equestrian, recycled rather than spread in mega-ton quantities on sugar lands immediately adjacent to the L-8 Canal. Horse manure leaches enormous amounts of phosphorus with just water extraction, and the peat soils and karstic bedrocks are extremely porous.
4. Have booms/meshes placed on the canals draining the bloom-laden water from Lake Okeechobee. This would be akin to collecting the oil off the surface of the Gulf of Mexico following the Deep Sea Horizon oil spill.
5. Get all communities with septic tank disposal systems immediately adjacent to canals, lakes and lagoons shifted to centralized collection/treatment systems.
6. Statewide, do what the Village of Wellington has enacted as a Best Management Practice (BMP) to outlaw any fertilizer use with a middle number (phosphorus in the N:P:K system) higher than 0 or 2 without a certified soil analysis proving that the soil actually needs more phosphorus.
7. The state should get much tougher on agriculture. Yes, we all need to eat, but one crop product should become much cheaper now that relations with Cuba are again open. We should not kill all of this state’s water systems for the benefit of a few.
I will be glad to discuss any or all of this with anyone.
Dr. Bill Louda, Loxahatchee Groves
Editor’s note: Dr. Louda is a research professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Florida Atlantic University.