South Florida Algae Bloom

Randall Weiseman Florida, Water



Lake Okeechobee’s northern side near the town of Okeechobee, FL. Photo credit: FL Farm Bureau

The algal blooms in Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee River and the Indian River Lagoon have gained national coverage and become quite a controversial topic. The blue-green algae, called cyanobacteria, has affected individuals, businesses and farming in South Florida.

Charles Shinn, director of government and community affairs for the Florida Farm Bureau Federation, says that Farm Bureau is concerned about the poor water quality and the impacts it is having on residents. Instead of putting the blame on a certain side of the argument, he says that everyone in Florida is to blame and that the excessive amount of rainfall from this spring just made matters worse.

This is not the first time Florida has faced an algae bloom. This is a reoccurring issue, but with the wet winter and spring, conditions have been prime for an excessive bloom. This has caused a lot of controversy in the media and the affected counties regarding who is to blame for the blue-green algae showing up in Florida estuaries, rivers and canals.

Shinn said he would rather everyone not point fingers, but instead stand back and depend on the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corp of Engineers that are looking for solutions.

“Knowing those solutions will take time,” Shinn said, “because of the effects of the nutrients that are in the lagoon as well as Lake Okeechobee: it’s going to take years to resolve.”

What many don’t take into account is that there is a very high amount of nutrients in Lake Okeechobee that has built up over decades. This latent load of nutrients is a major contributor to this year’s substantial bloom.

Shinn also said, “I think that best management practices on the farm and in the urban environment, and looking at septic tank retrofits, is an important step forward and we can be working on better water quality for everybody.”