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Wednesday, 13 April 2016 08:02

Will lagoon be 'dead zone?'

Written by  Richard Baker

Posted April 13, 2016
Indian River Lagoon and Florida Politics, cont'd.

Richard Baker: Indian River Lagoon may be close to becoming a 'dead zone'
TCPalm, Guest Column by Richard Baker, April 5, 2016

Last week's photos of hundreds of thousands of dead fish in the Indian River Lagoon — 30-plus different species, plus other animals — were not unexpected.

A huge brown-tide algal bloom consumed dissolved oxygen in the water. Like us, fish need oxygen to survive. During the 2013 algal bloom, we wondered why the sea grasses, brown pelicans, dolphins and manatees died.
These latest mortalities demonstrate those causes still exist. Moreover, these decaying fish will release additional nutrients into the water to promote more algae. We may have reached a tipping point that moves the lagoon into a "dead zone."

Unfortunately, algae blooms and animal deaths were not enough of a warning. Scientists and environmental champions warned about algae blooms fueled by excessive nutrients (often from septic tank and fertilizer runoff) and the presence of other harmful pollutants, but most politicians at all levels have ignored the warnings. Their response was to lay off staff and cut budgets while feeding us platitudes about their concern for the environment. In 2011, St. Johns River Water Management District Board Member Maryam Ghyabi complained that senior staff had set the direction of the district on the wrong path and that she had been getting many complaints about the agency. Three high-level employees lost their jobs the next day. Last year, the district again purged senior staff. Yet here we are, five years after the first superbloom destroyed much of the lagoon, suffering through another horrific die-off and seemingly no closer to a solution. …

… Stop treating our lagoon like a garbage dump. Pay attention to the signs that say, "All Canals lead to the Lagoon." The ditches and swales near your homes send whatever you put into your septic tanks or on your lawns and driveways into our waterways. We must:

1. Drastically reduce fertilizer and herbicide use.
2. Use native plants that don't require extra water, herbicides, or fertilizers.
3. Build more stormwater ponds to clean water from parking lots and roads.
4. Eliminate septic tanks (glorified outhouses), and disposal of sewage sludge on lands.
5. Use public transportation, drive fuel-efficient cars and support solar energy in "The Sunshine State."
6. Stop destroying wetlands through development. Native plants and animals are losing space every year.
7. Vote for officials who will enforce Amendment 1 and the Clean Water Act as intended.
8. Educate the public.
9. Finally, demand water-quality testing in our canals and ditches for heavy metals, nitrogen, phosphorus, herbicides, and fertilizers. Are discharges from agriculture and urban developments safe for plants, animals and humans? …

Richard Baker is a University of Florida professor emeritus and president of the Pelican Island Audubon Society.

Compiled by Team SCPA


Last modified on Saturday, 21 May 2016 17:12

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