Water conservancy groups urge Florida regulators to set water-quality standards
Thick, smelly clumps of blue-green algae have been decaying along the Caloosahatchee near the south side of the Franklin Lock this week.
It comes as several water conservancy groups in our area urged the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to set water-quality standards for the toxins in the algal blooms in a letter Wednesday.
It’s signed off by Calusa Waterkeeper, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, Conservancy of SWFL, and Center for Biological Diversity.
The group said it was “disappointed to learn during the Department’s May 5 virtual public workshop that the Department will not be establishing criteria for cyanotoxins.”
It then listed out several reasons why it believed the Department had not adequately explained its reasoning for not establishing that criteria, “particularly at a time when the public is looking to the state for leadership while a 500-square-mile bloom ravages Lake Okeechobee and health alerts are being issued for the Caloosahatchee River due to high levels of cyanotoxins in the water.”
NBC2 reached out to the FDEP for a response on the group’s request but had not heard back at the time this article was published.
People NBC2 spoke to near the lock Wednesday said the sight and smell of the blue-green mess made them leave.
“[It’s} a nice day to picnic by the water, but it’s not gonna happen here because of the algae,” said Sam Curry. “You can get a whiff of it as the wind turns. It’s not a place that I want the kids fishing at.”
Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani said Wednesday’s wind actually helped keep the algae at bay in the Caloosahatchee, at least for the time being.
“We’ve had 20-25 knot winds that keep it mixed into the water column and that’s sort of a natural mitigating effect,” Cassani said. “But if we get several calm days in a row, then look out, it’ll be back up at the surface trying to form those mats.”
Cassani said the algae is moving further down the river each week.
“We don’t want to see that,” Cassani said. “That’s what got really bad in 2018 and it’s kind of looking that way now.”
Calusa Waterkeeper also took several water samples at sites along the river this week, including by the Franklin Lock. They are expecting those results Thursday and hope to gain more insight into the algal bloom’s toxicity levels.
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