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Thu Aug 8, 2019, 09:09 AM

Almost Half of Florida Water Bodies Have Algal Blooms and Climate Change Is Worsening the Problem

Miami New Times
By JESS NELSON | AUGUST 8, 2019 | 8:00AM

Nearly all of Lake Okeechobee was covered in cyanobacteria in 2018, and the bacteria returned again this summer. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection tested 108 bodies of water statewide in the last month, and 44 percent tested positive for algal blooms. Eight sites were tested in Broward County in the last two weeks. Algal blooms were found in all but one.

Not all algal blooms are toxic, but the dominant type of cyanobacteria found in Lake Okeechobee is. It can produce both neurotoxins and hepatoxins, causing health effects ranging from mild (headaches and sore throats) to severe (tumor formations and cancer). Unfortunately, Florida's algae problem is only expected to get worse with climate change. Rundquist says algal bloom season is already starting earlier and lasting longer.

Increased rainfall due to a changing climate means more agricultural runoff into Florida waters as well. Nutrients commonly found in fertilizer include phosphorus and nitrogen, which have been found to support algal blooms as they grow and propagate. Florida is home to one of the largest phosphate mines in the world, and the chemical can also be found in animal waste and septic systems.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has put several cyanotoxins on its candidate list for regulated water contaminants under the Safe Drinking Water Act, but a new policy could still be years away. Currently, the EPA tests freshwater quality every five years. The results from 2007 and 2012 were included in the Environmental Working Group's report, but the 2017 results have not been made public yet.


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