Questions to ask the Governor of the state of Florida on the Algae problem
The process for correcting algae bloom is the investment of time and money by the governor of Florida and the state Congress. They will need to form a committee to understand and treat the situation immediately.
Although the Governor has declared a state of emergency, has he presented a course of action or solution?
Why are professors and scientists blaming this on septic tanks?
Why is the core of engineers involved in the construction and maintenance of Lake Okeechobee, when it’s a violation and it should be the states responsibility?
Why is Governor Scott blaming the Corps of Engineers and the federal government for lack of funding?
Why are the state representatives not taking charge and finding the problem?
Why have the states given up their Rights?
In all the articles, none of these questions are addressed by Senators, Representatives or the Governor through the news media.
As a concerned citizen, please join me in notifying the Governor of his need to get more involved and provide a solution to correct this problem in order to protect Florida’s water and tourism.
NPA CFA Citizens For America
Citizens for a Better America, Inc
Charles Frederick Tolbert EdD
In order to understand ecosystem processes, particularly hydrodynamics and the influence of abiotic factors on the fate and transport of sources and loadings of bacteria and microbial contaminants, will ultimately lead to sound environmental decision-making and reduce human health risks. There are many processes and events that can influence sources, transport, and loading of bacteria and nutrients to the lakes, such as land-use and meteorological processes. Research will improve forecasts of water quality to reduce risks to human health associated with recreational exposure and human consumption of water. Effective management of ecosystems requires timely and continuing predictions of ecosystem change.
An algal bloom occurs when the numbers of algal cells increase rapidly to reach concentrations usually high enough to be visible to the naked eye. Many types of algae form blooms. Not all algal blooms are toxic. Some, such as the blooms of diatoms in the early spring, are very important to the health of the ecosystem.
There is no single factor which cause an algal bloom. A combination of optimum factors such as the presence of good nutrients, warm temperatures and lots of light all encourage the natural increase in numbers of blue-green algae in our waterways. Nature mostly takes care of the temperature and light, but the increased presence of nutrients such as phosphorous is largely due to poor farming practices such as high use of fertilizers and presence of livestock near water supplies, as well as effluent and run-off from towns and cities near waterways. The ponding of water and reducing river flow rates tends to improve the light and sometimes the nutrient environment for algal growth making water turbulence a major factor in bloom development. Pesticides and other chemicals may affect the natural grazers which would otherwise control algal growth and their presence increases the risk of bloom.
The development and proliferation of algal blooms likely result from a combination of environmental factors including available nutrients, temperature, sunlight, ecosystem disturbance (stable/mixing conditions, turbidity), hydrology (river flow and water storage levels) and the water chemistry (pH, conductivity, salinity, carbon availability…).
However, the combination of factors that trigger and sustain an algal bloom is not well understood at present and it is not possible to attribute algal blooms to any specific factor. READ MORE about the factors that cause algal blooms…
Nutrients promote and support the growth of algae and Cyanobacteria. The eutrophication (nutrient enrichment) of waterways is considered as a major factor. The main nutrients contributing to eutrophication are phosphorus and nitrogen.
In the landscape, runoff and soil erosion from fertilized agricultural areas and lawns, erosion from river banks, river beds, land clearing (deforestation), and sewage effluent are the major sources of phosphorus and nitrogen entering water ways. All of these are considered as external sources.
Internal origin of nutrients comes from the lake/reservoir sediments. Phosphate attaches to sediments. When dissolved oxygen concentration is low in the water (anoxic), sediments release phosphate into the water column. This phenomenon encourages the growth of algae.
Early blue–green algal blooms usually develop during the spring when water temperature is higher and there is increased light. The growth is sustained during the warmer months of the year. Water temperatures above 25°C are optimal for the growth of Cyanobacteria. At these temperatures, blue–green algae have a competitive advantage over other types of algae whose optimal growth temperature is lower (12-15°C).
In temperate regions, blue–green algal blooms generally do not persist through the winter months due to low water temperatures. Higher water temperatures in tropical regions may cause blue–green algal blooms to persist throughout the year.
Blue–green algae populations are diminished when they are exposed to long periods of high light intensity (photo-inhibition) but have optimal growth when intermittently exposed to high light intensities. These conditions are met under the water surface where light environment is fluctuating.
Even under low light conditions, or in turbid water, blue–green algae have higher growth rates than any other group of algae. This ability to adapt to variable light conditions gives cyanobacteria a competitive advantage over other algal species.
Most of blue–green algae prefer stable water conditions with low flows, long retention times, light winds and minimal turbulence; other prefer mixing conditions and turbid environments.
Drought, water extraction for irrigation, human and stock consumption and the regulation of rivers by weirs and dams all contribute to decreased flows of water in our river systems. Water moves more slowly or becomes ponded, which encourages the growth of algae.
In water bodies, another consequence of stable conditions is thermal stratification. Thermal stratification occurs when the top layer of the water column becomes warmer and the lower layer remains cooler. When the two layers stop mixing, the upper layer becomes more stable (no wind-induced mixing, convection cells)and summer blooms of buoyant blue-green algae are supported.
When a water body is stratified, bottom waters often become depleted with oxygen (anoxia) which may lead to increased nutrient release from the sediments. Pulses of nutrient from the colder bottom layer may fuel up the algal growth in the top layer.
Turbidity is caused by the presence of suspended particles and organic matter (flocs) in the water column. High turbidity occurs when a lot of water is running through the system (high discharge after a rain event). Low turbidity occurs when there is only a small amount of suspended matter present in the water column. Low turbidity can be due to slow moving or stagnant water that allows suspended articles to settle out of the water column. When turbidity is low, more light can penetrate through the water column. This creates optimal conditions for algal growth. In return, growing algae create a turbid environment.
What causes an algae bloom?
In Florida, chlorophyll (an indicator of algae presence) concentrations of more than 40 micrograms per liter are called an “algae bloom” or “algal bloom.” Algae blooms occur when algae grows quickly and densely, often in warm, nutrient-rich waters. Although these blooms are natural, many people don’t like their appearance. Blooms associated with phytoplankton (microscopic algae) turn the water a certain color. Algae blooms are commonly green, but they can also appear blue-green, brown, red, or violet. Other blooms form clumps or dense mats that float on the surface of the water, grow attached to the bottom, or attach to plants.
Algae need light and nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorous, to grow. The level of growth or productivity often depends on the amount of nutrients in a system. Classification for the productivity of a system ranges from oligotrophic (low productivity and nutrients) to hypereutrophic (very high nutrients).Since algae need light to photosynthesize, light penetration into the water is another limiting factor.
Blooms can have far-reaching effects on the environment. Some become so dense they deplete oxygen levels. Decreased oxygen can cause hypoxia (low oxygen) or anoxia (no oxygen) and other organisms that use oxygen, such as fish, become stressed and may die. Other blooms can release toxins that are harmful to animals.
There is a general consensus that urban development, and the subsequent increase in nutrients, has increased the frequency and intensity of algal blooms in many regions of the world.
Controlling algal blooms
The most direct way to control algal blooms is to reduce the availability of nutrients. Most water management organizations throughout the world are actively pursuing a variety of nutrient-reduction strategies. However, for some aquatic ecosystems, nutrient reduction is impractical, ineffective, or too expensive. In some cases, chemical or biological treatments are helpful alternatives.
Copper sulfate and chelated copper compounds are common chemical treatments to control algae. Chemical compounds that block the light required for algae growth (for example, dyes such as Aquashade) are also used to control blooms.
Municipal water authorities often treat drinking-water reservoirs when the algal count exceeds a certain number. Blue-green algae usually increase late in the summer, and often impart a foul taste and odor to the water. When this happens, copper herbicides are applied to lower the algal count, thus making the water more acceptable to drink.
The main biological treatment used today is fish stocking to control submersed and floating algae. Grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) are mainly used for aquatic weeds and attached submersed algae, such as Nitella sp., and Chara sp. Although they do not readily eat filamentous algae, grass carp will eat Lyngbya. The silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) has been an effective control for filamentous algae, including blue-green algae.
Both species of carp are non-native, and there are many restrictions to using them for weed control purposes; some states prohibit their use altogether. When they are allowed, use is restricted to triploid grass carp. Triploid grass carp have an extra set of chromosomes that render them sterile, prohibiting reproduction if the fish escapes into open water.
These fish are an economical choice and have proven effective in controlling the growth of algae in some circumstances. However, outcomes have been mixed when using carp to control algal blooms. Grass carp may consume beneficial vegetation, and leave the nuisance algae they were intended to eat. Research is being conducted on how and why feeding preferences change over time and vary from one lake to another.
Physical treatments for algae in ponds include aeration and airlifts. While aeration does not kill or remove algae from the water, it stirs and oxygenates the water, and can shift conditions from toxic and foul-smelling blue-green algae to preferred green algae species. The resultant algal population is usually not as dense or toxic to other organisms in the ponds.
Harvesters are sometimes used to skim dense mats of blue-green algae (Lyngbya) from the water surface. Lyngbya typically grows in dense mats at the bottoms of nutrient-enriched lakes and spring-fed systems. During photosynthesis, these mats produce gasses that cause them to rise to the surface. Winds pile the algal mats, sometimes several acres in size, against shorelines or in navigation channels. Managers have developed a process called “grubbing” whereby harvesting machines lift the mats off of submersed plants such as native eelgrass, without cutting the eelgrass. By removing the blanket of Lyngbya from the eelgrass, the native plants are able to grow unobstructed. Eelgrass is an important food source for manatees in the Crystal and Homosassa Rivers.
To protect yourself from algae blooms
Don’t swim, water ski, or boat in areas where the water is discolored or where you see foam, scum, or mats of algae on the water.
If you do swim in water that might have a HAB, rinse off with fresh water as soon as possible.
Don’t let pets or livestock swim in or drink from areas where the water is discolored or where you can see foam, scum, or mats of algae in the water.
If pets (especially dogs) swim in scummy water, rinse them off immediately – do not let them lick the algae (and toxins) off their fur.
Don’t irrigate lawns or golf courses with pond water that looks scummy or smells bad.
Report any musty smell or taste in your drinking water to your local water utility.
Respect any water body closures announced by local public health authorities.
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