What do septic tanks have to do with massive algae blooms?

ORLANDO, Florida – Researchers blame rising temperatures, runoff of fertilizer and rising nitrogen levels from old septic tanks to be the cause of algae blooms that have spread through central Florida .

The piles of algae washed up on the shores of Brevard, Volusia and Flagler counties in May, and they were so thick in places that the shovels were no match.

“In your mind you have this pristine beach that you see in all the Florida photos, and then you see this, and it’s like, ‘This is not what I expected,'” he said. said Andy George, who was visiting Cocoa Beach with his wife, Mélanie.

“The algae problem we’re talking about is this floating brown algae – Sargassum,” said Dr. Brian LaPointe.

LaPointe is a research professor at Florida Atlantic University, and he said he has been studying Sargassum since the 1980s.

He said that what he has discovered over the past 10 years, however, is becoming increasingly worrying.

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According to research by LaPointe and some of his colleagues, a floating algae bloom started growing near the mouth of the Amazon River into the Atlantic Ocean in 2011 and it hasn’t stopped.

Research from Florida Atlantic University has shown that a bloom of Sargassum developed in 2011 and reached its largest size in 2018. (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.)

In 2014, he said he was stretching out into the Caribbean Sea.

In 2018, he said he had reached his largest size on record, reaching the Gulf of Mexico and both coasts of Florida.

Research from Florida Atlantic University has shown that a bloom of Sargassum developed in 2011 and reached its largest size in 2018. (Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.)

“In a way, things have changed,” he said. “Again, we are talking about climate change and other aspects of global change. Not just climate change (which is happening), but the growth of the human population in addition to climate change. “

He pointed to the increase in nitrogen released into the water, which he said feeds the floating bloom.

“If you look around the state, we have millions of septic tanks without nitrogen removal. We have ocean outfalls in Miami-Dade and Broward County that pump millions of gallons of nutrient-rich wastewater effluent into coastal waters every day, ”he said.

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How can we stop it?

“Well, it’s like ‘Jaws’. You have to cut off the food supply, ”he said.

“This has been a priority for all of us,” said State Representative Rene Palcencia, R-District 50.

Placencia serves residents of part of Brevard County, and he said state projects were already underway to help stop nitrogen seeping into the soil through septic tanks.

But with 2.6 million septic tanks in Florida, that may not be a quick fix.

“It’s expensive,” he said. “We are slowly moving and converting our septic tanks that are close to our very fragile waterways, whether it is a river, aquifer or intercostal waterway, like the Indian River Lagoon, and we’re turning them into urban sewers. “

Other representatives from Brevard, Volusia and Flagler counties shared Placencia’s concerns, and they also said controlling nitrogen outlets was high on their to-do list.

State Representative Jason Brodeur, R-District 9, said the legislature has made “huge strides” in raising standards for wastewater treatment, including on-site septic systems.

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“It is important to note that Sargassum washing up on Florida beaches is believed to be caused by nitrogen enrichment from sources as far away as the Amazon River and West Africa,” the representative said. ‘State Jason Brodeur. “While these blooms are likely to continue despite our efforts here in Florida, I am committed to supporting and developing programs such as converting septic tanks to sewers to help reduce the nutrient load in our waters. “

“Senate Bill 2512, now law, directs dedicated revenue from documentary stamp taxes to the Water Protection and Sustainability Program Trust Fund to support the Water Protection and Sustainability Program trust fund. wastewater established by SB 712, ”said State Senator Debbie Mayfield, R-District 17.“ These significant investments in upgrading the state’s wastewater infrastructure will prevent nutrients from entering our streams, reducing the food available for algae and harmful plant blooms.

“Again, if we don’t remove the nutrient supply that is creating this increase in this trend, then they’re going to keep getting worse and worse,” LaPointe said.

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LaPointe said he expects more Sargassum flowers to reach Florida shores this summer.

Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.

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