Toxic algae outbreaks deal a serious blow to the millions of jobs provided by our tour-ist-dependent economy, hurting the people who work at hotels, beachfront conces-sions, restaurants, bars, charter and com-mercial fishing boats, and diminishing wa-terfront home and condominium rentals.
Northeast Florida’s famous St. Johns River, which runs through Jacksonville, was closed to fishermen and boaters in the summer of 2009 because of a toxic algae outbreak dubbed “The Green Monster” for the fluo-rescent green slime on the water. Toxin lev-els were recorded at 50 – 140 times higher than the World Health Organization’s recom-mended limits, and many people reported respiratory problems, raw throats, and irritated eyes. The toxic algae poisoned fish, making them unsafe to catch or eat. The toxic algae returned in strength in the sum-mer of 2010, this time accompanied by a 100 mile long fish kill. It is is creeping back again in 2011.
These outbreaks have happened in other parts of the state, and they will intensify until Florida sets measureable standards for phosphorus and nitrogen pollution..
Recent testing by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection reveals that 1,800 miles of the state’s rivers and almost half the state’s lakes are seriously polluted by sewage, fertilizer or manure pollu-tion.
During an outbreak on Southeast Florida’s St. Lucie River, the local Health Department had to post signs warning against contact with the water, and waterfront property owners suffered a half-billion dollar loss in property values.
Visitors to Wakulla Springs south of Talla-hassee – for a century hailed as one of Florida’s crown jewels – have reported getting skin rashes after swimming in the spring. The rashes were attributed to tox-ic algae triggered by sewage pollution. Farther south, over twenty similar inci-dents were reported at Ichetucknee Springs. There, the outbreak was from unregulated manure from industrial dairy operations.