Money, re­search, wa­ter stor­age needed to fight al­gae blooms

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Opinion - By Paul Allen Paul Allen is chair­man of the Flor­ida Fruit & Veg­etable As­so­ci­a­tion and pres­i­dent of R.C. Hat­ton Farms, which grows sweet corn and green beans in South Flor­ida.

In a Jan. 3 op-ed col­umn, Gov. Ron DeSan­tis pledged to keep his cam­paign prom­ises on a num­ber of is­sues, not the least of which is the en­vi­ron­ment. He specif­i­cally cited wa­ter qual­ity and pol­lu­tion that fu­els al­gae blooms. We com­mend him for com­mit­ting to find­ing ways to solve this vex­ing is­sue.

Al­gae blooms – both blue-green al­gae and red tide – oc­cur nat­u­rally and are found around the world. Hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties and nu­tri­ents from stormwa­ter, agri­cul­tural and ur­ban land use, and sewer and sep­tic sys­tems have sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased the amount of pol­lu­tion that fu­els al­gae blooms.

Flor­ida is no ex­cep­tion, and two dif­fer­ent al­gae blooms in South Flor­ida dom­i­nated state head­lines in 2018. What’s more, the Flor­ida Fish & Wildlife Com­mis­sion’s lat­est re­port shows that after dis­ap­pear­ing from Flor­ida’s west coast in early win­ter, red tide has re­turned near Sara­sota.

The al­gae blooms that lin­gered for so long in 2018 dra­mat­i­cally af­fected wildlife and caused con­sid­er­able suf­fer­ing for coastal busi­nesses.

While fin­gers have been pointed at a num­ber of sources, the fact is that ev­ery­one who lives in Flor­ida con­trib­utes in some way to the prob­lem of nu­tri­ents that pol­lute our wa­ter. We care for our lawns. We flush toi­lets. We use mu­nic­i­pal wa­ter sys­tems. We grow food for peo­ple to eat. In the same way, we all can and should be part of the so­lu­tion.

Law­mak­ers have the op­por­tu­nity to take ac­tion dur­ing the up­com­ing leg­isla­tive ses­sion to in­vest in badly needed so­lu­tions. We urge them to sup­port fund­ing for emer­gency es­tu­ary-pro­tec­tion wells to re­duce wa­ter dis­charges from Lake Okee­chobee and for stor­age and treat­ment of wa­ter on pub­lic lands north of the lake. Sim­i­larly, fund­ing is crit­i­cal to help res­i­dents on sep­tic sys­tems con­vert to mu­nic­i­pal sewage ser­vice or re­place ag­ing, leak­ing sep­tic tanks.

On the re­search front, we need in­vest­ments to al­low sci­en­tists to col­lab­o­rate on find­ing work­able so­lu­tions to mit­i­gate blue-green al­gae, in­clud­ing re­search on fer­til­izer rates and ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy for fer­til­izer ap­pli­ca­tion.

The causes of al­gae blooms aren’t sim­ple, and nei­ther are the so­lu­tions. Given Flor­ida’s ex­plo­sive growth – more than 900 peo­ple move to the Sun­shine State ev­ery day – the prob­lem will con­tinue to worsen with­out so­lu­tions that in­volve all stake­hold­ers in Flor­ida: res­i­dents, busi­nesses, util­i­ties, agri­cul­tural op­er­a­tions and oth­ers.

Re­search plays a key role in find­ing so­lu­tions that are grounded in sci­ence. To­gether, Flor­ida can find ways to mit­i­gate these harm­ful al­gae blooms.

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