ORCA CEO presents year's worth of data tracking polluters of the Indian River Lagoon

FORT PIERCE, Fla. - Scientists with the Ocean Research and Conservation Association (ORCA) say they are coming up with more potential solutions for improving the conditions in the Indian River Lagoon.

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In a presentation Wednesday night in front of several dozen Treasure Coast residents in Fort Pierce, ORCA CEO Dr. Edie Widder revealed the findings from a year’s worth of data collected from Kilroys in the lagoon.

Kilroys monitor different conditions in the water, and that data is collected and analyzed by scientists.

“I’m getting more clarity, I must say that, about what’s going on,” Widder said.

She says the Kilroys, which are spread out throughout the Indian River Lagoon, tracked various sources of pollution. “It isn’t like there’s a smoking gun, we’re all contributing to this,” Widder said.

That included agricultural and urban runoff, and releases from Lake Okeechobee.

But, one specific area of the lagoon grabbed her interest. “The biggest take away for me was there’s an awful lot of pollution from the canals in the southern part of the lagoon,” Widder said.

This includes areas like the C-24 canal in Martin County. She says a ‘good amount’ of pollution is coming from the bottom of the canals.

She says after following data from the Kilroys, scientists tested the sediment on the floor of the canals and found an average of 20 inches of muck, which she says, has been accumulating for years, covering the naturally sandy bottom.

It releases ammonia, which can be found in fertilizers and or human waste. “It’s still there, it’s oozing back into the river all the time. It turns out it’s coming out as ammonium."

Now, she’s adding another idea to the list of solutions for the lagoon. “I think the key is actually cleaning up the canals.”

She says dredging the canals, for example, could help prevent future algae issues and improve the water condition overall. 

She is also aiming to do more research on ammonia, a key polluter, she says.

Widder will be asking the state for continued funding for the Kilroys, wanting to collect many years worth of data.

She will also be looking to tweak some of the Kilroys to better track the ammonium levels in the lagoon.

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