Indian River Lagoon water, soil tested by WPTV, Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers

Sediment showed 'toxic' levels at 5 of 6 locations

FORT PIERCE, Fla. - There's no question toxic water has caused dilemmas for people who live along South Florida's east coast.

But the Contact 5 Investigators discovered some household chemicals you may have at home right now could be contributing to the problem.

People have pointed to everything from Lake Okeechobee discharges, to farming to septic issues as the causes behind the toxic water on the Treasure Coast.

The Contact 5 Investigators teamed up with Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers to find out if part of the problem could be manmade, something homeowners could be contributing to on a daily basis.

Click here to read TCPalm's coverage

You've seen the surface of the toxic water crisis that's affecting everyone from swimmers to businesses.

But the Contact 5 Investigators plunged deeper to show you what impact household chemicals could be having beneath the surface.

"People don't realize how little testing has been going on and that's how we have gotten into this situation," said Dr. Edie Widder President of ORCA, the Ocean Research and Conservation Association.

On December 5 th NewsChannel 5 headed out on a boat with a team of researchers and scientists from ORCA to do testing.

Researchers collected samples at six different sites in three Treasure Coast counties. Plus, we went even deeper to collect soil samples underneath the water.

Click here to view the interactive map showing sample locations and test results

"We're taking the very top because that gives us an idea of what's happening right now," said research assistant Retta Rohm.

The team packed up the samples and sent them to a lab in Tampa for testing.  Two months later, NewsChannel 5 received the results.

"I would have predicted that we wouldn't have found anything in just taking 6 water samples, what are the odds?" said Dr. Widder.

The Contact 5 Investigators discovered the soil was toxic at five of the six locations.

Click here to view a slideshow of the water and sediment testing

"It's almost like a magnet for pollution," said Dr. Widder.   "We do it on a scale from 1 to 100 and I think the highest one we measured was 97," explained Dr. Widder.

Plus, they discovered traced amounts of three herbicides in the samples. The chemicals included glyphosate, diquat and indaziflam. 

"Is that something we should be concerned about?" asked Contact 5 Investigator Dan Krauth.

"It's definitely something to be concerned about because what's happening here is we are actually poisoning our life support systems," responded Dr. Widder.

That's because most of the chemicals found in the samples are ones you probably have at home to kill weeds and to make your yard look nice.  Plus, the Contact 5 Investigators discovered most government agencies also use the chemicals in big amounts from parks, to golf courses to mosquito control.

"It's a very low concentration and it's only effective because we stick it right on the plant," said Jim David, the Director of St. Lucie County Mosquito Control and Coastal Management Services.

David said the chemicals are safe when used properly in small doses and said it would be more harmful not to use them.  St. Lucie County Mosquito Control sprays a small concentration of chemicals like glyphosate on water lettuce in area canals. 

"If we don't control those plants, the flow through there isn't really good and we have disease-bearing mosquito that comes out," said David.  

"It (the instructions) say don't use around water and yet we see that some of the counties and individuals are using it to edge their lawns right up to the water's edge," said Dr. Widder.

It's a complicated problem without an easy fix.

"It's just a snapshot," explained Dr. Widder, after examining the results.

After the results of the Contact 5 Investigation, ORCA now wants to do more detailed testing up and down the entire Indian River Lagoon.

"Could these chemicals be contributing to the toxic water problem on the Treasure Coast?" asked Krauth.

"Herbicides could definitely be contributing but we don't really know to what extent," said Dr. Widder.

Click here to read the complete lab results

Test Results


The markers on the map below show where test samples were taken. Click on the markers to find out more about the test results and find out the toxicity levels of the water and sediment samples.

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