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Former Sewall's Point mayor, husband spend years photographing algae in St. Lucie River

Posted at 8:53 PM, Oct 24, 2018

This summer, the algae crisis on the Treasure Coast gained nationwide attention.

Even celebrity environmentalist Erin Brockovich decided to visit Stuart to see it for herself.

For those who have been photographing and documenting the effects of Lake Okeechobee for years to bring attention to the issue, grabbing Brockovich’s attention was a big step forward in the fight for solutions.

The former mayor of Sewall’s Point, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, and her pilot husband, Ed Lippisch, have been flying over the St. Lucie River, C-44 Canal, Lake Okeechobee and the ocean for years, photographing the algae blooms in 2013, 2016 and 2018.

Now, they see the water is starting to look better. Jacqui last took pictures in early October.

“It was blue and turquoise and what you dream of,” Thurlow-Lippisch said. “It just reminds you of how beautiful it is here when it’s beautiful.”

To Thurlow-Lippisch,  it’s no coincidence that the water appears cleaner shortly after the Army Corps of Engineers halted Lake Okeechobee releases into the St. Lucie Estuary.

“Isn’t that ironic? I mean, I don’t mean to be fresh, but this is what you see within a week after them stopping. Things look a lot better.”

But, there is still something concerning they can see from the air. They say they no longer see seagrass- a critical part of the estuary. ”The most important part of this system is completely gone."

Erin Brockovich spoke out about her concerns surrounding the algae in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers.

“I’ve never seen a situation like this ever,” Brockovich said. "It sickens me to see what is happening.”

Lippisch is glad to know there is a new voice in the fight she has been battling for years.

“I think it’s incredible. People were talking about her in 2016 and I remember thinking to myself she would never come here. She’s got too many other places to go, she’ll never come here. Sure enough, she was here. And it’s because it is atrocious what’s happening here. It’s mind-boggling what’s happening here. She only goes to places like that so it validates our worries and it brings attention to the issue.”