Martin County residents react to air quality test results

Posted at 7:38 PM, Jul 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-28 04:36:11-04

The difference is remarkable, the way Central Marine looks and smells today compared to the way it looked just a few weeks earlier.

“It’s a whole lot better,” said Mary Radabaugh, the manager of the marina. “With the full moon bringing the tides in, it gave us a flush and I believe with the lessening of the water flow it has also helped.”

RELATED: Special section | Map of algae blooms in Florida

Though, for Radabough, it’s not what she sees, it’s what she doesn’t see that really worries her.

“There is concern because they are showing that there are air born particles,” said Radabough.

She now knows she may have been breathing in toxins at work.

“What do we know about that. We don’t. It’s uncharted territory,” she said.

On Tuesday, Martin County staff released results of air quality tests.

The tests were done earlier this month at four different locations in the county where algae was especially dense.

Mary's marina was one of the spots tested.

It confirmed her concerns, that the toxic algae was releasing toxins into the air.

But as the county explained Tuesday, there’s still no way to determine how harmful it is to our health.

“For the air quality samples, there is no standard … that indicates that certain levels of microcystin toxins are dangerous or not. There’s just no standards,” explained Deborah Drum with the County.

Outboards Only was another location where the air quality tests were taken.

Phil Norman says the algae was so bad his employees couldn’t work.

“It was very bad. You couldn’t work here. You couldn’t do anything.”

The water behind his business has also improved dramatically.

“0.03 verses at Central Marine they were 0.6,” said Corey McGuire with Ecosphere Technologies, referring the to levels of toxins detected in the air.
McGuire says the report proves the company's efforts to clear out the algae at Outboards Only made a positive difference.

“Within just two days of operating our equipment it showed that the microcystins which are the toxins in the air were actually 95 percent less verses Central Marine.”
Some have raised questions about the way Ecosphere did this clean up, specifically using different technologies to pump and filter the water.

The air quality report points out some areas of concern, saying there were "increased particle concentrations" associated with the demonstration. The report also "suggests that further study should be performed to determine what impact this may have.”

County staff raised similar questions in a Tuesday interview with WPTV.

“That was of note,” said Drum. “I think we need to take that information as we proceed with technologies to remove algae and proceed with that information that it does have the potential to be agitated  or when it is agitated to be aerosolized.”

But Ecosphere says doing something here was the better option.  
And this business owner agrees. Norman believes the results were well worth it.
“It was bad before these guys got here. They came in, their equipment cleaned it up they did a great job.”

The Florida Department of Health says it has “not conducted analysis of the Ecosphere demonstration at this time.”

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