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Fed up residents speak out at Martin County algae meeting

Martin Co. wants algae disaster declaration
Posted at 6:31 AM, Jun 28, 2016

Martin County Commissioners Tuesday voted to draft a declaration of disaster in the wake of massive algae blooms fouling the Indian River Lagoon.

Those algae blooms reached ocean beaches over the weekend, prompting no swimming signs to be posted at all guarded beaches.

At an emergency meeting Tuesday morning, multiple residents passionately spoke about losing patience over the crisis.

During the four-hour meeting, dozens of residents and small business owners talked about this unprecedented situation and added politicians on the local, state and federal level need to do their jobs and do something.

RELATED: More Toxic Water coverage

The severity of the situation was apparent during Tuesday’s meeting as residents voiced their displeasure.

"I'm done being a peaceful protester.  I’m done being a peaceful citizen," said one resident.

"This problem is being funded by our own funds. If there's 50 years of somebody hitting you with a stick, you better have some options," Glenn Schmidt, a Realtor said.

RELATED: Photos of the toxic water

Representatives with the Florida Oceanographic Society said 2005 was the first time that algae was spotted in the region.  More than 10 years later, the problem has not been addressed.

After hearing several informative presentations, those in attendance were baffled that those responsible did not even attend the meeting.

"It's gone beyond a fishery problem.  It's gone beyond an ecological problem. It's a human health problem, and it's a legacy problem.  These toxins aren't only in the water now, they remain in the sediment.  They remain in the soils, remain in the shoreline, remain in the fish.  It's hard to live here now," Mike Connor said.

The Army Corp of Engineers is charged with monitoring and controlling the discharges, which first caused the blue-green algae blooms on May 13.

The algae has overtaken waterways and caused overwhelming concern about what is being done about it.

The Army Corp of Engineers has communicated with the county to let them know that they will be at the Association of Counties meeting soon.  It was also addressed that this issue is affecting counties on Florida's west coast.

As part of the disaster declaration, the county is going to ask the Army Corps of Engineers to immediately close the St. Lucie Lock and Dam, where billions of gallons of freshwater from Lake Okeechobee has entered the Indian River Lagoon.

The Department of Environmental Protection has been out in the Lagoon this week testing algae samples for toxicity.

The Florida Department of Health has been advising residents not to come in contact with the water.

There was some encouraging news Tuesday. The county said beaches at Stuart, Jensen and Hobe Sound have been reopened for swimming. Bathtub Beach remains closed.

New video from Chopper 5 Tuesday morning showed algae traveling from the C-51 canal to Lake Clarke Shores in Palm Beach County.