ORCA facing detrimental budget cuts

Posted at 6:46 PM, Apr 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-18 18:46:49-04

The Ocean Research and Conservation Association, or ORCA, is facing some crucial budget cuts.

Dr. Edie Widder is the CEO and senior scientist at ORCA.

She said the agency asked the Department of Environmental Protection for $750,000, but only got $250,000 from the DEP.

The news comes just a year after the DEP gave ORCA money to purchase monitoring systems that provide data on blue-green algae.

The monitoring device is called a "Kilroy."

There are 25 Kilroys between Volusia and Martin County along the Indian River Lagoon.

"We would not have known to what extent blue-green algae is really impacting this whole lagoon system if we didn't have them out there. I wasn't expecting to see the size of blooms that we're seeing in the canals. They're not big enough that you can see them with the naked eye, but the measurement system is picking them up," Edie said.

Because of the budget cut, ORCA will remove more than a dozen Kilroys in June.

Edie said the devices are crucial at that time of year, when the water starts heating up.

"Blue-green algae is becoming an increasing concern nationwide. You cannot fix a problem until you can define it and understand it. To say that we understand it is not true. We're not even close to understanding it."

The blue-green algae that's been spotted along the Indian River Lagoon produces toxins that scientists say can be dangerous for your health.

Edie said it can produce a neurotoxin known as BMAA, which has been linked to deadly neurological diseases like Alzheimer's and ALS.

She added that high nutrient levels in water can create the blooms, saying that phosphorus may be a big component to the blooms.

Edie said phosphorus that creates the blooms comes from items like laundry detergent, fertilizer and waste from septic systems.

She added that the discharges from Lake Okeechobee aren't causing blooms, but she said they do help fuel their growth.