Harbor Branch scientists confirmed today that Lake Okeechobee releases are the big culprit behind the algae crisis on the Treasure Coast.
Scientists have been closely monitoring water quality at the St Lucie Estuary.
They say there’s so much fresh water being pumped out of lake Okeechobee, it’s collecting in the estuary and causing it to act more like a stagnant lake than a river.
Scientists presented data showing that fresh water releases into the St Lucie Estuary are a major cause of the blooms.
“At that point, the upper estuary becomes a lake fresh water kind of stagnant body of water that can support the types of blooms we just saw develop,” said Brian Lapointe, a research professor at FAU.
For Martin County Ecosystem Manager Deb Drum, it’s new information on a challenging problem.
“We are very supportive of any group who is looking to get more information to help us better understand blue green algae blooms,” said Drum.
Tuesday, Martin County released air quality tests showing that toxic particles were found in varying levels in the air at sites they tested around the county. Drum hopes today’s findings will help lead to solutions to the algae crisis.
“Hopefully this was the beginning of a continuing conversation where we can share information and we'll look forward to that,” added Drum.
Scientists explained that the algae blooms are also caused by nutrients including nitrates and phosphates – that, when boosted by sunlight, can cause rapid algae growth.