Bill Barrett awoke Wednesday with a hacking cough. The Stuart man then stunned to see an unsettling view from his condo. There are thick streaks of blue-green algae in the St. Lucie River.
“Unless we have some type of massive hurricane event, I think this is here to stay," said Barrett from his balcony.
Barrett’s fishing rods are getting little use. He also has no use for those who say freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee aren’t the primary problem here.
“If I had known this is what they’re doing with Lake Okeechobee water, I would never have come to Stuart.”
To the north in Port St. Lucie, a map is laid out highlighting the 18 to 20-thousand septic systems in the city. A year-long water quality study is about to kick off to see what kind of impact they have on the North Fork of the St. Lucie River.
“Basically, we’re going to see if we can isolate the source or sources of said contamination," said Port St. Lucie Utilities Lab Manager Joe Presti.
Starting this week, crews will hit various locations along the river and in neighboring canal banks to collect samples that will be sent to the Department of Environmental Protection, which is funding most of the testing.
Port St. Lucie mayor Greg Oravec says the study is being done now because 'enough is enough.'
“You don’t have to live on the river to be a part of it. All you have to do is be a part of the watershed," said the mayor.
Testing will be done during June, July and August then during the next dry season from February to May.
Mayor Oravec says 21 out of the past 31 months has seen health advisories in place for the North Fork.
The Department of Environmental Protection collected samples from the Leighton Park boat ramp in Palm City Monday. Those test results have yet to be released.
— Jon Shainman (@JonShainman) June 22, 2016