Scientist says new focus needed for lagoon pollution

Ammonia levels need to be monitored more
Posted at 5:41 PM, Jan 11, 2017

Winding through the Treasure Coast, the C-24 canal is a popular, but often problematic waterway.

Dr. Edie Widder with the Ocean Research and Conservation Association has spent the past two years studying what’s in the canals that feed the Indian River Lagoon.

Widder says that all nitrogen pollution in the water is not created equal and he believes there needs to be an increased focus on not just nitrate, but ammonia levels in particular.

“The ammonia development is kind of a game changer," said Widder on Wednesday.

Ammonia is found in things like fertilizer, and human waste.

“Ammonia is sort of like a Big Mac to these micro algae that have started to become dominant in the lagoon.  Whereas nitrate, which is what most people have been measuring, what we’ve been measuring, is like celery," said Widder.

He believes the ammonia has been goosing toxic algae blooms.  It also contributed to a brown tide in the northern part of the lagoon last spring that led to a massive fish kill.

“It does help explain why we’ve had this shift in the lagoon.”

ORCA uses their own Kilroy water monitors in the lagoon, and is seeking money from state lawmakers to adjust them to focus on ammonia in the water. 

Widder will present her research findings Jan. 25 at the Pelican Yacht Club in Fort Pierce at 5:30 p.m.  

There is a cost to attend the cocktail reception and presentation.  For more information, contact ORCA at 772-467-1600.