Log in Subscribe

Report: Florida's Algal Bloom Problems Will Only Grow Worse

BRADENTON – Manatee County recently saw one of its most beloved nature-scapes, Robinson Preserve, fouled by thick "algae mats" that clogged many of its waterways. Blue-green algae absorbs energy from the sun and can grow very fast in warm freshwater, making Florida a perfect petri dish for microorganisms called cyanobacteria. A new report suggests that our climate crisis will only make conditions more hospitable for such blooms.

The Environmental Working Group recently released a report on such blooms and the rapid increase that has been observed nationwide in the last decade, with federal and state testing showing cyanobacteria toxins in hundreds of bodies of water across the U.S. The effects of global warming are noted to have had a significant impact, as algal bloom season is already beginning earlier and lasting longer because of warmer water temperatures.

As global temps continue to rise, the season will only continue to grow longer with more intense peaks. Intense rainfall associated with climate change also causes more agricultural runoff, pushing phosphorus and nitrogen from fertilizers into the water where they can supercharge the blooms. Last month, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection tested 108 bodies of water in the state and found that 44 percent had active algal blooms.

While not all algal blooms are harmful, one of the most dominant ones in Florida can be toxic, producing both neurotoxins and hepatoxins, which can cause symptoms ranging from headaches and sore throats to tumors and cancer. According to the EPA, 68 percent of Americans get their drinking water from community water systems that depend on lakes, rivers or other surface water sources. Because microcystins and other cyanotoxins that develop from blue-green algae are not covered by the Safe Drinking Water Act, they go largely unregulated, even though they are on the EPA’s Contaminant Candidate List, which could lead to potential future regulation.


No comments on this item

Only paid subscribers can comment
Please log in to comment by clicking here.