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  • Published on: 15th October 2019
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Toxic Florida Algae Blooms

Bryce Warthen

Embry Riddle Aeronautical University

Fall 2018

Topic: Protecting Florida from Blue Green Algae Blooms

Specific Purpose:  To make my audience aware of the severity of the toxic blue-green algae originating from Lake Okeechobee and motivate them to take personal action to help eliminate the problem as well as steps they can take to help protect all of our waterways.

Central Idea:  The water released from Lake Okeechobee has microcystin toxin which is harmful to humans and wildlife.  This contamination must be contained and kept from effecting communities along the Caloosahatchee River on the west coast of Florida and the St. Lucie River estuaries on the east coast of Florida.


The Attention Step

What would you do if one of your neighbors every day was taking their garbage and throwing it over the fence into your yard?

How would you feel if your neighbor were knowingly poisoning the kids in your backyard…your brothers and sisters…or your children?

Congressman Brian Mast used a similar analogy in a recent speech to Congress to explain what it is like for people in his district living near Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie River.

[NEXT SLIDE] The Army Corps of Engineers, who are responsible for maintaining the Hoover Dike in Lake Okeechobee, are pumping billions of gallons of contaminated water out of the lake and into surrounding communities.

They are not doing this with the intent of being a bad neighbor. The excess water must be released to prevent more serious problems that would occur if the dike failed.

[NEXT SLIDE] The water being pumped out of the lake is high in microcystin toxin, 15 times as toxic as what the World Health Organization considers hazardous for human contact. (Congressman Mast)

[NEXT SLIDE] What can we do? Cleanup and restoration will take billions of dollars.


The Need Step

[NEXT SLIDE] In 2016, Residents of coastal communities on both coasts were affected by a toxic Blue-Green Algae that coated the water in a blanket of thick foul smelling sludge.  Nothing you would want to swim, boat, or fish in. (WPTV News)

Caused by the release of water from Lake Okeechobee.

Pollutants enter the Lake from nearby cattle farms, sugar growers and failed septic tanks resulting in high phosphate levels which help the algae to grow.

[NEXT SLIDE] Originally, the water from Lake Okeechobee drained into the Florida Everglades. In the 1930s the Hoover Dike and levee system were created around the lake to help with flooding after heavy rains or hurricanes. Instead of draining south, overflow from the lake is pushed west by the Caloosahatchee River and east by the St. Lucie River.  [NEXT SLIDE]

The dike system is in need of repair.  If there is too much pressure on the dike from a large amount of water in the lake, the dike may fail and flood roughly 37,000 nearby residents. (Harris)

To eliminate the force on the dike, the Army Corps of Engineers monitors the water levels in the lake and releases water to the rivers.

The release of water in 2016 is what caused the disastrous algal bloom at that time, and again this past summer of 2018.  (Harris)

[NEXT SLIDE] Effects of the blue-green algae outbreak are felt by 100’s of thousands of people along both coasts.

Tourism is the most impacted segment.  The fear of the contaminated water keeping people away from these tourist destination towns, which impacts the local economy of those towns.

Offensive odor keeps people in their houses and prevents any recreation on or near the water.

Health concerns effect tourists, locals and wildlife.  It is particularly toxic to the wildlife whose habitat is overrun with algae.  

The Satisfaction Step

[NEXT SLIDE] Since the dike and levee system were built to hold back the water from the lake, it provided an ideal environment for the farming of sugar.  Much of the land south of Lake Okeechobee is owned by sugar companies.  Residential areas also sprung up as the area was able to be developed on.  This makes the solution to this problem more complicated, because releasing water to the south will affect these properties.

[NEXT SLIDE] The Army Corps of Engineers has proposed a solution, but there have been delays funding the solution. This solution includes:

Reinforcing the dike.

Creating a reservoir to hold water for treatment before release to the Everglades.

This solution could take up to a decade to implement, due to funding issues. (Turner)

Some funding has gone through for the dike repairs, but increased funding is still needed for the Reservoir. (U. S. Rep. Rooney)

The Visualization Step

[NEXT SLIDE] What causes the algae to grow? Excess nutrients.

Visualize how these nutrients enter the water, with rain run off collecting items as it drains to lakes, streams, rivers, or the ocean

Fertilizers (lawn, garden, farms)

Pet and animal waste (dogs, wild animals, farms)

Human waste (leaky septic tanks)

Garbage/General waste

The Action Step

[NEXT SLIDE] What we can do to help stop the problem not just at Lake Okeechobee but everywhere, especially here in Daytona as we live so close to the water.

Dispose of trash responsibly. (recycling also helps)

Decrease fertilizer use. Consider more natural alternatives to a green lawn..

Clean up after your pet.

If you have a septic system, inspect it regularly.

[NEXT SLIDE] Support awareness of the topic and donate money to

The Everglades Foundation -  They provide science and advocacy to protect the Everglades. and all you have to do is hit the donate tab and you can help end this huge issue.

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