by Eric Gibson
South Florida’s Blue-Green Algae Problem
The recent blue-green algae bloom in South Florida has been on the minds of all summer beach-goers and outdoor adventurers. The cyanobacteria that causes the blue-green sludge on the surface of our bodies of water also produces potent toxins. These are deadly toxins that in addition to degrading the local aquatic ecosystems also cause irritation to the skin and the eyes, posing potential damage to the liver and nervous system. We in South Florida are definitely experiencing a stay-out-of-the-water, Jaws-type summer that calls for “a bigger boat,” or no boat at all.
What Causes Blue-Green Algae Blooms?
The cyanobacteria causing blue-green algae blooms thrive in specific environmental conditions:
- Slow Water – a bulk of the blue-green algae came from Lake Okeechobee, where it was able to sit stagnant and bloom. Back in May, our particularly wet winter caused Lake Okeechobee’s water levels to rise, calling for a discharge via channels and rivers. The blue-green algae soon took over the beaches of Stuart and Vero Beach; the entire Treasure Coast shoreline.
- Sunlight – South Florida has plenty of it. And since our winters are sunny and wet, the conditions are perfect just about year-round for a bloom.
- Nutrients – Here’s where we can contribute to preventing this issue from happening in the future. Blooms are mostly caused by a high concentration of nitrogen and phosphorus in the soil. Contributors to these high nutrient levels can include: agriculture fertilizers, household products, sewage and underground septic tanks and storm water runoff just to name a few.
Almost all synthetic fertilizers have high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus except for ours. When we come out and treat your lawn, we are using a bio-based, environmentally-friendly liquid fertilizer that is carbon-based and has very low amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus. Making the switch from your regular fertilizers to this extremely effective bio-based fertilizer will do wonders in eliminating an access amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in the soil.
During this particular bloom that we as South Floridians are enduring this summer, we can do two things to improve our situation. First off, we should all stay away from the polluted water sources (even if you have a bigger boat). Blue-green algae is extremely irritating to humans and pets alike. The toxin that the blue-green algae-causing cyanobacteria produces has been known to have adverse (sometimes fatal) effects on the nervous system. The second thing we can do to improve our situation is to always make the most environmentally sound choices at home and at work.
When it comes to our environment, everything is related. Noah prepared for the end of the world by building a boat. We’re not quite at that point, but we’re certainly not helping our situation. We live in a sensitive ecosystem. Let’s protect our families by protecting our planet.