JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Recent algae samples collected by the St. Johns Riverkeeper contained dangerously high toxin levels — up to 300 times the recreational safe limit.
In a press conference Tuesday, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is also a Democratic candidate for governor, joined Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman in calling for the state to change the way it collects algae samples.
The current procedure has testers collect a sample from a 0.3 meter (roughly one foot) depth, which Rinaman said shows far lower levels of nutrients than are actually present.
“We believe that doesn’t give a true picture of what the health risks are,” Rinaman told News4Jax. “So, that’s why there’s a difference in sampling protocols, and we believe it’s to protect human health.”
Changing the way samples are collected will give the agencies, and the public, a better understanding of the danger and the environmental impact of the algae blooms.
Fried and Rinaman said the priority should be on management and prevention of nutrient runoff, rather than mitigation after the fact. An update in how data is collected, Rinaman said, will allow the state agencies to more fully understand the problem.
“We believe there definitely should be a change because the health department is depending on their sampling protocols,” Rinaman said. “We think it is important that they consider a change to make sure that they’re putting a true picture on human health risk.”
The St. Johns Riverkeeper organization provides information on its website about how those who live on the St. Johns River can participate in keeping it clean and safe.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection hosts an online dashboard where members of the public can see information on its algal tests.