JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The latest report on the health of the St. Johns River was released Wednesday with slightly good news about its condition but many issues are not improving and unfortunately these are obvious to people who enjoy the river.
In fact, the collaboration among UNF, JU,Florida Southern College and Valdosta State University, reports harmful algal blooms show no signs of improvement and disease causing organisms like fecal coliform bacteria are at levels above the threshold for good water quality in many waterways feeding the river. This tends to be bacteria that is not cleaned by wastewater treatment facilities.
Growing concerns include invasive species like lionfish and Cuban tree frogs. Nonnative species total 80 this year up from 56 total species in 2008.
When combined with increasing development pressures, a broader negative impact has rippled throughout the watershed.
And anglers may catch less. What’s become worse is the amount of salt water entering the river. The fine balance of salinity is critical for for thriving grass beds and the food manatees eat. The increase in salty water is killing the habitat that juvenile fish seek. Deepening the river allows salt water to move farther upstream. Without a healthy estuary there are less fish.
There are several bright spots. Conditions for three critical wildlife species—the bald eagle, wood stork and Florida manatee—have also improved and the data shows why.
Oxygen dissolved in the water helps aquatic life and this has increased, also harmful levels of nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations have dropped. While the concentration of certain nutrients have decreased toxic green algae continues to increase through areas along the lower river basin.
Jacksonville University marine science professor Gerry Pinto says that yard fertilizers, leaking septic tanks, and even nutrients released by local utility companies combine to increase the amount of nutrients in the St Johns river. Those nutrients then create toxic algae blooms usually scene in places like Julington Creek and Doctor's Lake.
Scientists recommend you cut back on your everyday water consumption and also use slow-release fertilizers to help combat the excessive blooms.