JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis has chosen a group of scientists to tackle Florida's toxic algae outbreak, but days after their first meeting, concerns are growing that the state's new Blue Green Algae Task Force may only scratch the surface of this environmental crisis.
"We really know how to resolve this problem. We really just have to stop pollution at its source. We know what the problem is. We know that there are too many nutrients going into our waterways. We just have to put the regulatory controls in place," said Jimmy Orth, St. Johns Riverkeeper executive director.
The five-member Blue Green Algae Task Force is made up of scientists and researchers, and they will meet a few times every three to four weeks through August to "fine-tune" some of the state's existing regulations.
But Orth believes this short window will not allow for the development of stiffer restrictions and sweeping changes.
"I'm worried at the same time they may just focus on trying to clean up the algae, which is addressing the symptoms and not addressing the source of the problem," said Orth.
To get to the root cause of the issue, Orth said, the state should enact tighter restrictions on the release of agricultural wastes. He also wants the state to consider cleaning up septic tanks while also limiting the use of fertilizers. The nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers are known to lead to algae growth.
"Hopefully the recommendations that come out at the end will address some of the problems with limiting pollution," Orth said.
While much of the focus of the task forces efforts seemed to be focused on Central and South Florida, the Riverkeeper said the committee's chairman has promised them that Northeast Florida will be part of the conversation.
There's no word yet on when the task force will meet again.