Guidelines to stop Florida's harmful algae outbreaks unveiled

Task force held its 5th meeting in Gainesville


GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Toxic blue-green algae that has been a big problem in South Florida can have impacts across the state, including in North Florida.

A draft document was presented by Gov. Ron DeSantis' newly appointed chief science officer, Tom Frazer, to the public and environmental planners at a meeting Monday at the University of Florida.

The state’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force draft document addressed several areas for improvement around river basins, including their management, agriculture practices, septic and industrial waste, stormwater treatment systems, public health, and data monitoring programs.

High levels of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus can trigger harmful algae blooms that can result in public health issues.

Little science so far addresses those concerns, but the plan attempts to develop a more comprehensive data collection for the growing threats.

“The intent is to be able to assess the performance,” Frazer said. “In order to do that, we need to have the data to do it.”

New rules could regulate septic systems since they contribute disproportionately to nutrient pollution and pose increased health risks as tanks age.

Presently, there are no requirements that conventional septic systems be inspected post-installation.

Over 1.6 billion gallons of sewage were spilled in Florida over the last decade, 980 million gallons of which entered the state’s waterways. 

Sewage overflow becomes a health concern and pollution source when storms knock out power used to pump away human waste. 

Cities may be on the hook for retrofitting power to lift stations. 

The task force recommends emergency backup capabilities be identified for thousands of lift stations constructed prior to 2003 that were not required to have an emergency backup power source. 

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