Can you vacuum up toxic algae? One Florida county will try


Blue-green algae in Stuart, Florida, July 27, 2018. (Greg Lovett / The Palm Beach Post)

With South Florida under siege this summer by blue-green algae and red tide, one county is testing a new approach at combating the toxic scum.

Lee County in southwest Florida got permission from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on Wednesday to vacuum up blue-green algae collecting in marinas and dead-end canals.

RELATED: Red tide is on a killing spree in Florida 

It will then take it to the North Lee County Reverse Osmosis Plant to have the solids separated from the liquid. The solids will go to an landfill, while the disinfected water will be put into a deep injection well.

“It’s not pretty right now,” said Kurt Harclerode, operations manager at Lee County’s Division of Natural Resources, about the blue-green algae in the Caloosahatchee and the red tide hugging the coast.

Record May rains in Florida are largely to blame for the blue-green algae that grew this summer in the Caloosahatchee River and St. Lucie Estuary as high amounts of nutrients were washed in from the watershed. Discharges from Lake Okeechobee exacerbate the problem, adding algae and diluting the brackish waterways.

Deputy Stender is helping the manatee breathe until help arrives. pic.twitter.com/aHS3uiC1Nv

— Charlotte Sheriff (@CCSOFLSheriff) August 1, 2018

The red tide, which grows offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, has drifted toward the coast and is being blamed for killing scores of animals, including manatees, turtles, and thousands of fish.

RELATED: Lake O discharges reduced as algae issue heats up in D.C.

Harclerode said the vacuum solution will only be used on the blue-green algae, and in the beginning on the hardest hit areas identified by aerial surveys. It’s being paid for with $700,000 from a $3 million state grant.

These are current pictures of the beaches of South West #Florida. The GOP, @FLGovScott , and @adamputnam are responsible. Red tide and run off from agriculture have destroyed the environment. Florida is toxic. pic.twitter.com/B5RHh8KhZW

— Eliza200 (@rudybird100) July 31, 2018

The red tide in Lee County has been joined by red drift – a type of seaweed that detaches from the bottom of the ocean and washes up along area beaches. Red drift is not toxic, but can smell bad when as it decomposes.

“We’re seeing a triple whammy,” Harclerode said. “We’re certainly  not going to be able to remove all the blue-green algae but it’s a pilot program and maybe we can learn from it.”

The vacuuming could begin as early as Saturday.

If you haven’t yet, join Kim on  Facebook Instagram and  Twitter.

 

 


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Weather

NEW: Saharan air overhead, but could it be last dusting of summer?
NEW: Saharan air overhead, but could it be last dusting of summer?

A modest drift of Saharan air will bring abnormally dry conditions to South Florida this week with rain chances in some areas plummeting below 10 percent — a summertime rarity. Larry Kelly, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami, said normal rain chances for this time in the wet season are generally at least 40 percent, but...
BREAKING: State of emergency declared over Florida’s red tide
BREAKING: State of emergency declared over Florida’s red tide

Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency today over the ongoing harmful red tide bloom that is killing tons of marine life on the state’s west coast. The declaration covers Collier, Lee Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. Under the declaration, more than $100,000 will be given to Mote Marine...
Abnormally dry days ahead with drift of Saharan air
Abnormally dry days ahead with drift of Saharan air

A drift of Saharan air will dry South Florida out over the next few days with rain chances as low as 10 percent mid week. The National Weather Service in Miami is forecasting near record low levels of precipitable water, which is the measure of rain that would accumulate at the surface if all the water vapor in the air fell as rain. Meteorologist...
BACK TO SCHOOL: What’s the weather?
BACK TO SCHOOL: What’s the weather?

Kindergarteners are welcomed with a snack at Grassy Waters Elementary School Monday, August 14, 2017 (Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post) Typical South Florida summer weather is forecast for Palm Beach County’s first day of school. That means fleeting morning showers, heat and afternoon storms. “It’s still very much...
Strong storm near Palm Beach Gardens moving southeast
Strong storm near Palm Beach Gardens moving southeast

A significant weather advisory has been issued for areas from Jupiter to West Palm Beach as a strong thunderstorm is tracked near Palm Beach Gardens. The National Weather Service in Miami said wind gusts up to 50 mph, torrential rain and frequent lightning strikes are possible with this storm. Areas of concern include Jupiter...
More Stories