Surely everyone residing on Marco Island is aware that we have long-running ‘water quality’ issues. As we approach election season and voters choose their preferred candidates, it may be helpful to have a better understanding of what defines water quality and why it matters. Above all, ask your elected officials and our candidates for their perspectives
A particular challenge to Marco’s water issues is the length of the ‘coastline’ here. Counting both sides of a waterway, all those canals total almost 200 miles of border between land and sea. This means opportunities for land impacts on those waters are huge; and the nature of the land is changing. As Marco approaches build–out, with ever-bigger houses permitted, all the rainwater that previously collected on undeveloped land now lands on roofs and concrete, and straight into stormwater runoff, compounding stormwater issues.
Marco currently has a chemical analysis of its canal waters done each month and the concentrations of two key nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorous, are among those analyzed. The June results are in and detected levels of phosphorous hover around the legally defined acceptable concentration at each of the ten sites tested. At the same time, nitrogen levels are the highest ever recorded in the Island’s testing program, and one site reported more than SEVEN TIMES the legally defined acceptable concentration.
Why do these things matter? Phosphorous and nitrogen are essential nutrients required for both plant and animal growth. An excess of these nutrients can lead to algal blooms and subsequent fish kills. Those who live adjacent to canals might find their neighborhood host to stinky algae, rotting fish and worse. Whether they’re a resident by a canal or not, there are potential consequences. Chronic excesses of legally defined acceptable levels can result in a State Declaration of ‘impaired waters,’ which can lead in turn to State Enforcement Action.
What do residents need to know? Here are my suggestions:
- Can these issues be prevented and if so, how?
- Are the causes of these problems understood?
- Are the causes all local or part of a broader problem?
- Is clean up simple?
- Who’s responsible for cleaning up any mess in our waterways?
- What should the canal side resident do?
These are tough questions and no easy answers. Ask your city officials and ask your candidates what they think and demand real civic engagement with an issue that potentially could erode our collective quality of life on many levels.