Marco Islanders who live on some of the island’s canals have recently noticed an increase in algal blooms throughout the island. They are not alone in Collier County, as the county’s Chief Environmental Specialist Rhonda Watkins reported to Marco Island City Councilor Sam Young, when he made her aware of the outbreak on Marco.
“We are seeing this in several of our estuaries, including Moorings Bay and Naples Bay.” Watkins suggested that residents report the presence of algal blooms through the FDEP Algal-Bloom Web Portal (www.surveygizmo.com/s3/3444948/Algal-Bloom-Reporting-Form). “This will get the ball rolling for sampling by FDEP to verify that these are not toxin producing species (which I don’t believe they are),” said Watkins in her email to Young.
Watkins further suggested that the city utilize a contractor to remove the mats of algae which tend to float together and form a solid surface. She explained her rationale for the skimming of those mats, “Removing the mats before they completely degrade (they are already dying which is why they are floating) will remove nutrients and prevent further degradation to the bottoms of canals.”
One of the other undesirable effects of these blooms is the smell; when the pods degrade on the surface, a strong odor of methane is emitted.
The blooms being experienced on Marco Island are similar to the ones seen in June and July of this year in other sections of Collier County, and last fall in the Moorings Bay area of Naples. The bloom in the Moorings resulted in a large fish kill and an unsightly mess for those living near the affected areas, as well as an overwhelming stench from the rotting marine life.
Although that algal bloom involved a non-toxic type algae, as many do, the presence of other toxic algal blooms have been detected during the disturbing blue/green algal blooms experienced in 2018 found in the Caloosahatchee River and over on the east side of Lake Okeechobee on the St. Lucie River. Dr. Paul Alan Cox, who took samples during the 2018 outbreak, was shocked at the levels found. Cox attended the forum earlier this month dealing with public health impacts on communities and the release of a new educational film dealing with the issues surrounding the events of last year and how to move forward.
Marco Island has been lucky so far, as its waters have had a minimum impact from those discharges out of Lake Okeechobee. We have seen a degrading of some water quality over the last 50 years from the increase of nutrients into our waterways from chemicals added to our lawns, uncontrolled stormwater discharges and a degradation of the swale system which had, until now, helped to filter the street run-offs.
The island more than a decade ago made the hard choice to finally complete the centralized waste- water system, eliminating septic tanks. We still await neighboring communities under county control to do the same as they have in other areas in Naples and Collier County.
Besides the presence of the large mats of floating algal bloom, we witnessed considerable evidence of lawn and tree debris in several of the canals, which is something we can better control through enforcement.
The city has been hotly debating the subject of water-quality over the last three years regarding testing, the impact of residential and commercial run-off, fertilizer use, and even what is the content of our water that we treat and distribute out to the community as potable water or in re-use water.
Last week in an interview on the local PBS station, Dr. Paul Alan Cox made the point repeatedly that one of the most important things for a community to do is to enforce its own legislative mandates regarding protecting the environment.
It is strongly suggested by all involved that a property owner utilize the DEP website and report any of these blooms when discovered.