All aspects of Florida water quality discussed at task force meeting

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:

The people working to keep nuisance, green muck out of our waterways are digging into every aspect of what leads to it and how to prevent it from coming back. And they brought the conversation to Southwest Florida.

Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Blue-Green Algae Task Force met at the Lee County School Board chambers in Fort Myers Monday to discuss the water crisis centered around Lake Okeechobee.

“The focus of the task force here isn’t on what pot of money we have to spend,” said Dr. Tom Frazer, Florida’s chief science officer. “It’s can we identify solutions.”

Discussions focused on the technology and agricultural aspects involved in Florida’s water quality as well as laying out a road map for improving the quality of water on our coast and statewide.

“Today, we hit pretty hard on agricultural [best management practices],” Frazer said. “But next time, we’re going to deal with septic systems, right? We’re going to talk more about these innovative technologies after we talk about some of the criteria we want to develop to evaluate them today.”

During discussions, Frazer explained the role agriculture plays in our water quality.

“Agriculture contributes a lot to the load alright,” Frazer said. “But unlike the south of the lake, it’s engineered quite differently … It’s a little more challenging in that regard, and so we’re trying to figure out what data that we might need to collect.”

And Frazer stressed technology.

“There are technologies related to the prevention of nutrients entering the system or the prevention of algal blooms, technologies related to the cleanup of blooms,” Frazer said.

The task force didn’t talk about one specific solution to combat blue-green algae. But members did discuss how to screen potential fixes.

“Is it effective and who is going to be the judge of how it works?” said Dr. Mike Parsons, task force member and FGCU professor.

Moving forward, Frazer said a lot of work must be done to cut down nutrient loading into Lake Okeechobee. In the short term, he said the task force needs to identify aggressive projects.

“But the bottom line is we need the numbers,” Frazer said.

The next task force meeting is scheduled for August; afterward, members will continue to meet but possibly less often.

Public Reacts To Monday Water Quality Meeting

With the explanations given by the state and members of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force, members of the public worry the task force is not getting to the root of the problem.

“I think they’re skimming over everything that’s important, the real depth of the problem, the source,” said Wanda Klopf from Naples.

There were others who were happy with what they heard from leaders during the meeting discussions.

“I think it’s good,” said Wilson McQueen from Jensen Beach, ‘They’re trying to educate everyone on what they’re trying to do here.”

Water quality activist Daniel Andrews, founder of Captains For Clean Water, also mentioned the importance of agriculture, which was a big topic during the meeting.

“Seeing that big of a chunk coming from one source lets you know that if you want to fix such a big problem,” Andrews said. “You’re going to have to work with agriculture to find better ways of doing what they’re doing now.”

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