Chemical spraying can lead to algae blooms; scientists research safer methods

Reporter: Rachel Cox-Rosen Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:

Spraying chemicals can be dangerous to the environment in many ways. But for Floridians, they can contribute to harmful algae blooms and damaging releases along the coast.

“It’s not a very environmentally friendly way of dealing with that problem,” said James Douglass, an environmental scientist at Florida Gulf Coast University.

There are other ways to remove invasive plant species that may not require chemical spraying. Douglass says the other methods could have several benefits and chemical spraying is actually the worst way to solve the problem.

“Poisoning kills all the plants where they lie and the rotting plants then sink to the bottom of the ocean or the bottom of the lake, decay and release the nutrients,” he said.

This cycle can lead to harmful algae blooms and damaging releases to coastal estuaries. Collier County Commissioner Bill McDaniel wants the county to take a new approach.

 “This is the beginning of a policy shift to work with the agencies, engage with the agencies, to adjust away from the primary methodology of spraying as eradication to the mechanical harvesting and dredging,” McDaniel said.

Douglass agrees that other methods create a win-win for everyone. “It takes that rotting material out of the water and actually uses some of the materials from those aquatic weeds as fertilizer and return nutrients to the land where they’re needed instead of having them cause algae blooms in the water,” he said. 

The resolution to less chemical spraying will be a topic at Tuesday’s Collier County Commissioners meeting.

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