As blue-green algae builds up against the Franklin Lock on the Caloosahatchee River, everybody knows there’s an issue with the algae.
More than a dozen environmental groups have been urging Governor Ron DeSantis to declare a state of emergency, but the governor says, “There’s no need to do that. One, I think it would spook a lot of people, it would harm a lot of the folks in our community.”
And more recently, DeSantis wrote to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers asking them to better manage Lake Okeechobee levels.
Everyone is begging someone to take action.
Now, a handful of conservation groups are asking the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to adopt criteria for cyanotoxins in its water quality standards.
James Evans is the environmental policy director at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation.
He says, “Those cyanotoxins can be harmful to human health, they can be harmful to pets and wildlife.”
The foundation and the Calusa Waterkeeper are two of the groups who signed off on the letter, as the state is undergoing a triennial review of water quality standards.
Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani explained, “We don’t have adequate public health protective criteria related to these aquatic ecosystems, and we need that and we need to get beyond advisory or discretionary policy. We need something that’s enforceable that every county health unit in the state will implement.”
He believes we need consistency in health alerts and monitoring of blue-green algae.
“We think residents are probably pretty informed on this topic. And it would be great if they contacted the governor’s office and said, hey, we would like to see the state adopt these toxin standards from the blue-green algae problem and we need to move forward quickly,” Cassani added.
We reached out to the Florida DEP for comment. They acknowledged receipt of the request but have not provided comments by the time of publishing.
On top of environmental groups asking the state to enforce water quality standards for blue-green algae toxins, SCCF surveyed the Caloosahatchee to check out water conditions.
New drone video of W.P. Franklin Lock and Dam was recorded by SCCF.
The organization looked at blue-green algae and recorded baseline water conditions ahead of the summer months. The group traveled from Franklin Lock toward Lake Okeechobee to the Moore Haven Lock.
“What we saw using both our drone and also, you know, walking along the shoreline is there’s a good bit of blue-green algae at both the Moore Haven Lock and the Franklin Lock,” Evans said. “It’s accumulating along the shore near the lock structures.”
Evans told us, while it’s not extensive, there’s a good bit of blue-green algae. SCCF is concerned seeing algal blooms this early in the season and said blue-green algae nutrients can help fuel red tide.