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Red tide to blame as 'hundreds of thousands' of dead fish wash up on Pinellas beaches. (Image via WFLA News/Twitter)

Tampa Bay

Florida to consider clay as a fix for red tide woes

What can help with Florida’s nagging red tide problem? One possible solution: clay.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is teaming up with red tide experts to explore opportunities to reduce the effects of the ongoing K. Brevis bacteria bloom responsible for massive fish kills along Florida’s Gulf Coast, including Pinellas County.

Gov. Rick Scott announced Wednesday the partnerships with scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Mote Marine Laboratory, the University of South Florida and Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The group will study the use of a specialized form of clay to mitigate red tide effects.

“In Florida, when we are faced with challenges, we take action to engage innovative solutions that best fit our needs — and our fight against red tide is no different,” Scott said in a statement.

The state has already allocated $13 million in grant funding to help communities impacted by red tide and is providing $1.2 million to expand the FWC’s redfish hatchery program to restore the popular fishery population.

Scott also declared a state of emergency in August that is ongoing.

For years, scientists have studied using clay to combat red tide, but experts have recently developed a new form of specialized clay that may better mitigate the bloom with limited impacts to the natural ecosystem.

Experiments using clay will be conducted in a controlled environment, according to Scott’s office. If successful, the process can be expanded to areas affected.

Mote Marine Laboratory is also using a process called ozonation that uses ozone to destroy the Red Tide algae and its toxins.

Red tide has been appearing in coastal communities throughout the summer and worked its way to Pinellas beaches two weeks ago. Since then, Pinellas County beaches have been littered with dead fish and some birds that have fallen ill from eating their contaminated carcasses.

Crews of public and private fishing vessels have been patrolling Gulf waters to remove dead fish before they hit the shore, but many still make their way to the beaches.

The stench from dead fish is noticeable on just about all Pinellas beaches. In many areas, toxins in the air from red tide are causing respiratory discomfort to those breathing it in.

Also, beaches and businesses along popular tourist destinations have been mostly vacant since red tide first appeared.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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