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SFWMD responds to criticism over blue-green algae blooms

The South Florida Water Management is responding to critics who say the district isn’t doing enough to stop the spread of blue-green algae.

Blue-green algae forced Treasure Coast officials to close some Martin County beaches this week. The algae also have been spotted in waterways and canals across much of South Florida.

A spokesman for the South Florida Water Management District told the Palm Beach Post Tuesday the algae is widespread in the district.

But water management officials have been criticized for not doing enough. On Wednesday, it attempted to clear the air about the myths surrounding the algae. SFWMD officials outlined the myths versus the facts when it comes to blue-green algae.

In its email, the district said it took “extraordinary measures to decrease” Lake Okeechobee releases, including storing more than 2.7 million gallons of water in the A-1 Flow Equalization Basin.

The district also refuted claims that Lake Okeechobee releases are the “sole contributor to blue-green algae blooms.” District officials said nutrients and fresh water “can fuel growth of naturally occurring blue-green algae also comes from the local stormwater runoff and septic tanks. Algae blooms had happened in past years, such as 2014 when there were no lake releases.”

As for whether purchasing land south of Lake Okeechobee and building a reservoir would prevent this year’s bloom, the SFWMD said the “proposed purchase of agricultural land for a reservoir would have taken billions of dollars away from needed restoration projects and was a bad deal.”

“Even if the land had been purchased, a reservoir could not have been built yet due to a 10-year operating lease,” the email continued. “Any reservoir on the land would not have eliminated all need for lake releases and all possibility of algae blooms. Other projects already in the works will store water, allow more water to be moved south and reduce lake releases.”

The blue-green algae have been causing headaches for Treasure Coast communities, and on Wednesday Martin County declared a seven-day state of emergency. The state of emergency allows the county to take whatever action necessary to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the community.

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