The agriculture group Florida Farm Bureau Federation said Wednesday sugar isn’t as culpable for the harmful Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie River algal blooms as some groups contend.
“Special interest groups have targeted agriculture as the sole cause of these blooms to promote buying more land for a ‘flow way’ south of Lake Okeechobee, even though a vast amount of research indicates that doing so will harm the remnant Everglades,” the group said in a news release.
Though lake releases are one factor in the bloom, the bureau is pointing to a study from Florida Atlantic University professor Brian LaPointe, which details the harmful role the region’s aging septic systems are playing.
More than 300,000 septic tanks border the Indian River Lagoon between Volusia and Martin counties, and as many as half of those were installed more than 30 years ago.
LaPointe’s study found high levels of nitrogen in the waterway — which points to sewage, not fertilizer, polluting the lagoon.
“The solution is not as simple or rapid as some portend,” the bureau said. “It will take time to update or convert aging septic systems to sewer in urban areas. The South Florida Water Management District, along with federal partners, need to continue to complete the multiple projects that constitute the Comprehensive Everglades Planning Project.”
The group added that “accusations use up energy and valuable resources. It is much more prudent to stand on sound science and allow the solutions time to make an impact.”