A Blue-Green Algae Task Force wants Florida to consider an expansion of restrictions on new septic tanks.
Scientists also discussed the effect of agriculture on groundwater and the long-term impacts of pesticide sprays on lakes.
“The intent is to be able to assess the performance,” Florida Chief Science Officer Tom Frazer said. “In order to do that, we need to have the data to do it.”
Frazer stressed the reports coming out of the Monday meeting will not be the last produced by the task force. The group has already held meetings in Stuart, Fort Myers and Naples, all further gathering science, data, and citizen proposals addressing the threats posed by cyanobacteria blooms.
Draft recommendations from the task force identify a number of problems contributing to algae outbreaks. Those include “agricultural operations, wastewater treatment plants, onsite sewage disposal systems and urban storm water runoff.”
Task force members stressed the concern in groundwater problems, particularly as it relates to agriculture.
The problems primarily stem from the introduction of excess amounts of nitrogen, which feeds blooms like those that savaged the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers in 2018. Those blooms, along with red tide outbreaks, cost the state more than $17 million in emergency funding last year.
Many of the recommendations involve Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs). The task force wants to make sure there is communication between the Department of Agriculture and other state agencies regarding the monitoring of nutrients and timely, informed health and environmental public advisory boards.
“We just can’t throw it all on the Department of Environmental Protection,” said Dr. James Sullivan, a task force member. “The Department of Health has a role.”
Current state regulations prohibit permitting of new septic systems on lots of one acre or less in a priority focus area within an Outstanding Florida Spring watershed. Task force members wants that standard reevaluated to see if there needs to be some broader adoption of those restrictions.