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Blue Green Algae task force members Michael Parsons, Wendy Graham, Valerie Paul and James Sullivan meet in Fort Myers.

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Septic tanks in crosshairs of Blue-Green Algae Task Force

Cyanobacteria plagues Florida lakes and rivers.

The first formal set of recommendations on solving Florida’s blue-green algae ailments were issued by a special panel.

The Blue-Green Algae Task Force says the state government needs to regulate sewage treatment and disposal, expand septic tank oversight, implement a stormwater monitoring program and provide transparent reports on water quality.

That’s just the starters on a list of suggestions including a comprehensive water-quality monitoring strategy to assess long- and short-term trends on nutrient loading in Florida’s lakes and rivers.

“I appreciate the time the task force members and the public have invested in these important discussions. This commitment is a testament to the passion these leading scientists and residents of our state have for the protection of our natural resources,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein.

“I look forward to utilizing these recommendations to identify regulatory and management strategies to expedite water quality improvements.”

The recommendations came out of a series of meetings throughout Florida in areas dealing with cyanobacteria blooms in the past two years.

The task force held meetings in in StuartFort Myers, Naples, and Gainesville.

At various meetings, focus turned to agricultural impacts, basin management action plans and the handling of human waste.

Much of the public outcry around algal blooms in the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers has surrounded the activities of sugar producers around Lake Okeechobee. In an effort to ensure best management practices are being conducted, the task force wants increased enrollment in basin management.

“Improved transparency and effectiveness of record keeping policies is needed as are data to assess the effectiveness of implemented BMPs. Efforts to update BMP manuals should be accelerated,” reads a summary of recommendations.

The task force also suggests the Department of Environmental Protection developed a regulatory framework to “ensure that onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems are protective of human health, but also protect the environment against nutrient pollution. Right now, such work falls under the purview chiefly of the Department of Health.

As far as septic tanks, the task force got on board with reinstating regular on-site inspections, something the Legislature called back at the height of the Great Recession fearing it would put a cost on consumers.

Above all, the task force pushed for science-based decision-making to prevail.

“The recommendations released by the task force are the result of a deliberative and transparent process and reflect DEP’s commitment as a state agency to science-based decision making. These recommendations will undoubtedly be used to inform viable and effective policy,” said Chief Science Officer Dr. Thomas Frazer.

“The task force will continue to meet and will delve even more deeply into a broader suite of issues related to water quality and algal blooms moving forward.”

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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