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EPA allocates $1M to help USF study harmful algal blooms

USF was one of seven facilities to receive an EPA grant.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is sending $1 million to the University of South Florida to help study methods to control harmful algal blooms (HAB).

The USF study aims to look at “nutrient treatment technologies” to help manage those blooms inside Lake Okeechobee.

On Thursday, the EPA announced nearly $6.5 million in funding for seven different research institutions across the country to help study mitigation efforts.

“Harmful algal blooms are a serious and persistent problem across all 50 states that can have severe impacts on human health, the environment, and the economy,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in a release on the grant funds.

“By expanding our knowledge of how to control and prevent the occurrence of these blooms, we can better protect our watersheds — especially our drinking water sources and recreational waters.”

USF’s research “will specifically address excess nutrient loadings relevant to issues faced by Lake Okeechobee…and its large watershed that transports nutrients to coastal zones. HAB challenges faced in [Lake] Okeechobee affect both freshwater and coastal ecosystems and are representative of other freshwater bodies around the country with a legacy of agricultural pollution and rapidly-growing urban sprawl.”

While algae are naturally-occurring, pollution in the form of phosphorus and nitrogen can help cause the blooms to spread out of control.

Those blooms can then spread to other waterways due to controlled discharges at Lake Okeechobee. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulates the water levels in Lake Okeechobee. If those water levels get too high, it can cause flooding or threaten damage to the Herbert Hoover Dike.

If those blooms are spread elsewhere, they can cause serious problems for other localities. In 2018, Gov. Rick Scott was forced to declare a state of emergency for Glades, Hendry, Martin, Lee, Okeechobee, Palm Beach and St. Lucie counties after blooms spread.

USF researchers say they will consult with “regional and local stakeholders” during the research process.

Written By

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to ryan.t.nicol@gmail.com.

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