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Action plan for toxic algae

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Updated: 11/12/2013 11:57 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- There's an ugly, smelly problem growing in the St. Johns River.

"We've noticed the last few days this green algae stuff is pretty thick," says Joe Kistel, Executive Director of TISIRI.

Kistel normally spends his days planning artificial reefs off the coast of Northeast Florida, but on Tuesday he was working on a friends dock in Arlington.

Kistel said the water in this area has been like this since the summer, when rain flushed high amounts of fertilizer into the river, which was packed with nutrients that algae thrives on. Since then, the green slime, which smells like rotting garbage, has been making people sick.

The Florida Department of Health issued a warning in October to people in Duval and Clay counties to stay away from the algae because it is a risk.

"It can cause respiratory problems. It can cause rashes. It can cause liver damage and more," said St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman.

Rinaman says the amount of algae that still exists this late in the year is alarming, and a sign of bigger problems to come.

"If we continue to leave it in there, continue to contribute to the problem and not get it out, and not prevent it from going in, every year we'll see more toxic green slime."

Late last week, the city of Jacksonville released its newest Basin Management Action Plan to meet water quality improvement goals in the St. Johns River in the coming years, set by state environmental officials.

The plan includes phasing out septic tanks and increasing public education, but Rinaman said the plan itself needs improving.

She's concerned about the part that allows the city to to trade credits from other public entities that are already exceeding their river water improvement goals.

The city, she says, would spend taxpayer money buying credits from the city of Atlantic Beach, city of Neptune Beach, Florida Department of Transportation and JEA, and put those credits toward meeting the city's own goal.

"They wouldn't be making a real improvement. Buying water quality credits without any nutrient removal is not going to help this river that is so plagued by green slime right now."

On Wednesday, the Jacksonville Waterways Committee will meet to discuss the new plan. Eventually, council members will make recommendations to the full council, but Rinaman expects that process to take at least six months.

In the meantime, Kistel is planning a new artificial reef system to be placed near downtown in the St. John's River next February, with hopes that it will attract marine life to keep future algae blooms at bay. Without them, he worries a vital city recreational and economic resource will continue to suffer.

"People aren't going to want to come see a green, smelly river, so I don't know what the answer is but it needs to be addressed. Awareness needs to be there and city officials need to be looking into it deeply."

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RFM2009 - 11/13/2013 5:53 AM
0 Votes
Look to JEA - spills, leaky piping and Lift Station overflow.

RFM2009 - 11/13/2013 5:53 AM
0 Votes
Look to JEA - spills, leaky piping and Lift Station overflow.
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