WEST PALM BEACH -- The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Blue-Green Algae Monitoring Response Team was honored as the 2022 SFWMD Team of the Year at the March 9, SFWMD Governing Board meeting.
“This all started a couple of years ago when Pahokee marina bloomed,” explained SFWMD Executive Director Drew Bartlett.
“That was a learning experience,” he said. “That whole summer, people from this team got together to test different ways to protect the public from these harmful algae blooms.”
That summer, SFWMD was reactive, helping with the cleanup that cost more than $1 million.
Afterwards, the team looked for ways to be proactive.
They put together a surveillance system that uses SFWMD staff, FDEP staff and U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) staff to look for algae blooms, test the blooms for toxins and if necessary treat the blooms with algaecide to keep them from intensifying.
They can take care of algae blooms quickly and in a more cost-effective way, Bartlett explained.
The team is also in contact with the lock tenders and those who control the water control structures so they can cut off water flow if they want to keep an algae bloom from passing into another waterway.
Bartlett added, “99% of what we do is to reduce nutrients so the algae bloom don’t form.” But this team ensures SFWMD has a robust response when a harmful algae bloom is detected.
Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, are part of the natural ecosystem of all lakes, streams and rivers. Under certain conditions – lack of water movement, high heat and excess phosphorus and nitrogen in the water – microscopic algae can reproduce algae into a visible “bloom.” About 25% of the species of cyanobacteria are capable of producing toxins. However, even algae capable of producing toxins do not always do so. Testing is required to determine which species of algae are present or if toxins are present.