Blue-Green Algae: Was It Fed Or Dead?

By Tyler Treadway
November 10, 2017
TC Palm

Scientists agree Lake Okeechobee discharges, not septic tanks, caused a 2016 St. Lucie River algae bloom that wrecked the environment and water-related businesses.

But the ongoing debate is this: Did algae carried from the lake into the river turn into the thick, toxic, noxious, guacamole-like blooms by feeding on nutrients from septic tank runoff?

Three scientists TCPalm interviewed this week offered three different points of view:

  • Septic tank nutrients fed the algae, said Brian Lapointe, a research professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute near Fort Pierce.
  • The algae was already dead or dying when it hit the river, so it didn’t feed on septic tank nutrients, said Edward J. Phlips, a professor of algal physiology and ecology at the University of Florida Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants.
  • The algae was alive and feeding, but on agricultural fertilizers in the lake water, not septic tank nutrients in the river, said Edith “Edie” Widder, founder and lead scientist at the Ocean Research & Conservation Association in Fort Pierce.

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