North Florida’s Lake Talquin is getting a house call from the state’s environmental doctors. Officials are targeting the lake as part of ongoing efforts to clean up polluted water bodies.
Lake Talquin is not a natural formation; it’s man- made. And the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Greg DeAngelo says that makes addressing pollution a little harder. A big part of fixing Talquin’s problems is determining total maximum daily loads, or TMDL’s—that's the maximum amount of pollution a water body can handle while still meeting water quality standards.
“One of the ways we determine TMDL’s is we find comparable lakes in the neighborhood that aren’t impaired, and we can say if this lake had a similar loading, it would also be healthy. It’s a little tricky to do that here because there aren’t comparable lakes to Talquin," DeAngelo says.
In the case of Lake Talquin those TMDL’s would be for phosphorus and nitrogen. DEP officials say the lake has too much of them and are working to determine how far to scale the pollutants down so the system remains suitable for boating, swimming and fishing.
“It’s impaired for nutrients and load-dissolved oxygen. Nutrients are kind of special. They’re not toxins. Nutrients, just like you and I need nutrients to live and grow, but when they’re too much of them like phosphorus and nitrogen—algal activity is going on,” he says.
Algae, especially when toxic, can kill native plants and animals and can even be harmful to people. The state is working with Georgia to address the issue. Officials say most of the pollution is from agricultural runoff from South Georgia flowing downstream.