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More Algae Blooms Possible For Troubled Lagoon

Fertilizer and septic tanks are possible contributors to a massive fish kill in the Indian River Lagoon, says a top regulator with the Department of Environmental Protection.

After Tuesday’s day-long Cabinet meeting, reporters surrounded Governor Rick Scott and demanded to know what was being done.

Scott said he dispatched his health, environmental and wildlife agency heads. And he mentioned $80 million he directed to restoration projects in Brevard County alone in the past three years.

“I think you should applaud what the state’s done. They showed up, they worked together. That’s exactly what you want out of your state government.”

Department of Environmental Protection deputy secretary Drew Bartlett was one of the agency heads who went to ground zero, several miles of the Banana River just south of Kennedy Space Center.

Bartlett got there after state and local crews, including volunteers, had pulled 65,000 pounds of dead fish from the water. He says dead fish still line miles of shoreline.

“The Brown algae basically looks like a Yoo-Hoo drink, and it was there basically in January and February, and so it’s just recently just started to dissipate, which is good news.”

But Bartlett warns more blooms are likely this spring or summer because the nutrients feeding them remain. Experts will continue monitoring, he says.

“It seems it’s down to storm water carrying nutrients. It could be in the form of fertilizer and possibly septic tanks along the edge as well.”

Brown algae robs the water of oxygen. It’s deadly for fish and plants, but not considered a health hazard.

The solution will take federal, state and local governments working together to limit polluted runoff. The lion’s share of a $26 million state appropriation for restoration projects this year is for lagoon dredging.

A Miami native, former WFSU reporter Jim Ash is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience, most of it in print. He has been a member of the Florida Capital Press Corps since 1992.