Florida Chamber of Commerce: Indian River Lagoon
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Florida Chamber of Commerce: Indian River Lagoon


Hi, I’m Dr. Brian Lapointe, Research Professor
with Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute. I’ve spent decades studying water quality
throughout Florida including nutrient pollution and Harmful Algal Blooms. This project with the Florida Chamber allows
me and my colleagues an opportunity to share this research, so the public can better understand
how human activities are impacting Florida’s water resources. This county and all throughout central Florida
there was a huge growth spurt in the 70’s and the 80’s and by the mid 1980’s we wear
already beginning to see significant water-quality declines throughout the lagoon. If you fast-forward to where we are today
with between a quarter-million and 600,000 septic tanks up and down the Indian River
Lagoon, you see that the issue has just exploded in recent years. Up and down the Indian River Lagoon basin
you have an old network of agricultural canals that’s slowly transforming to suburbia and
as that occurs a lot of those new homes are sitting in this network of ‘ag’ canals that
form literally like a street grid of waterways which eventually discharge to the Indian River Lagoon. So in the Indian River what we’re seeing is
a nutrient load problem, an overwhelming quantity of nutrients moving into the Indian River
Lagoon, which has resulted in eutrophication, which has resulted as a consequence of the
algae growth and some of that algae has become toxic to both people and animals. Now the natural water tables here in Port
St. Lucie are uniformly high and as a result of that septic systems are really not a good fit. Septic tanks are not designed to keep pollutants
out of pristine water bodies like the Indian River Lagoon. The agencies need to identify the areas where
septic tanks are causing pollution to the lagoon. We need to focus our efforts on conversion
of those areas into advanced wastewater treatment. It’s another problem of inadequate infrastructure
that we’ve created. It was based on an ‘ag’ economy and we’ve
changed it now to suburban-urban economy up and down that whole basin and it just can’t
take that load anymore without properly treating it in a more centralized system. You have to pay to have a clean Indian River. That fact is just beginning to resonate. And again, it’s change. Why? Why? Why? And you have to have good science to explain
the ‘whys’. The one common denominator we know we all
have is that we have old septic tanks that line the Indian River Lagoon from here in
Martin County all the way up to Volusia. We already know because we’ve done other neighborhoods. It’s do-able, and once it’s done everybody
says “Why didn’t we do this years ago?”

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