What’s causing the problems in the Indian River Lagoon?



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Look in the mirror to find blame for IRL’s problems

What’s causing the problems in the Indian River Lagoon? Unfortunately, it’s us.

The problem is mostly excess nutrients in the water. Nitrogen and phosphorous compounds in the water stimulate massive growth of algae, producing the scum and cloudiness in the lagoon.

Even worse, when the algae dies, it decays and uses up the oxygen in the water. This kills the fish and other animals.

But, where do the excess nutrients come from?

Mostly from people and their activities. Using toilets, washing cars and fertilizing lawns is problematic. There has been a population explosion in Brevard County, growing from 23,000 in 1950 to more than 584,000 today. Day by day, the nutrients build up through time.

Indeed, these contaminants, together with silt and other solid matter washes into the lagoon and settles to the bottom. This has created a coating of  muck, a black, gooey mayonnaise-like material, that covers a lot of the lagoon’s floor.

Currently, muck is the biggest nitrogen source since it contributes approximately a million pounds a year through chemical reactions and flux out of this goop. It is followed closely by septic systems flows and stormwater runoff.

Wastewater utilities also are an important source of pollutants. Waste facilities used to dump an estimated 40 to 50 million gallons of partially treated wastewater into the lagoon every day. This was halted in 1996 thanks to the Clean Water Act.

Some utilities continue to have spills and leaks in their pipes. This needs to be addressed.

Another source that needs attention and control is agriculture, including the dumping of biosolids (partially treated human waste) in Brevard County. Hopefully, the State Legislature will act on this problem.

It’s also important to remember that Brevard County still is a growing area. It might reach 750,000 residents by 2050. So, our plans must address the future as well as the past and present.

For some tips on what you can do to help, go to  tinyurl.com/HowToHelpLagoon