Water-Related News

Farm water hits SWFL, leaves coast brown, murky

It was just a matter of time before polluted farm water from Lake Okeechobee made its way to Southwest Florida.

"Boy, yeah, we saw it," said Rick Bartleson, a water quality scientist at Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, when asked if the polluted water had worked its way here. "The water at the (Sanibel) causeway is pretty brown (because) the flows are up to rainy season levels."

The South Florida Water Management District spent four days, starting Wednesday night, pulling water off farm fields south of the lake, although the district didn't send out a public notice about the "emergency" measures until nearly 24 hours after they had started.

Critics say these water management practices are largely responsible for toxic algal blooms that often plague both the west and east coasts of Florida.

Polluted and unnatural water from Lake Okeechobee and lands within the Caloosahatchee River watershed kills sea grasses and oyster beds.

Excess nutrients from the landscape contribute to the duration and frequency of harmful algal blooms, like red tide. Red tide, caused here by Karenia brevis, is a neurotoxin that causes fish and marine mammal kills and can lead to respiratory issues in humans

Record rains have not made the situation better as the lake level is rising at the same time the state was back-pumping farm water into Okeechobee.