Water-Related News

Lee Health to discuss water quality at its next board meeting

Lee Health's board will discuss Southwest Florida's toxic algae crisis at its Thursday (Jan. 17th) meeting.

A water quality workshop is the fourth agenda item of the board's regular meeting. Scheduled to speak first is Rae Ann Wessel, natural resource policy director of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. Following her are physicians Mary Beth Saunders, director of epidemiology, and Marilyn Kole, vice president of clinical transformation.

As the region works to come to grips with the ongoing consequences of a lingering red tide coupled with a blue-green algae (cyanobacteria) outbreak that began in June, such discussions are critically important, Wessel said. Lee Health is Florida's largest public health system, with more than 1 million patient visits annually.

She characterized her role in the meeting as teeing up the conversation. "Nothing political — just a fact-based overview to explain what has happened, where we are and where we go; this is not going to swept away."

Exposure to blue-green algae has been linked to neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's and ALS, also called Lou Gehrig's disease, and Dr. Walter Bradley, a neurologist and chairman emeritus of the University of Miami School of Medicine’s department of neurology, has said there is also a strong link between the kind of toxins produced by the algae that fouled the Caloosahatchee River and nonalcoholic cirrhosis of the liver. The toxins can become airborne, Bradley said, and have been identified a mile from water sources.