Algae blooms turn Indian River Lagoon green and stinky, again

Residents can help by reducing pollution from fertilizers, grass clippings and failing septic tanks

A photo taken by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection of an algae bloom in the Indian River near Pineda Causeway on Sept. 8, 2020. (WKMG 2020)

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Algae blooms are turning parts of the Indian River Lagoon green again in Brevard County.

Samples taken by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection show there have been several confirmed sites of the harmful algae, known to cause fish kills and poor air quality, during the past two months.

DEP data shows one bloom was confirmed on Aug. 27 at the Marina Park Dock in Titusville and again near the Pineda Causeway on Sept. 8.

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Brevard County Public Information Officer Don Walker said for the last couple weeks the weather conditions have helped and the county has not received reports of any major fish kills.

On Sept. 11, county officials warned of a possible fish kill like the ones seen in 2016 and 2018 due to the wet weather in recent weeks.

“Now that we are in the warm and wet hurricane season, each heavy rain carries excess nutrients from fertilizer and grass clippings off peoples' lawns and into the lagoon,” Virginia Barker, director of Brevard County natural Resources Management, said in a news release. “Rain that soaks into the ground picks up pollution from the septic drain fields and broken sewer pipes and also migrates sideways underground to the lagoon. These extra nutrients from our yards overfeed the algae that is naturally living in the water."

Barker said everyone can do their part to help restore the Indian River Lagoon by reducing pollution inputs, such as fertilizer, grass clippings, excess irrigation, car wash water, failing septic tanks and leaky sewer pipes.

Brevard County voters approved a half-cent sales tax in 2011 to generate more than $400 million for restoration of the lagoon. The County has completed 30 pollution reduction projects and has another 83 under contract, according to a news release.

Earlier this summer, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed bills designed to address environmental issues ranging from sea level rise to blue-green algae blooms.

One of the new laws was designed to address leaky septic tanks, municipal wastewater treatment, stormwater runoff, farm fertilizers and more, as well as a companion measure that will better track sources of pollutants that are blamed for mucking up the state’s waterways.

Some environmental groups argued the new laws didn’t go far enough.

Residents can report blue-green algae blooms at