Sep 11, 2020

Researchers Study Hurricane Irma's Water Quality Impacts on Florida

Researchers are trying to understand the impacts Hurricane Irma may have had on water quality in Southwest Florida

water quality

Researchers looked into the possible impact Irma had on Southwest Florida’s water quality.

This includes researcher Cynthia Heil with Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, according to Wink News.

In the three years since Hurricane Irma hit Southwest Florida, the region’s water quality has accumulated issues including algae blooms and red tide, according to NOAA. 

With a five-year NOAA study, researchers will consider factors that cause the algae blooms and what can help mitigate them.

“We know when there was a bloom and when there was not a bloom,” said Heil. “And we are trying to link that up with our long-term record of hurricanes and storms and see if we can see relationships there.”

Mike Parsons, professor at FGCU’s Water School is also looking into Hurricane Irma’s impact on water quality in Southwest Florida. 

According to Parsons, there were red tides after previous large hurricane and large rainfall events, so there may be a connection. Parsons also is on the state’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force, which studies the link between Hurricane Irma and the blue-green algae.

“Hurricane Irma brought a lot of rain with it and so if you look at Lake Okeechobee, that raised the lake levels pretty high,” said Parsons to Wink News. “It caused some significant discharges.”

The Blue-Green Algae Task Force’s input will be used to support key funding, restoration initiatives and guide regulatory changes needed to improve water quality for Florida.

When the DEP identified Lake Okeechobee as not meeting water quality standards for nutrients, the Task Force created an Okeechobee Basin Management Action Plan to achieve nutrient load reduction.

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