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Water surrounding Sanibel and Captiva classified as impaired

Nutrient enrichment causing the classification
Tracking red tide conditions on Sanibel Island
Posted at 2:43 PM, Oct 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-28 14:43:48-04

SOUTHWEST, Fla. — The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is classifying the water in Pine Island Sound, San Carlos Bay and the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge as “verified impaired” due to the waters exceeding nitrogen and chlorophyll a standards designed to support a healthy ecosystem.

High levels of chlorophyll a indicates how much algae growth is present in the waters, which causes enriched with nitrogen and phosphorus. This causes the ecosystem to become over productive, which can cause to oxygen depletion, fish kills, harmful algae blooms and other ecological problems.

The DEP evaluated data from the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation in 2020. They discovered that the waters immediately surrounding both Sanibel and Captiva islands do not meet water quality standards. The DEP is developing a plan for reducing the pollutant of concern. The plan would focus on reducing the amount of nitrogen entering the water bodies from the adjacent land uses.

“The sad reality is that most water bodies throughout Florida are currently impaired, with a large majority of them being impaired for nutrient pollution. Despite all the work that our communities on Sanibel and Captiva have done to preserve natural areas and reduce nutrient runoff from the landscape, the quality of our coastal waters continues to decline,” James Evans, SCCF Environmental Policy Director said. “This is in part due to the influence of freshwater discharges from the Caloosahatchee and Peace rivers, but local nutrient sources also continue to impact water quality.”

The waters on the Gulf of Mexico side of Sanibel and Captiva are not classified as impaired because DEP still does not have enough data to determine their status.

The DEP is accepting public comment on the assessment until Nov. 10, 2021. You can learn more about the assessment here.

To learn more about the classification from the 2020-2022 Biennial Assessment Draft, visit their website.