FORT MYERS, Fla. — A task force created by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis met in Fort Myers Monday to discuss long-term solutions to blue-green algae problems in Southwest Florida waterways. The meeting, which was held at the Lee County School District headquarters, was open to the public.
The task force members did not address one particular solution to fight the algae problem, but talked about ways to screen and identify possible fixes.
"It's complicated, it's challenging," said Dr. Tom Frazer, Florida's chief science officer. "You can't eat the elephant in one day. But we're going to work through that process. We have close to $700 million to deal with water quality related projects in our state."
A big focus of Monday's discussion was about trying to find ways to reduce two main algae-feeding nutrients - nitrogen and phosphorus - from getting in to Lake Okeechobee. Those nutrients eventually find their downstream, and contributed to the blue-green algae mess that clogged many Southwest Florida canals in 2018.
During the meeting, task force members displayed a map showing that many of the nutrients come from runoff as far north of Lake Okeechobee as Kissimmee and Orlando.
They also indicated that only about 75 percent of agriculture businesses in the state have adopted best management practices to reduce nutrient runoff, even though it's a state mandate.
"We're five years after that was signed into law, so they're supposed to be at 100 percent," said Daniel Andrews of Captains For Clean Water. "There's definitely some room for improvement there."
"We're behind in the solutions," Andrews added. "We need to get out in front of that, and stop pollution at the source."
With approximately a thousand more people moving to Florida every day, environmentalist Jennifer Hecker expressed hope that the state can invest in more wastewater treatment.
"Such as moving areas off of septic (systems,) and where they can't be moved off, provide more routine inspection and maintenance," Hecker said.