Water pollution threatens Florida’s economy

2 October 2012

Floating island sucking up nutrients in a purpose-designed stormwater management device. Source: DH Environmental Consulting

More and more discussions are focussing on the damage that poor water quality can do to an economy.  This is a good sign as the realization is starting to take root and, albeit a very small change, there may be a move away from the tunnel-vision focus on water quantity to consider the other side of the same coin.

Droplets recently reported on a bizarre proposal by the USEPA to downgrade water quality protections and only fix degraded systems once they are damaged.  If this is a true reflection of the intention, then who the hell are they employing? This is the type of dumb decision normally reserved for politicians.  Needless to say Floridians are less than impressed.

By contrast, in New Hampshire, the EPA is getting all fussy about stormwater quality and the need to protect the marine environment.  The EPA considers discharge to sensitive waters, high population density and ineffective protection of water quality concerns by other programs as among its criteria to designate a town, such as Stratham in this case, what is known as an MS4 community.

In New York, a perceived failure or failures by the authorities to properly protect Lake George are being associated with the deepening crisis surrounding this popular lake.

A lake polluted by algae blooms and vulnerable to five different kinds of invasive species will be a much less appealing place to own property. Lakeshore property values could plummet by up to $386 million, predicts Jim Martin, an economic consultant for The LA Group.

The economic damage of rendering Lake George so much less attractive for recreational boating and swimming hardly stops there. Other estimates are equally overwhelming to the Lake George Park Commission, which is supposed to provide regulatory oversight on a budget of just $1.2 million a year.

The Lake George region’s $487 million tourism business, for instance, could decline by anywhere from $9 million to $48 million annually.

The problems in Not-So-Clear Lake are getting worse and toxin levels are rising. The county’s Environmental Health Division contacted residents along the lake late last week after tests revealed the microcystin algae toxin exceeded the state standard for recreational water use.

Lake Anderson in Washington is setting records, with sky-high concentrations of neurotoxins produced by a recent addition to the blue-green algae in this lake, Coelosphaerium, a species which is often confused with Microcystis to the untrained eye.

Eutrophication in the marine environment is more about nitrogen than phosphorus in terms of which nutrient should be managed.  This is currently the focus in Martha’s Vineyard:

High levels of nitrogen affect everything from marine life to property values around Sengekonacket, new state report finds.

With high levels of nitrogen in Sengekontacket Pond threatening everything from marine life to property values, state and local environmental officials have outlined an aggressive plan to clean up the pond that ranges from diverting wastewater from several watersheds to designating the entire pond as a district of critical planning concern.

The state executive office of energy and environmental affairs, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, and the Bureau of Resource Protection released a draft report this month noting that 58.8 kilograms of nitrogen per day enters the Sengekontacket estuary, well over acceptable limits, and leading to concentrations ranging from .21 milligrams per liter at the main inlet station to .61 milligrams per liter in Major’s Cove. The target threshold is .35 milligrams per liter per day, to allow for restoring eelgrass and infaunal habitat quality. To achieve that, the study said, the total maximum daily load of nitrogen would be 50 kilograms per day.

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