Lake Okeechobee is the largest freshwater body in Florida, but it’s polluted with runoff containing human waste, animal feed and fertilizer – all nutrients that algae thrive on. Source: CBS

Lake Okeechobee is the largest freshwater body in Florida, but it’s polluted with runoff containing human waste, animal feed and fertilizer – all nutrients that algae thrive on. Source: CBS

CBS Miami reports that protesters are demanding answers and action over the toxic mess in Florida — a poisonous algae bloom plaguing four counties now under a state of emergency.

The algae bloom took a toll on the busy holiday weekend — forcing some beaches to be closed to swimmers. Protesters instead of sunbathers filled Florida’s Stuart public beach on Saturday, demanding the toxic mess be cleaned up.

“We’re losing our way of life here,” said protester Allie Preston. Some blame state politicians for allowing polluted water to be released from Lake Okeechobee and into the Saint Lucie Estuary – one of the areas that have been covered in algae.

Bill Louda, a research professor at Florida Atlantic University, has been helping to collect and test the algae that wreaked havoc along Florida’s Treasure Coast. “If I was in government, I would say we’ve got to stop the pollution,” he said.

Lake Okeechobee is the largest freshwater body in the state, but it’s polluted with runoff containing human waste, animal feed and fertilizer – all nutrients that algae thrive on.

To manage flooding, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers releases the lake’s water into surrounding rivers and lagoons. “We just are putting way too much nitrogen and phosphorus in our natural waters and they respond,” said Professor Louda.

He said there’s no quick fix to the problem — at least not one without a disastrous domino effect. “If you kill this algae, you’re going to kill the sea grass, the macroalgae, all the good phytoplankton that the fish need, everything else,” he said.

Read More