Deadly cycle in Biscayne Bay: Winds to continue to dissipate algae bloom

MIAMI – Douglas Brantley, of Miami, said the heavy and smelly pollution that was affecting his waterfront property had moved on by Monday. But he knows the water quality is still not where it should be.

“The winds are moving it around the bay,” Brantley said.

Scientists say ongoing nutrient pollution, one of Florida’s most challenging environmental problems, is to blame for Biscayne Bay’s algae bloom, which researchers determined is not toxic and is flowing away from the area.

The lack of toxicity and dissipation is good news, but environmentalists warn there is a deadly cycle in areas of Biscayne Bay that is not going away unless there are changes.

Ligia Collado-Vides, a Florida International University marine botanist, said the algae bloom is dying. Bacteria from the dead algae consumes oxygen in the water and produces carbon dioxide. The lack of oxygen affects marine life, which when harmed produces more nutrient pollution.

This process speeds up when nitrogen and phosphorus enter the environment. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the main sources of excess nitrogen and phosphorus include agriculture, stormwater and wastewater.

Collado-Vides, who specializes on the ecology of tropical marine macroalgae, said the wind and currents are helping to clear out the bloom. But Biscayne Bay’s water quality issue, she said, is not going away.

“We need to use this, as really triggering the government or the decision-makers” to find solutions, Collado-Vides said.

About the Authors:

Louis Aguirre is an Emmy-award winning journalist who anchors weekday newscasts and serves as WPLG Local 10’s Environmental Advocate.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.