Tide of Trouble

(WSVN) - There is a problem growing in the waterways in Fort Lauderdale, and the people who live there are concerned that they are in for a tide of trouble. Brandon Beyer has the story.

You can go to just about any neighborhood in South Florida and find water.

Kayaker: “Today we went kayaking — the three of us and the dog.”

But there is a growing problem in several Fort Lauderdale waterways that has a city commissioner worried.

Dean Trantalis, Fort Lauderdale commissioner: “The waterways were starting to fill up with this floating, dark green algae.”

The algae is called microcystis aeruginosa, better known as blue-green algae.

It can be toxic to marine life and people.

Dean Trantalis: “Multiple canals were being inundated with this slime.”

Blue-green algae has been a big problem in other areas of the state for years. On the Treasure Coast, beaches were closed for months.

Beach goer: “This beach is usually packed.”

Businesses lost money.

Business owner: “It’s devastating. It’s heart breaking.”

And fearing for their health, some residents wore masks.

Resident: “It smells like dying animals, a dying eco-system, a dying economy. It smells like death.”

Trantalis says a major outbreak of algae in Fort Lauderdale could kill the local economy, so he called the Department of Environmental Protection to come out and test the water. And the news he presented to the city commission meeting wasn’t good.

Fifteen different sites were tested. Eleven tested positive for algae.

Dean Trantalis: “I don’t understand why it suddenly just happened.”

But despite sounding the alarm, the commission decided to take no action.

Dean Trantalis: “Because the city manager has indicated that it’s a naturally occurring substance.”

Dr. Bill Louda, Florida Atlantic University professor: “It’s a nasty organism.”

FAU professor Dr. Bill Louda says South Florida is a perfect breeding ground for blue-green algae.

The waters are warm, there’s not much wind, and it gets the right kind of food.

Dr. Bill Louda: “This is a sample of it here that we are growing. We are testing how microcystis aeruginosa grows with different phosphate forms.”

And we are the ones who are providing the phosphate. It comes from the fertilizer we put on our lawns. It also seeps out of old leaking septic tanks. It’s a problem Fort Lauderdale has been dealing with for years.

Dean Trantalis: “We are completely overwhelmed by these failures in our underground waste water, storm water, and even our drinking water is at risk.”

These kayakers had no idea about the blue-green algae risks.

Kayaker: “There should be information and precautions to take so that we know what we are dealing with.”

Which is why this commissioner say he’ll continue to fight this tide of trouble.

Brandon Beyer, 7News.

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