Blue-Green Algae Task Force Comes to Consensus on First Set of Water Quality Improvement Recommendations

Blue-Green Algae Task Force Comes to Consensus on First Set of Water Quality Improvement Recommendations

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – This week, the Blue-Green Algae Task Force met and approved its first set of recommendations to address water quality and harmful algal blooms.

The Blue-Green Algae Task Force is an advisory body, appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis, to aid the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) in fulfilling its mission to protect, conserve and manage the state’s natural resources and enforce its environmental laws. The task force, through its discussion and deliberations, provides guidance and specific, science-based recommendations with the goal of expediting improvements and restoration of Florida’s water bodies that have been adversely affected by blue-green algae blooms.

“I appreciate the time the task force members and the public have invested in these important discussions. This commitment is a testament to the passion these leading scientists and residents of our state have for the protection of our natural resources,” said DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein. ”I look forward to utilizing these recommendations to identify regulatory and management strategies to expedite water quality improvements.”

Some of the highlights of the initial recommendations are as follows:

Agriculture and Best Management Practices – Increased compliance, improved data collection and record keeping to promote transparency and accountability.

  • To achieve maximum environmental benefit attributable to agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs), increased enrollment will be required. Improved transparency and effectiveness of record keeping policies is needed as are data to assess the effectiveness of implemented BMPs. Efforts to update BMP manuals should be accelerated.

Onsite Sewage Treatment and Disposal Systems – A regulatory program through DEP to address nutrient pollution in addition to human health.

  • Broader regulatory oversight of septic systems is needed. The Department of Environmental Protection should develop a comprehensive regulatory program to ensure that onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems are protective of human health, but also protect the environment against nutrient pollution.

Stormwater Treatment Systems – Revise and update stormwater design criteria and implement an effective inspection and monitoring program.

  • Development and implementation of a stormwater system inspection and monitoring program with the goal of identifying improperly functioning and/or failing systems so that corrective action can be taken to reduce nutrient pollution and other negative environmental impacts. Stormwater design criteria should be revised and updated to incorporate recent advances in stormwater treatment technologies and other practices that have demonstrated environmental benefits; nutrient reduction specifically.

Blue-green Algae Blooms and Public Health – Transparent and consistent communication about algal blooms and public health impacts based on science.

  • The Department of Health (DOH) and DEP implement a transparent and consistent communication plan to inform the public about water conditions and the potential health impacts associated with exposure to blue-green algae and/or algal toxins.

Science-based Decision Making, Data Needs and Monitoring Programs – Development of a comprehensive and adaptive state-wide water quality monitoring strategy.

  • Development and implementation of a state-wide comprehensive water quality monitoring strategy, designed to assess status and long-term trends, to answer specific questions, address unknowns and allow for adaptive management.

“The recommendations released by the task force are the result of a deliberative and transparent process and reflect DEP’s commitment as a state agency to science-based decision making. These recommendations will undoubtedly be used to inform viable and effective policy,” said Chief Science Officer Dr. Thomas Frazer. “The task force will continue to meet and will delve even more deeply into a broader suite of issues related to water quality and algal blooms moving forward.”

A copy of the consensus document can be found on the Blue-Green Algae Task Force website.

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