Salinity levels close to zero at inlet

Watch the corresponding CBS News report here:


St. Lucie River Conditions Worsen: Salinity Levels Close To Zero At Inlet

Story by Jana Eschbach / CBS 12 News
STUART/PALM CITY, Fla. — The pollution and bacteria levels in the St. Lucie River and the ocean near Stuart continues to worsen.

New tests are underway to monitor the dangerous and toxic pollution zones.

The sandbars that are usually busy with boaters, are now off limits, coated in a brown foam.

The Martin County Health Department has told boaters and swimmers to avoid the beloved chain of sandbars–think of it as the Treasure Coast’s Peanut Island here, is now off limits to boaters, the water warning is posted for dangerous levels of fecal pollutants.

“We are getting over 33,000 pounds of nitrogen a day. We are getting over 9,000 pounds of phosphorous a day and the nitrogen in our system, like fertilizer, creates the algae blooms, so we are now starting to see those green algae blooms,” said Mark Perry, Executive Director of Florida Oceanographic Society.

Waterfront homeowners as far out as Hutchinson Island report toxic green freshwater algae in the Intracoastal waterway.

“That algae can’t survive in ocean conditions. Right that should be total salt water right there,” Perry said pointing to the map.

Dirty enough to make close to 6,000 residents march in protest this weekend to stop the pollution.

To find clear ocean water, we have to travel close to 9 miles offshore to escape the cloud of brown water. Until we escape the massive plume, there’s no sign of bait fish, or game fish.

“It pretty much creates a dead zone out there which could become a real problem, if its persists,” Perry said.

The plume of dirty water is now close enough to the powerful gulf stream to send the debris north.

“It is a massive amount of force and water that is not being treated at all it is just polluted and it is coming into the estuary,” Perry said.

The plume travels south as well, coating environmentally-protected coral reefs.

“If we went out and disturbed the corals, or spear fish on that reef–it’s illegal to do that…but this is the discharge thats happening and they say its for public safety,” Perry said.

The US Army Corps of Engineers who control the fresh water releases into this region say the lake levels are so high, discharges will contnue at this maximum rate until further notice.

Scientists say right now 30% of oyster reefs are dead and fishkills are coming soon, when salinity levels drop further and oxygen levels are depleted by the toxic green algae.

And every access to the river now in Martin County warns you should not even touch the water.

If you see blue-green algae, you are asked to contact the Department of Environmental Protection at 772-467-5572. Abnormal fish behavior or fish kills can be reported to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at 1-800-636-0511.

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