TIPS FOR PREVENTING HARMFUL ALGAL BLOOMS

In light of the recent disastrous water conditions along the east and west coasts of Florida, here are some techniques to insure that we as individuals or groups don’t become part of the problem.

SoLitude Lake Management

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The summer season means warmth, sunshine and long days to enjoy swimming, boating, fishing, and spending time around the water. Unfortunately for many communities, the warm weather can also promote the growth of algae blooms in lakes and ponds used for recreation and drinking water. In community waterbodies, moderate amounts of algae can often signify the waterbody is in good health, but excess algae levels may indicate that the natural balance of the ecosystem has been compromised. Without swift and proper management, certain species of algae, like cyanobacteria, can begin producing harmful toxins. Following exposure or digestion of these toxins, humans and animals can experience skin rashes, liver and kidney toxicity, nervous system problems, respiratory complications and even death. Exposure to cyanobacteria also has suspected links to the development of degenerative diseases like ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) can occur naturally, but have been a problem for decades due to the negative environmental impacts associated with urban development, mass agriculture and pollution. In recent years, private research and greater public awareness around the subject of HABs have brought nationwide attention to dangerous cyanobacteria blooms like the one currently plaguing Lake Okeechobee, the largest lake in Florida.

To help limit the growth of HABs in your community waterbodies, SOLitude Lake Management, an industry leader in lake, stormwater pond, wetland and fisheries management services, recommends the following sustainable measures to homeowners, golf courses, reservoirs and municipalities:

Effectively identify HABs

Accurate identification of harmful algal blooms is the first step to protect your family, your pets and surrounding wildlife from the negative effects of algal toxin exposure. Depending on the waterbody, a potentially harmful bloom may manifest in parallel streaks or clumped dots. Other blooms may look like spilled blue, green or white paint or turn the water a bright “pea soup” green. Keep an eye out for soupy or oily scum on the surface of the water.

Properly dispose of organic materials

Following yard work, leaves, grass and other debris should be bagged and removed from the property to prevent them from accumulating and decaying in the waterbody. When organic materials are allowed to decompose in freshwater resources, they release undesirable nutrients that are responsible for fueling nuisance plant and algae growth.

Establish a beneficial buffer

Steps should be taken to intercept runoff containing sediment, trash and other organic materials from entering lakes and ponds during rainstorms. Allow native flowering, deep-rooted vegetation to grow 3 to 5 feet from the edge of the lake or pond shoreline in a beautiful buffer.

Reduce excess nutrients

For lakes and ponds with chronic nutrient problems, the application of phosphorous-locking technologies, such as Phoslock and Alum, can make a noticeable impact. When applied by a licensed professional, these products work to rapidly remove free reactive phosphorous from the water column, improving water clarity and permanently reducing undesirable nutrients in the water column—so they can no longer contribute to harmful algae growth.

Add aeration

When paired with other nutrient-limiting strategies, floating fountains and submersed diffused aerators can help consistently circulate warm stagnant water and facilitate the conversion of phosphorous and nitrogen to nutrient forms that do not sustain algae as food.

Apply beneficial bacteria

Another way to limit algae’s food source is through the introduction of bacteria and enzymes, a process called biological augmentation. The beneficial bacteria can help consume additional pond nutrients that fuel nuisance algae blooms and help facilitate the degradation of the organic nutrient sources.

Regularly test water quality

Lake and pond owners and municipality leaders often wait until after a toxic algae bloom appears to conduct water quality tests, but a proactive testing program can help identify water quality impairments related to dissolved oxygen, pH or nutrient levels before they get out of hand. Over time, water quality data can be used to predict the onset of a bloom and prevent its impact without closing the waterbody or interfering with irrigation or drinking water services.   

By taking the appropriate proactive steps to protect your lake or pond from HABs and nuisance algae, you can help ensure the protection of native plants and wildlife and the enjoyment of your waterbody throughout the summer. Through this approach, the ecological balance and natural beauty of your waterbody can be achieved, maximized and appreciated for years to come.

 SOLitude Lake Management is a nationwide environmental firm committed to providing sustainable solutions that improve water quality, enhance beauty, preserve natural resources and reduce our environmental footprint. SOLitude’s team of aquatic resource management professionals specializes in the development and execution of customized lake, pond, wetland and fisheries management programs that include water quality testing and restoration, nutrient remediation, algae and aquatic weed control, installation and maintenance of fountains and aeration systems, bathymetry, mechanical harvesting and hydro-raking, lake vegetation studies, biological assessments, habitat evaluations, and invasive species management. Services and educational resources are available to clients nationwide, including homeowners associations, multi-family and apartment communities, golf courses, commercial developments, ranches, private landowners, reservoirs, recreational and public lakes, municipalities, drinking water authorities, parks, and state and federal agencies. SOLitude Lake Management is a proud member of the Rentokil Steritech family of companies in North America. For more educational resources, please visit: solitudelakemanagement.com/education