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MEDIA ADVISORY: Tropical Storm Nicole Expected to Fuel Red Tide in Florida

Hurricane Ian & Nicole Could Create “Water Quality Disaster”

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ST. PETERSBURG, FL — As Tropical Storm Nicole brings heavy rain to Florida Wednesday night, the potential for harmful algal blooms dramatically increases.

“With Hurricane Ian and now Nicole, we could see a potential water quality disaster,” said Jon Paul “J.P.” Brooker, Director of Florida Conservation at Ocean Conservancy. “Excessive rainfall will increase the water level of Lake Okeechobee, resulting in a need for nutrient-laden discharges out the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers. Those nutrients inevitably hit the coasts, fueling  the growth of algae. Some of these blooms –  such as red tide and blue green algae – cause fish kills, soil our precious coastlines and devastate our economy.”

Nicole’s storm path is predicted to make landfall somewhere near or over Indian River Lagoon where manatee deaths the past two years have reached historic highs. Excessive nutrients in this system – due in large part to leaky septics or sewage plant overflows during heavy rains –  supercharge algae, killing seagrasses critical to manatee survival. Infrastructural investments and fortifications are key to building storm resiliency and reducing nutrient loads in Indian River Lagoon.

Ocean Conservancy has been watchdogging the nutrient dense water released after Hurricane Ian, which has led to red tide in Sarasota, Charlotte, and Hillsborough Counties.  The latest weather models are expecting Tropical Storm Nicole to intensify and impact Florida just weeks after Hurricane Ian. More rain and more run-off could make it necessary for the Army Corps of Engineers to discharge more water from Lake Okeechobee. The discharge would bring nutrient rich water to the coasts, which is likely to fuel harmful algal blooms. Regardless of Lake Okeechobee discharges, Nicole will stir up waters and create conditions conducive to additional harmful algal bloom growth. The additional rainfall can create localized runoff that can continue to fuel red tide away from the lake.

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Jon Paul “J.P.” Brooker, is available for zoom, phone and in-person interviews in the Tampa Bay area.

Ocean Conservancy is working to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together with our partners, we create evidence-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit oceanconservancy.org, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram

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