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Water-Related News

South Florida reservoir feared to send pollution to St. Johns River

ST. JOHNS RIVER — "You can't step in the same river twice" is a famous expression, although only partly applicable to Doctors Lake, because if you ever stepped foot in its bath-warm, lime-green waters this summer, last summer — or the summer before that — there is a chance you were ankle deep in a toxic algae bloom.

Doctors Lake, an inlet of the St. Johns, was issued a health advisory from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for blue-green algae toxins for the third consecutive summer.

Excessive concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorous are the nutrients that create the algae blooms, sometimes appearing as smelly green scum along the water's surface. The sources come from fertilizer runoff, septic leakage, and sewage sludge, also known as biosolids, used in agriculture. Toxins produced by some algae blooms can cause rashes, stomach cramps, nausea, diarrhea and respiratory irritation.

Lisa Rinaman of the St. Johns Riverkeeper, an environmental advocacy group committed to protecting the ecology of Florida’s longest river and its inlets, is concerned about an upcoming development she believes will inevitably redirect polluted waters from South Florida into St. Johns, intensifying the frequency of algae blooms along the 310-mile river body.

The development is called the Grove Land Reservoir, a $400 million state-funded stormwater storage and treatment project planned at the headwaters of the St. Johns, which would redirect water flowing into the Indian River Lagoon by pumping 136 million gallons of water daily into the Upper St. Johns to alleviate the growing water demand in Central Florida.