Expert says not to worry about Collier County red tide

Tubes in hand, Pollution Control hit the Gulf waters along Collier County’s beaches Thursday.

This is the second time the county has tested the water this week. Yes, there is red tide off shore. But one expert says, “don’t worry.”

“This is actually normal for us,” said Rhonda Watkins, Collier County’s red tide expert.

Watkins said every year dating back to 2003, early October is when red tide returns.

This year, Watkins says she believes will be a good one.

“This doesn’t look like it’s going to be setting up to be anywhere near like it was last year,” she said.

Watkins said this year, in a way, compares to last year. Things were so much worse because there was an intense red tide bloom all summer long.

“We were starting to see dead crabs and everything washing up on the beach,” she said.

That didn’t happen this summer.

“Looks pretty clear in the rest of the state,” said Watkins.

In terms of red tide impacts on the beach right now, Watkins says you won’t feel heavy breathing irritation because of the offshore winds. But you still might see some dead fish near the coastline.

The county usually tests the water once a week year-round. When there’s red tide present, they test twice a week.

Thursday’s results should be back by Friday. Even though impacts aren’t supposed to be strong, experts are still urging those with health issues not to go to the beach.

Collier-Naples Septic project to lessen red tide impact 

A $14 million City of Naples and Collier County city-county project is designed to lessen the impact of red tide.

Collier County is working on stormwater system improvements while Naples is taking 930 septic tanks to its sewer system.

“Septic tanks are typically not designed to remove nutrients from the system,” said Rhonda Watkins, a red tide expert. “They’re designed to remove pathogens, so especially nitrogen can still leech out into the ground water.”

Watkins is Collier’s red tide expert. She explained that while red tide occurs naturally reducing pollutants out of the ground, water can lessen its impact.

“In Florida, the surface water, ground water have a really close interaction,” Watkins said. “So if there’s nutrients in the ground water eventually, that’s going to end up in surface water and along the coast.”

The city and county decided to join hands in this effort, since the area has a history of flooding. So there is a real need for stormwater system improvements.

Naples has four more areas ticketed for septic-sewer conversion, and it’s applying for state grants hoping to bring costs to the homeowners down.

William Combs hates all the construction.

“An endeavor,” Combs said. “We’re just bearing with the traffic and the parking.”

And he’s bearing the cost too. He’s on the hook for $13,000 to connect to the sewer system.

But he is good with the end result.

“Water quality has been going downhill for a number of reasons,” Combs said. “Last year was the worst I’ve seen it in the last 30 or 40 years.”

Reporter:Hannah Vogel
Writer:Briana Harvath
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