Environmentalists are worried that a recent discharge of wastewater into Tampa Bay could exacerbate a new outbreak of the dreaded red tide algal blooms.
An estimated 215 million gallons of wastewater from the old Piney Point fertilizer plant grounds were discharged earlier this month into Tampa Bay. About 11 miles away, red tide was found in water samples off Manatee County.
“Piney Point loaded the gun, and then that first red tide positive count, they slammed the hammer back on the gun,” said Brian Rosegger, co-founder of nearby Lost Coast Oyster Company.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection doesn’t believe the recent red tide is a direct result of the discharge from Piney Point, but it could make the problem worse, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
“Elevated nutrients have the potential to exacerbate these algal blooms, and increased sampling is ongoing,” the Department of Environmental Protection said in a statement.
A low concentration of the organism in red tide can cause breathing problems for people along the shore, lead to fish kills and force shellfish harvesting closures, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
No fish kills had been reported in Tampa Bay as of Friday afternoon, according to state officials.
Ed Sherwood, executive director of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, said the wastewater from Piney Point is estimated to have put in a couple of weeks as much nitrogen into a section of lower Tampa Bay as the area would typically see in a year.