Research shows about half of Lake Okeechobee nutrients come from bottom of lake

We all know that human activity can fuel algal blooms. Yet, those nutrients can come from well beneath the surface, too.

The proof of this is in the mud. Water experts say about half of the nutrients in Lake Okeechobee come from the bottom of the lake. And, the stirring of mud plays a role in algal blooms, similar to what we see on Lake O and in the Caloosahatchee River.

Keith Kaye’s current reality is the blue-green algae floating by the boat ramp in front of his Olga home.

“It’s been dirty. It’s dirty every year. And it just gets worse every year. So that’s the reality of it,” Kaye said.

“I want to find out why, and who, those are, why is this like this? And who did it? And who’s letting it continue?” said Kaye.

He fears that growers are behind a majority of our dirty water issues.

“It keeps getting worse and worse and worse, nobody’s, nobody’s bothering to do, expose, who’s responsible for this, who should pay for it.” he said.

Research from The Water School and FGCU shows that half of the nutrients in Lake Okeechobee come from the bottom of the lake. Barry Rosen is a professor at FGCU’s Water School.

“Any time there’s any kind of wind disturbance in the lake. That nutrient load comes back out of being on the bottom and becomes suspended in the lake,” said Rosen.

Rosen says nutrients flow in from waterways north of the lake, but a majority of the nutrients in the Caloosahatchee Estuary are local.

“The nutrients are really from any kind of agriculture along the way, any kind of yards, anyone that’s fertilizing too close to the water, those are the nutrients that seep in,” Rosen said.

Rosen also mentioned that the mud at the bottom of the lake is not thick enough to dredge out. Plus, even if crews remove it, nutrients would still enter the lake.

Another researcher on this project feels that the mud needs to be removed for the algal bloom problem to be resolved.

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
Writer:Drew Hill
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