Group tests air quality impacts of decomposing algae

Something beneath the surface of the water may impact the air we breathe.

Volunteers are testing the air quality around Matlacha Pass and whether decomposing algae released dangerous chemicals into the air.

Sue Dahod doesn’t take her role as a Calusa Waterkeeper ranger lightly.

“I’m just trying to help. I’m trying to give my abilities and my resources that I, you know, my education, to help, to help others solve the problems.”

One problem she’s trying to solve, or at least, better understand, is the decomposing algae in Matlacha Pass. To do this, she and another ranger have teamed up with the Matlacha/Pine Island Fire Control District to measure hydrogen sulfide in the air, a potential result of the algae breaking down.

Some good news? They didn’t detect anything on Wednesday.

At the handful of locations where WINK News joined the group, the detector didn’t find traceable levels of hydrogen sulfide in the air.

Rick Bartleson, Ph.D., a research scientist at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, said that while some of the chemical can enter the air, it can also remain in the water, which has its pros and cons.

“If it’s from a health standpoint, from people breathing the hydrogen sulfide, I think it’s improving because the algae are underwater, the water is taking up some of the sulfur.”

However, he said there’s less oxygen in the water.

“It looks like there’s a large area the Pass will be anoxic or hypoxic, which will affect all the animal and a lot of the plant life that live underwater in the Pass.”

There will be some “Gather for Clean Water” events this Saturday. Here is the schedule:

  • Fort Myers Beach, 3-6 p.m., Matanzas Pass Bridge
  • Matlacha, 9-10 a.m., Matlacha Bridge
  • Fort Myers, 9-10 a.m., Fowler Street Bridge
  • Sanibel, 9-10 a.m., Sanibel Causeway, Island B

Organizers encourage those who plan to attend to bring signs urging for clean water.

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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