Florida Resident Neil Pansey Explains Florida Beaches Are "Going Green"

Neil G. Pansey

A recent boom of algal bloom has left many of Florida’s sweeping shorelines covered in toxic, green sludge, says long time Florida resident Neil Pansey. Pansey recently sat down and discussed the issue.

Q: Over the last few years, many Florida beaches have been periodically covered in green slime. What exactly is it?

Neil Pansey: The sludge-looking material is actually cyanobacteria, which is commonly called blue-green algae. It’s a type of bacteria that grows in certain aquatic conditions and has been known to cause health problems in humans as well as negatively impact local flora and fauna.

Q: Why has there been more algal bloom over the last few years?

Neil Pansey: Algal bloom happens all over the globe. Florida is subject to heavy precipitation and warm weather every year, both conditions in which algae thrives. Additionally, agricultural runoff into some of Florida’s inland bodies of water feeds the bacteria with nitrates and phosphorus overflow. What we have now are ideal conditions and ample nutrition for the algae to flourish.

Q: If cyanobacteria is native to freshwater, how has it gotten to the coast?

Neil Pansey: It comes largely from overflow runoff from large lakes, including Lake Okeechobee, which is bordered to the north by agriculture and to the south by wetlands. When these lakes rise, the water is forced through canals and into beach areas.

Q: How widespread is the issue of algal bloom?

Neil Pansey: Over the summer, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection took water samples from 44 different locations across South Florida. It was found that 34 of the samples contained algal toxins. Twelve of these were considered toxic and a potential health threat.

Q: What are various environmental groups recommending for the problem?

Neil Pansey: Many environmentalists believe that the state should purchase property south of Lake Okeechobee and create a “holding” area, which would serve as a natural filter and eliminate the issue of compromised waters being spewed into the coast.

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