Environmental Threats to Indian River Lagoon Require Decisive Action

by Vins

Down the east coast of Florida lies one of nature’s most amazing lagoons. The Indian River Lagoon stretches though six different counties and covers 353 square miles. The lagoon is home to over 4,300 different animal and plant species. One third of the nation’s manatee population, hundreds of bottlenose dolphins and many different sea turtles inhabit the lagoon. It also contains huge oyster reefs that provide a habitat for much of Florida’s fish population. But the lagoon now faces major problems due to human activity and impacts. One of the major problems, dumping into Lake Okeechobee, causes run off into the lagoon. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that around 3 million pounds of nitrogen is making its way to the lagoon. The toxic pollution is forming green algae in the water, which is dangerous to humans and animals.

Some pollution such as heavy metals, herbicides, pesticides, bacteria, and oil are causing tumors in lagoon wildlife. Scientists have discovered that over 70% of the lagoon’s sea turtles have tumors, including fibropapillomas, and that these tumors can be directly linked to the harmful pollution.

This pollution affects not only wildlife but also the economy. Many residents of the Treasure Coast rely on the lagoon for their livelihoods. The lagoon has an annual economic value of $3.7 billion due to real estate, commercial fishing and recreation. Greg Sapp, an economist, has said that an unhealthy lagoon is “bad business for Florida”.  People do not want to get in the water if there is any chance that they could be at risk from the pollution. There is not one single solution for this problem, but as a community a plan can formulated to prevent continued pollution. All citizens should start by talking to their state and local lawmakers to encourage new laws and regulations to keep the water safer and cleaner.  The problem deserves more media attention if constructive change is to occur.

Source: Steven Carrion, “Indian River Lagoon Destruction Needs Quick Action,” Central Florida Future (University of Central Florida), November 20, 2013, http://www.centralfloridafuture.com/opinion/indian-river-lagoon-destruction-needs-quick-action-1.2836664#.UowqRL4o5rQ.

Student Researcher: Taylor Cain (Indian River State College

Faculty Evaluator: Elliot D. Cohen (Indian River State College)