Newly-formed Blue Green Algae Task Force gets to work

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - The state’s first-ever Chief Science Officer Dr. Thomas Frazier convened the state’s first Blue Green Algae Task Force Wednesday. The panel is on a mission to solve a problem decades in the making.

The panel is on a mission to solve a problem decades in the making. (MGN)

The Blue Green Algae Task Force has a charge to examine state regulations and not be afraid to challenge the status quo.

“The goal is simply to ask what can we do to achieve more now, and how do we get better?” said Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Noah Valenstein.

The task force is made up of five Ph.D. scientists, all distinguished in their fields.

Dr. Michael Parsons of Florida Gulf Coast University said solving the problem may come down to more monitoring and more boots on the ground.

“I think it's more looking at what’s in place and doing a better job of monitoring and making sure there is compliance, and make sure we can help people get into compliance,” said Dr. Parsons.

More money will help. The Governor asked for $2.4 billion over four years to protect Florida’s environment. In the 2019 budget, he got more than a quarter of it.

While reviewing a map of septic tanks in Lee County, state officials noted their potential threat.

“They can provide, or can propose a problem, and a significant problem to water bodies,” said DEP Deputy Secretary for Water Restoration Tom Frick.

The new Chief Science Officer seemed surprised when he was told the agency doesn’t regulate septic tanks.

“And we have to be able to figure out how to convert septic tanks in some cases to wastewater treatment systems,” said Frazier.

But Frazier made a promise to make a difference.

“What we come up with here is not going to sit on a shelf,” said Frazier.

The Florida Audubon Society expressed optimism the task force would find a way to insert scientific solutions into solving what they called a crisis of well known cases when it comes to blue green algae.