The state of emergency will provide funding to aid communities impacted by the toxic red tide, believed to be amplified by polluted storm water runoff
On Aug. 13, Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for seven Florida counties impacted by red tide. This red tide was caused by a high concentration of a microscopic algae known as Karenia brevis, and may be exacerbated by warm weather coupled with nutrient-heavy storm water runoff. The declaration will provide $1.5 million in emergency funding, and includes the counties of Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Sarasota, Pinellas, Hillsborough and Manatee.
While red tide is a naturally occurring phenomenon, this year’s red tide is different than past for several reasons. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this bloom is longer and larger than typical algae blooms. The red tide bloom began in fall 2017 and is still going strong. Additionally, as of Aug. 15, this red tide bloom stretched more than 150 miles from Pinellas County to Collier County.
Scientists hypothesis that the heightened bloom may be related to increased pollutant-laden storm water runoff, as reported by the Washington Post. Once abundant with wetlands, Florida’s storm water may now carry agricultural nutrients to the gulf, which typically encourages algae growth.
The red tide declaration comes one month after Gov. Scott declared a state of emergency for Lee, Hendry, Glades, Martin, Okeechobee, St. Lucie and Palm Beach counties due to blue-green toxic algae outbreaks related to Lake Okeechobee freshwater discharges. The declaration was one day after Floridians joined hands across the coast in a movement called “Hands Along the Water” to raise awareness for the gulf’s water quality problems.