Pollutants rich in nitrogen have caused problems for Florida’s Indian River Lagoon for decades. The environmental imbalance causes plants and wildlife to suffer and die. This has been very concerning for local residents and governmental agencies.
It had been assumed that the impurities were caused by lawn fertilizer runoff. However, a new report dictates that the main threat to the Lagoon is actually caused by sewage seeping into it.
Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute conducted a 5-year study on the topic. They monitored levels of impurities in the lagoon for 2 years before an area-wide restriction was placed on certain fertilizers. After 5 years of this restriction being in place, they then conducted more tests. To their amazement, the situation was actually worse than before the restrictions went into place.
They now estimate that up to 71% of the pollution is actually from human sewage. So, how is this possible? In truth it comes down to the fact that many residents in the area are using septic tanks.
As you may know, septic tanks have leach fields. This is the area where liquid is allowed to spill over into the ground after it has spent some time decomposing in the tank. You may have noticed how green the grass is that grows near septic tanks. This is the reason.
Septic tanks are typically not a threat to the environment or other humans. But, when there are so many packed into a sensitive, shallow environment, there is going to be trouble.
There have also been major sewage spills into the lagoon during hurricanes. For instance, during hurricane Ian, 7.2 millions gallons spilled over.
It seems obvious that the only way to fix this issue is to get the residence of the lagoon area onto a residential sewer system. Waste needs to be transported to an area where it can be treated and safely discarded. The Lagoon is an important part of the environment in this area of Florida.
Leaders in this area of Brevard County need to get on the same page and start working on a solution fast.