Red Tide Plagues Both of Florida's Coasts for First Time in Decades
The same red tide choking Florida's Gulf coast has spread to waters off Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, forcing the closure of many popular beaches on Thursday and leaving hundreds of dead fish in its wake, according to local reports.
This is the first time in decades the toxic algae has affected both of Florida's coasts at the same time, the Associated Press reported.
"Florida's environment is now enduring a full-peninsula assault," Eve Samples wrote for Treasure Coast Newspapers, noting that it's only the eighth time since the 1950s that red tide has been documented on the East Coast of Florida.
Several South Florida beaches reopened on Friday, the
The Sun Sentinel reported, but noted that a new forecast said "moderate" red tide conditions can be expected in the area at least through Tuesday.
The outbreak of the Karenia brevis organism first appeared last fall and has become one of the state's longest-lasting red tides on record. It has devastated Florida's marine life all summer, killing countless crabs, eels, fish, dozens of manatees and hundreds of endangered sea turtles. The bloom has also been costly for the state's tourism industry and become a public health issue because it can irritate skin and cause respiratory problems.
The bloom now stretches roughly 135 miles along Florida's southwest coast.
In August, Gov. Rick Scott issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency in seven southwestern counties and offered $1.5 million in aid. On Thursday, Gov. Scott announced $3 million in grants to St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties to help mitigate the effects of red tide.
"In Florida, when presented with problems, we work together and face them head on—red tide is no different," he said in a press release. "So far, the state has provided more than $16 million to help minimize the impacts of harmful algal blooms and expand our research and understanding of red tide, including funding to help scientists test innovative solutions for this phenomenon. We will continue to work with our local partners to ensure that their needs are fully met until this year's red tide subsides."
NOAA now posting respiratory illness forecast for east coast of #Florida in response to new red tide bloom. See lat… https://t.co/JZ662ssV3y— NOAA's Ocean Service (@NOAA's Ocean Service)1538757623.0
Red tides can appear naturally, however some blame the phenomenon from increased nutrient pollution from human activities.
At the same time, as The Conversation reported, a concurrent outbreak of blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, has plagued downstream estuaries on both coasts. The bloom comes from discharges of polluted fresh water from Lake Okeechobee and polluted local runoff water from the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee watersheds.
Gov. Scott, who has served for eight years, has faced a share of the blame for the state's red tide and blue-green algae outbreaks.
The Washington Post reported in August:
During Scott's tenure, budgets for environmental agencies have been sharply reduced. The budget of the South Florida Water Management District, which oversees water issues from Orlando to Key West, was cut. Many of the more than 400 workers who lost their jobs in the $700 million cut were scientists and engineers whose jobs were to monitor pollution levels and algal blooms. Scott also abolished the Department of Community Affairs, which oversaw development in the state.
Sen. Bill Nelson, who is battling Scott to keep his Senate seat, tweeted Friday: "The people of Florida know how Rick Scott's disastrous environmental policies have harmed our waters and devastated communities. Their voices are being heard loud and clear."
Pointing the finger back, Scott has accused Nelson of failing to secure federal funds to fix the aging Lake Okeechobee dyke.
The people of Florida know how Rick Scott's disastrous environmental policies have harmed our waters and devastated… https://t.co/GGvX8tfiOB— Bill Nelson (@Bill Nelson)1538750975.0
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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