The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been taking water from Florida's polluted Lake Okeechobee and releasing it among other bodies of water in the state.
In a round of questioning last week conducted by U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, an Army Corps representative testified to the House that the water diverted into St. Lucie Estuary and the Indian River Lagoon and through the Caloosahatchee River "contained cyanobacteria and harmful algae blooms."
By Tuesday, the Corps released a statement highlighting steps they're taking to clean up the mess. Starting Wednesday, officials said, the Corps will "increase target flows from Lake Okeechobee to help with scientific research on harmful algae blooms."
“The Corps’ Engineer Research and Development Center is doing the important scientific research that’s required to help us understand the dynamics of algal communities,” Col. Andrew Kelly, Jacksonville District Commander, said in a press release. “We hope the research that the Corps is working on right now, in partnership with other scientists and experts, will provide the answers we need to help us find solutions to deal with HABs nationwide, and even worldwide.”
Mast, who authored an amendment awarding $15 million over five years for the center, is urging officials to continue efforts to preserve public health, like lowering Lake Okeechobee in the winter.
“Now that the Army Corps acknowledges that the water they are discharging is toxic, they cannot continue to willfully and knowingly poison our community,” Rep. Mast said in a release. “The Army’s mission is to defend the American people, so they have a duty to prioritize protecting public health when they make operational flood control decisions."
Stay on top of Orlando news and views. Sign up for our weekly Headlines newsletter.