ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) — It’s the smell you often notice first. Red tide outbreaks can kill thousands and thousands of fish. Algae from red tide can also irritate your eyes, nose and lungs.
Outbreaks of red tide have been known to known to drive tourists from the beach when the algae bloom comes onshore.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission tracks red tide outbreaks and currently they are tracking one from Tampa Bay to Charlotte Harbor.
Justin Bloom with Suncoast Waterkeeper believes the recent stormwater release into Tampa Bay may be contributing to the problem. “I think the main problem is stormwater runoff, but I think it’s also undisputable that raw sewage, or partially treated sewage flowing into our local waterways is going to contribute to those conditions which is going to foster red tide,” said Bloom.
The Suncoast Waterkeeper group is an environmental organization that has filed notice they may sue the city of St. Petersburg if the wastewater problem isn’t corrected.
Mote Marine Laboratory also tracks red tide outbreaks, but they maintain the relationship between red tide and the release of sewage into the bay isn’t clear.
“It is possible that the discharge provided some nutrients to the bloom once it had developed and moved to the coast, but the exact significance of the discharge – in context of many other potential nutrient sources in the area – is unclear,” said Kaitlyn Fusco with Mote.
Sandy Gilbert is with a group called START in Sarasota that has advocated for laws to reduce runoff and other pollution that can contribute to red tide.
Gilbert says even if the sewage connection to red tide is not clear, the added nutrients aren’t helping the environment.
“It can increase the problem of red tide and other things. I mean, that’s the kind of nutrient a red tide bloom eats,” said Gilbert.