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Red tide report: Samples detected in Sarasota County, mostly clear near Piney Point

It still remains too early to tell whether Piney Point's nutrient-rich wastewater spawns a red tide bloom.
Credit: Aaron - stock.adobe.com

SARASOTA, Fla. — Fish kills related to red tide were reported during the past week in Sarasota County, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The agency said in its midweek update that it continues to detect up to medium levels of the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, along the Sarasota coastline south to Charlotte County.

Red tide, a sort of toxic algae bloom, can cause respiratory issues and kill off marine life when concentrations reach elevated levels. In fact, the FWC says, some respiratory irritation was reported in Manatee and Sarasota counties. Just south of the county border at Longboat Key Beach, a medium level was reported Monday, April 19.

Signs warning the public about red tide already have been posted up and down the coastline in Sarasota County. County health officials advise anyone with chronic respiratory problems to consider staying away from the beach because of the irritation risk.

Farther northward into Manatee County, where millions of gallons of nutrient-rich wastewater have been dumped into Tampa Bay from the Piney Point site, officials continue to monitor whether red tide becomes an issue. So far, according to the FWC, one sample in Hillsborough County showed a very low background concentration of the red tide organism.

Late last week, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection reported trace levels of cyanotoxins -- naturally-occurring blue-green algae but could tap into the nutrient-rich wastewater to further multiply.   

Bob Weisberg, a University of South Florida College of Marine Science professor, and his team at the Ocean Circulation Group are developing forecast models to predict the polluted water’s movement. The models are based on tides, winds and river inflows. 

In an earlier interview, he said it remains too early to tell whether the Piney Point wastewater spawns red tide blooms.

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