Science

Florida waters

While Hurricane Ian has passed, it has left a damaging mark on Florida’s environment—complete with green sludge, thousands of gallons of leaking diesel and water that “looks like root beer, smells like dead fish rolled into compost.” “

Records and personal accounts show that Ian’s toll is full of spills and smelly seeps that can cause problems for the environment. CBS News found at least 20 records of potentially environmentally hazardous issues caused by the storm, reported to the Coast Guard’s National Response Center.

All of the reports in their database are preliminary calls that have not necessarily been validated or examined by the appropriate agencies, but nonetheless, they provide an early look at what the significant toll could be from Hurricane Ian. CBS News has asked the National Response Center for more information about cases related to the storm.

The report cited several examples of sunken ships, diesel leaks, the release of 2,300 gallons of sodium hypochlorite (bleach) from a pipeline, and in one case, an “unknown green sludge” in an apartment complex that a resident claims. was causing respiration. issues. All of these reports were filed between 28 September, the day Hurricane Ian hit, and 2 October.

Dave Tomasko, executive director of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program, has seen some of these issues himself. Trucks stuck in floodwaters are leaking battery acid and gasoline, he told CBS News, and many flooded properties with pesticides and herbicides that are now being washed into waterways.

This runoff is so significant that it was captured by NASA satellites. In the images in the tweet below, the colorful turquoise swirls are sediment raised in the water, while the brown is runoff from the land.

Tomasko and others are collecting water samples on Florida’s west coast—from Boca Grande to Sarasota—that were influenced by Ian. They haven’t gotten results yet, but the environmental impacts of the storm, he said, are quite clear.

“The stuff that comes out, it just looks like brown slime,” Tomasko told CBS News, adding that she saw that runoff when she went outside to take samples. They were about 1.8 miles away when they saw the “plum” coming out.

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Tannins decomposing plant matter (at left) are seen flowing into the blue-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico. This image was captured about 1.5 miles into the bay.

Dave Tomasco


“In Sarasota Bay, usually at this time of year the water is beautiful blue-green, gorgeous,” Tomasko said, adding that now, it “looks like root beer, smells like dead fish rolled into manure. ”

It wasn’t the turbidity, he said, but the tannins — fermented organic matter — in the top five feet of the water.

Tomasco said many waterways have turned into massive “underwater compost piles” filled with storm-washed organic material. That material is broken down naturally by bacteria, and due to the surplus of material, it is already causing algal blooms.

In some areas, water is leaking out beneath those blooms, with the bottom layer getting deep enough to decrease oxygen levels, he said, adding that a combination could be fatal to marine life.

“If you’re a big fish you swim, but if you’re a small fish, you can’t swim long enough to get away with it,” he said. “And if you’re like something that lives on the bottom of the bay, like an oyster or a clam, or a worm or a sea star, it might just kill you all over the place. So, we’re probably going to see For, I think, a large amount of fish kills.”

Biological material is expected after a major storm by the destruction of plants in wind and rain and excess water. But a lot of things that enter the environment are not natural.

Tomasko said, “The thing that shocked me was that we were going down this alley—it’s like a creek now—and there are five portapotties…” So, cars, trucks, dead animals. , alligator, snake, it’s a mess right now.”

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A portable toilet was seen on its side in Florida floodwaters after Hurricane Ian.

Dave Tomasco


He said that there have also been several reports of overflow of dirty water. In the days following Hurricane Ian, Tomasco said he had received 13 notices of overflow of wastewater treatment plants in Manatee and Sarasota counties alone. They believe they are not just overflows – five blocks from their home is a wastewater plant that has overflowed but not entered, he says.

Combining all of these issues, Tomasco is concerned that Florida will see something similar to what happened after Hurricane Charlie of 2004, when Charlotte Harbor had an “oxygen crash” all months.

“We didn’t have oxygen for about three months up to 100 miles up the river,” he said. “So, all the fish that lived in that river basically died and then they were washed away in the harbor.”

And after Ian, he said, it “looks really bad.”

“And it’s worse than Charlie,” he said. “… we don’t really know what it’s going to do. … we don’t know how resilient our systems are going to be.”

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