Beachgoers in Mississippi over the long Fourth of July weekend were sorely disappointed — all 21 of the state’s beaches were closed due to a toxic algal bloom that has made the water unsafe for swimming. The “blue-green” bloom, which has been growing and resulted in beach closures there since June, is caused by the Midwestern flooding — there is so much excess water coming down the Mississippi River that flood control managers had to flush it out and with it excess fertilizer flowed into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
Why This Matters: The President can tout America’s “crystal clean water” but that is just not the reality. The fertilizers and other nutrients causing these closures flow for hundreds of miles from agricultural ditches to streams to tributaries to the Mississippi River and then into the Gulf of Mexico, impacting millions of people. The disastrous midwestern floods have now harmed a whole new group of people in states nowhere near where the flooding took place. This is why it is important to for federal laws and funds to change our agricultural practices — use less fertilizer, to maintain wetlands that filter them out, and to plant cover crops to keep soils healthy. Beach closures like this may be the new normal in the Gulf of Mexico, much to the dismay of Gulf coast residents and business owners. Just ask the Floridians who had blooms like this hang around for more than a year until they finally dissipated last fall. We need federal action to address this growing clean water crisis — and the President’s false claims to the contrary won’t make this toxic mess any less real for those who are harmed by it.
Toxic Algae – What To Look For
NBC News reports that:
- “The blue-green algae, also known as Cyanobacteria, live in water and are the most common type of algae to bloom.”
- “The algae often have a distinct musty smell and sometimes look like paint floating on water, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).”
- “Blue-green algae blooms can cause rashes, stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea, and state officials also advised against eating fish or seafood from areas affected by the algae.”
- It’s also bad for wildlife — The Washington Post reported that it has also resulted in high rates of oyster deaths, and 132 dolphins and 175 sea turtles have died so far this year, according to Moby Solangi, executive director at the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies.
Climate Change Is To Blame
- Blooms are caused by excess nutrients such as fertilizers but they grow because of the warming of the sea water once they hit the Gulf.
- The warmer the air temperature, the warmer the ocean temperature, and the warmer the ocean temperature, the more the algae blooms.
- And there is another tie to climate change because the warmer climate also causes the storms and flooding that washes the nutrients into the warmer ocean water.
- Once the bloom forms there is no way to keep it from growing — the currents and cooler air have to dissipate it.