The Algae Bloom Media Frenzy (and Thank Yous)
Dear Algae Diary,
On June 28, I started writing a heartfelt blog post on how we were going to fight for water quality on the Caloosahatchee River. Little did I know I’d then be launched into “the fight” like a neon-colored Scud missile.
When writing that article I knew full well the discharges from Lake Okeechobee were headed our way with a heavy payload of cyanobacteria (aka blue-green algae).
I had just gotten back from Franklin Locks where we helped contribute to this Miami Herald story and video:
Lake Okeechobee, Florida’s liquid heart, is once again exploding with a massive algae bloom, a deepening crisis that threatens to slime both coasts in what has become a recurring summer nightmare. This week, thick green blooms the consistency of a sickening smoothie seeped down the rural Caloosahatchee River toward the southwest coast.
Pedro Portal’s photo of this cabin cruiser plying through toxic green waterway would quickly become an iconic thumbnail used for many Lake Okeechobee articles yet to be written.
Obviously I knew we had lived through big algae blooms before. But, I truly wasn’t prepared for the sheer abundance of green, slimy floatsam that was headed straight for our neighborhood next. For those of us in North Fort Myers and Cape Coral, it’s been way worse than the bloom of 2016.
By July 3rd, we were noticing green specs in the water in SE Cape Coral. It started to collect up the morning of July 4th, then was broken up by a severe thunderstorm. The following day, it got substantially thicker, peaking at the high tide(s).
By Friday the 6th, it was a giant slick of neon paint splayed throughout the arteries of our neighborhood.
That same night, John Cassani, our Calusa Waterkeeper, aired on the CBS Evening News:
PORT MAYACA, Fla. — Rain, heat and pollutants have caused an outbreak of toxic algae blooms, which can cause health problems. Now, lawmakers in Florida want the governor to declare a state of emergency over an algae problem at Lake Okeechobee, the aquatic lifeblood of South Florida.
Putting the B & G in RGB
Home alone on Saturday afternoon, I posted a cute little drone video (that David shot) to Facebook:
By Sunday evening, I was interviewing with the NY Times.
First thing Monday morning Governor Scott came to town, posed for the cameras, and declared a state of emergency in 7 Florida counties.
The whole week since then has been a blur of local and national media requests as we chase the algae around and report on what we’re seeing as volunteers for the Calusa Waterkeeper. And you know… try to run a business and see my family during their summer downtime…
It’s been crazy, and also deeply emotional at times. Helping broadcast why your neighborhood is ground zero for a state of emergency, isn’t easy.
But the whole ordeal has given us a great deal of confidence that we can successfully bring attention to this issue and ultimately make a positive difference in South Florida’s water quality wars. (It’s definitely a war, not a battle.)
Making the Most of a State of Emergency
There’s no way I can possibly reconstruct the blow-by-blow of this past week. But here’s an attempt to archive some of the media we’ve contributed to after that initial drone video went viral.
Prior to posting the drone video, we shot a public service announcement for the Calusa Waterkeeper. Big thanks to Tom James of Pelican Media for rocking this out (some day I’ll learn to speak):
The aforementioned story by Melissa Gomez of the New York Times dropped on Monday:
The bright, blue-green film piling up in the canal in Jason Pim’s backyard is the first thing he wakes up thinking about and the last thing before his head hits the pillow. The pungent odor of the algae, which has traveled dozens of miles from Lake Okeechobee, Florida’s largest freshwater lake, is hard to describe.
Meanwhile, the drone video continued to pick up steam online, primarily after being shared by the Erin Brokovich facebook page. David’s footage and photographs of several areas were now being used by most of the local Southwest Florida news stations, including WINK, NBC-2, HelloSWFL & the Santiva Chronicle.
On Tuesday, we were part of the lead story on NBC-2 , thanks to Jaclyn Bevis & cinematographer Kirk:
Blue-green algae expanding all over Southwest Florida made canals in Cape Coral not just green, but after several days, blue and white as well. Jason Pim, a Cape Coral resident and Calusa Waterkeeper, watched it flow right into his backyard from the Caloosahatchee River after seeing it first hand at the Franklin Lock.
Later on that day, we tipped off Adam West of the News-Press on where to find the gnarliest looking algae:
Patches of algae is seen at Paradise Marina in North Fort Myers on Tuesday 7/10/2018. Some canals and waterways in North Fort Myers and Cape Coral are seeing the brunt of algae blooms that have been permeating the Caloosahatchee River for the last several weeks.
Next, the initial drone vid was requested for use by the Weather Channel:
Florida’s governor declares a state of emergency in seven counties because of toxic algae blooms.
Early on Wednesday the 11th, David got some drone footage in North Fort Myers that erases all doubt we are in for a sustained algae watch event:
Thursday, NBC Nightly News showed up in my sideyard and we are expecting a segment to air this weekend…
Which brings us to today, 1:32 AM, hoping no media inquiries for a bit.
Update, 2:30pm: gave an interview with WINK News today, and two USA Today drone pilots are flying outside as I type.
Is it Over? Nope.
It’s humbling to have connected with a great deal of media producers, clean water warriors and terrific friends who share a passion for this cause over the last couple of weeks. And for that, I’m incredibly grateful.
So many thanks to David for chasing this stuff all over Lee County with his drone, and Tom for his quick and very capable production skills. Magnus and Josh for always holding down the fort–you’ve helped more than you’ll ever know. Kristi, both “Grandma Carols” and the kids for showing me unwavering support, and all our other friends and family who have given me a gazillion virtual and IRL (in real life) thumbs up.
Most importantly, we ALL owe a great amount to John Cassani, Calusa Waterkeeper, and their board. He’s demonstrating amazing leadership and fortitude during this emergency. Thank you John for taking me under your wing, like a little algae covered duckling (too soon?)…
We’re also helping to organize a forum discussion for the CMCS Sailing Club, and would encourage any interested parties to join us on Tuesday evening: