The numbers tell the true story of Indian River Lagoon pollution

the Brevard Indian River Lagoon Coalition – Get ready for some numbers. That’s what it takes to get a perspective on pollution in the Indian River Lagoon.

First, the IRL’s problems — dying manatees and fish, and the loss of seagrass and brown water, are largely the result of pollution; too much Total Nitrogen (TN) and total Phosphorous (TP) in the water.

This pollution fertilizes the algae and the other problems cascade from there.

So, how much TN is going into the IRL? How much has there been historically? How much are we cleaning up? Where do we go from here?

From the 2022 Save Our Indian River Lagoon Plan (SOIRL), we learn the baseline amount of TN entering the IRL is 2.8 million pounds per year. The 371 projects scheduled in the plan will ultimately cut that by a million pounds per year or 36%. So far, 57 projects have been completed leading to 100,000 pounds per year reductions.

Notably, point sources (sewage plants) today contribute only 1% to the overall TN. This was not always the case. Before implementation of the 1990 Indian River Lagoon Act, sewage plants dumped an estimated 30 million gallons a day (MGD) of their effluent right into the IRL, accounting for about 800,000 pounds per year of TN. Thank goodness that ended in 1995.

There have been some sewage spills since the December 2019 Titusville incident. That was the worst. It resulted in 7.2 million gallons of sewage flowing into a pond with some leaking into the IRL.

Data from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) suggests that this could be 2,000 pounds as a one-time release. While everyone opposes spills, this represents a tiny addition to TN (0.1% of the annual total).

The point is that the SOIRL half-cent trust fund is paying for major reductions in the pollution entering the IRL. It is helping to repair the damage done by decades of weak regulations and poor controls. As we go forward, we need to manage our development and insist on better controls or we will lose all the progress now being made.

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