An edition of: WaterAtlas.orgPresented By: USF Water Institute

Water-Related News

Prevent red tide? Start with more wetlands, experts say

Three Democratic federal lawmakers will work toward increasing water quality monitoring in the Gulf of Mexico and creating more wetlands to clean water flowing into the Gulf and other waterways.

U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor and Charlie Crist, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson crafted a preliminary action plan Wednesday after meeting with local scientists and business leaders about the ongoing impacts of red tide.

“Even though the tourism numbers have been up … boy, this could really set us back unless we work together to address the red tide,” Castor said during a roundtable discussion in St. Petersburg on Wednesday.

Three scientists with varying areas of expertise all agreed: Red tide is a naturally occurring environmental phenomenon, but large blooms are likely fueled by warmer Gulf temperatures as the result of climate change and, possibly, by nutrient runoff from agriculture.

Pinellas County cleanup nets nearly 1K tons of red tide debris

Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long told a panel of environmental scientists and Gulf Coast business leaders Wednesday efforts to mitigate red tide are in full swing and will continue as long as the massive algae bloom threatens Florida beaches, fisheries and recreation.

Pinellas County has 13 boats collecting dead fish and conducting monitoring activities in local passes and intracoastal waterways. In addition, the county also deployed four beach rakes, four loaders, five all-terrain vehicles, one lift operator and 22 temporary laborers to clear local beaches and shorelines affected by red tide.

As of Sunday [Oct. 14], the county had collected 973 tons of red tide-related debris, including 165 tons following Hurricane Michael, which hit Florida’s panhandle Wednesday and pushed the algae bloom closer to shore.

Experts had hoped the hurricane would break up red tide or push it further offshore, mitigating adverse effects. That didn’t happen; instead, the storm pushed more dead fish to shore.

County water quality monitoring Monday showed high concentrations of red tide at Sand Key Park, Redington Shores and Indian Rocks Beach. Other sample sites showed lower levels than previous reports.

The next county monitoring will take place Wednesday [Oct. 17].

McIntosh Park makeover will benefit water quality

The park's 100-acre prairie wetland area has the capability of removing up to 50% of the pollutants that seep into the Hillsborough River from that section of the county.

A hidden gem found along Paul S. Buchman Highway in Plant City is getting some upgrades thanks to a grant agreement from the State Legislature. McIntosh Regional Park opened in 2015 as a passive park, allowing the public to enjoy its approximately 363 acres, the eastern 100 of which are wetlands.

The large section of land was purchased in 1998 for $1.1 million by the Florida Communities Trust and the Hillsborough County Environmental Land Acquisition and Protection Program. In May of 2015, the park opened with man-made walking, hiking and mountain-bike trails and a few secluded areas for the public to bask in the beauty of the largely untouched park.

The natural preserve will be using $300,000 from the 2018 State Legislature as well as $300,000 from the city to establish a more than two mile walking trail, a much-needed parking lot, a wildlife viewing platform, informational kiosk and trail educational signage.

Environmental groups settle sewage lawsuit against St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — Three environmental groups on Monday agreed to settle a federal lawsuit with the city to hold St. Petersburg accountable for spilling hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage in 2015 and 2016.

If a judge approves the settlement, it will end up costing the city a total of $900,000 — so far. That figure could break the $1 million mark if St. Petersburg also has to pay the plaintiffs' legal fees.

The three groups — Suncoast Waterkeeper, Inc., the Our Children's Earth Foundation and the Ecological Rights Foundation — reached the settlement nearly two years after filing the lawsuit in the Middle District of Florida in Tampa.

The December 2016 suit accused St. Petersburg of engaging in "serious and ongoing" violations of the federal Clean Water Act. The city discharged up to 1 billion gallons of wastewater from 2015-16 during the well-documented sewage crisis. While most was pumped underground, up 200 million gallons was dumped into local waterways, including Tampa Bay.

Hurricane Michael Pushes Red Tide Back To Pinellas Beaches

It's been about a month since red tide first made its way to Pinellas County, but not much has been seen in the last few weeks. That was until Hurricane Michael passed through earlier this week and pushed the algae bloom closer to shore.

The bloom never went away, strong winds just pushed it offshore. Now, after the storm, Pinellas County beaches started reporting fish kills, strong odors and respiratory issues again.

Kelli Levy, the county’s director of environmental management, said they were prepared for the storm to make the red tide worse.

"We thought the higher likelihood was that Hurricane Michael was going to have an adverse impact with regard to red tide on our shores," she said.

The drip, drip, drip of a pending water fight in Tampa Bay

Twenty years later, it is still one of the best deals ever consummated around here.

Surrounded by bickering and teetering on conflict, three counties (Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas) joined three cities (New Port Richey, St. Petersburg and Tampa) to form one utility company (Tampa Bay Water) that ended hostilities when it came to the market’s water supply.

The deal was efficient, dependable and peaceful. Until now, that is. Tampa has negotiated a side agreement with Tampa Bay Water that it says will benefit the entire region for decades to come, but that has St. Petersburg officials worried it might eventually tear the entire partnership apart.

"My fear is that we are unraveling the foundation of the (agreement) and letting Tampa essentially divorce itself from Tampa Bay Water,’’ said St. Petersburg City Council member Darden Rice, who is the city’s representative on the nine-person board of directors for Tampa Bay Water. "I’m concerned the board is not aware of the complications that … could end the era of regional cooperation.’’

Autonomous vehicle takes water samples, helps USF team research red tide

WFLA - As red tide continues floating off our coastline, researchers are aggressively studying the algae bloom.

While it's tragic for marine life, it's also a teaching tool for University of South Florida marine biology students.

Video from USF shows the moment researchers put their robotic glider to work.

Dr. Robert Weisberg with the USF College of Marine Science explains, "The way it works, is it adjusts its buoyance so that it's either heavy and sinks and light and rises to the surface."

As you can see, this isn't your typical top of the water research. This one is focusing on the ocean floor.

Hillsborough River a little cleaner thanks to out of town visitors

Lisa Lavie had a day off work. Her friend, J.D. Perez, decided to meet her in Tampa to spend a day on the water.

What the friends didn't realize is they would spend the day plucking trash from the Hillsborough River and surrounding waterways.

The couple rented the boat from eBoats at the Tampa Convention Center.

It didn't take long before they spotted the first piece floating.

Lisa instructed J.D. to move to the left and then a little to the right.

Bingo, she got it.

They repeated the exercise dozens of times and before long they had an entire bag of trash that was floating on the top of the water.

Tampa’s getting some momentum on its flooding problems

Tampa isn't on dry ground yet (see Bayshore Boulevard or the Davis Islands ramp among many other trouble spots), but Mayor Bob Buckhorn is declaring a tidal shift in the city's long struggle with flooding.

Two years after a contentious City Council vote authorized a second stormwater fee funneling $251 million toward drainage improvements, city officials say flooded streets in South Tampa and elsewhere after a summer rainstorm are quickly fading.

A day after Hurricane Michael, stormwater officials added some meat on the bone Thursday to their anecdotal claims.

Former TBEP director to be honored

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The Tampa Bay Association of Environmental Professionals will honor former Tampa Bay Estuary Program director Dr. Holly Greening with a Lifetime Achievement Award at its meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 17th, in Tampa. The meeting will be at BRIO at International Plaza, 2223 N. Westshore Blvd., Tampa.

Dr. Greening retired from TBEP in December 2017 after serving for 26 years as the organization's director. She was the second person to hold the position, succeeding TBEP's original executive director, Dick Eckenrod.

Read more about Dr. Holly Greening »

In a step forward for Everglades restoration, U.S. Senate approves reservoir plan

A project intended to help address blue-green algae outbreaks took a major step forward Wednesday as the U.S. Senate passed a bill that includes a proposal for an Everglades water storage reservoir.

Senators approved the bill, which includes many other water-related projects nationwide, by a margin of 99-1.

The reservoir would be built south of Lake Okeechobee to reduce the need for water discharges east and west. The lake water contains high levels of nutrients like phosophorus and nitrogren, which fuels algae blooms in inland waterways and coastal areas, including the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers.

The hurricanes and climate-change questions keep coming. Yes, they’re linked.

Scientists are increasingly confident of the links between global warming and hurricanes.

In a warming world, they say, hurricanes will be stronger, for a simple reason: Warmer water provides more energy that feeds them.

Hurricanes and other extreme storms will also be wetter, for a simple reason: Warmer air holds more moisture.

And, storm surges from hurricanes will be worse, for a simple reason that has nothing to do with the storms themselves: Sea levels are rising.

Mote leader shares red tide science at Capitol Hill briefing

Mote Marine Laboratory’s leader shared red tide science to inform national policymakers yesterday, Sept. 27, on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Mote President & CEO Dr. Michael P. Crosby served as a panelist during a red tide briefing at the Capitol to provide an overview of Florida red tide, discuss Mote’s current rapid response efforts to the ongoing bloom, and present a vision for the future with the exploration of new mitigation strategies and creation of an independent, Florida-based Marine and Freshwater Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Center.

Ocean Conservancy and Citizens’ Climate Lobby hosted the briefing, with honorary hosts U.S. senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio.

Pinellas County Extension class addresses sustainable development issues

Pinellas County Extension is hosting "Futurescapes for a New Tomorrow" on Oct 23rd. It is a class is for #planners, #developers, #landscape #architects, community association managers and the interested public. Topics covered will include:

  • new development practices
  • conservation of biodiversity in subdivision development
  • soil and stormwater
  • landscapes by habitat
  • linking visual quality and environmental health

There will be 5 CEUs available for AICP, LA and CAM. Cost is $65 and lunch is included. Registration and more information is at the link below.

Seasonal reclaimed water restrictions in effect through Nov.

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Pinellas County seasonal reclaimed water restrictions went into effect on Monday, Oct. 1, and run through Friday, Nov. 30. Due to supply fluctuation in both the north and south county reclaimed water systems, the restrictions schedule for reclaimed water users will be different for north and south county customers during this period. Enforcement of watering restrictions is currently being intensified to encourage responsible use of reclaimed water.

Effective Monday, Oct. 1, North County reclaimed water customers may only irrigate two days per week based on property address. Visit the link below for the schedule.

Because irrigation is entirely prohibited on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays, the reclaimed water system will be shut down on these days, as needed. The system will also be shut down from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on all days of operation for supply recovery. Customers should monitor the reclaimed water restrictions website for up-to-date information on shutdowns and schedule changes at

Customer cooperation in following the two-days-per-week watering schedule is critical as excessive demand may require returning to watering one day per week.

South County reclaimed water customers may irrigate three days per week based on property address. Visit the link below for the schedule.

Pinellas County Utilities reminds customers that reclaimed water is a limited resource due to water usage, fluctuations in weather and capacity of the system. Conservation is necessary to promote adequate supply that is shared by all customers.

Gulf Coast Oyster Recycling and Renewal project wins Golden Mangrove Award

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ST. PETERSBURG – Solutions To Avoid Red Tide (START) received the Golden Mangrove Award for their project, Gulf Coast Oyster Recycling and Renewal, selected by TBEP’s Community Advisory Committee as the best Bay Mini-Grant of 2016-2017.

The project used a $5,000 TBEP Bay Mini-Grant to purchase equipment and engage partners in diverting oyster shells from disposal by local restaurants and, instead, using them to restore habitats that improve the estuary’s nutrient filtration capacity.

The award was presented to START’s Sandy Gilbert and Mary Anne Bowie at the TBEP Community Advisory Committee’s meeting on September 26. Bowie shared the project’s accomplishments to date, including over 900 volunteers engaged, numerous partnerships developed and additional support leveraged, and a whopping 26 tons of oyster shells collected from just 3 restaurants. Jan Allyn, TBEP’s Community Advisory Committee Co-chair, had this to say about START’s award:

“They really maximized the impact of the grant to gain its full advantage. They did an excellent job of creating partnerships and incorporating both volunteerism and environmental education into the project. It will have lasting impact since they plan to expand the project in the future, and they are making changes based on what they have learned to make the project even better as they move forward.”

Gulf Coast Oyster Recycling and Renewal was one of 21 Bay Mini-Grant projects approved in 2016-2017. Bay Mini-Grants are funded by the sale of Tampa Bay Estuary specialty license plates. Since 2000, more than $1.6 million has been distributed to support local organizations in their efforts to help restore and protect Tampa Bay.

For more information about the Gulf Coast Oyster Recycling and Renewal project, visit or contact Mary Anne Bowie at 941-321-0424.

For more information about TBEP’s Bay Mini-Grants, visit or contact Andy Fairbanks at 727-893-2765.

Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Coalition will help counties adapt to climate change

Next week the region will create a Tampa Bay Regional Resiliency Coalition to work together for solutions to problems caused by climate change; next Monday (October 8th), local leaders will sign a memorandum of understanding to create the coalition. Twenty-two local governments are signed on. It’s similar to what we’ve seen in South Florida for nearly a decade. Hillsborough County has not committed, but may discuss joining during a county commission meeting Wednesday.

Coming soon: Red Tide forecasts for where the beach air is good — or bad

The Red Tide algae bloom now afflicting Pinellas County’s beaches doesn’t just kill fish and other marine life. It also can cause respiratory problems for people.

When the bloom’s toxins get picked up by breezes blowing toward land, anyone who inhales them is likely to wind up coughing, sneezing and wheezing. For people who already suffer from respiratory problems, the toxins can produce more severe symptoms.

However, there’s no way of knowing in advance which beaches have bad air.

Now local and federal government agencies are working on fixing that problem.

Pinellas County has formed a partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to produce a forecast for which beaches to avoid because Red Tide toxins are in the air. According to officials from both agencies, this will be a first-of-its-kind forecast.

"We’re excited to see how this comes out," said Kelli Hammer Levy, director of the Pinellas County environmental management department.

Media statement: FWC Commission expands fishery management measures in response to red tide

At its September meeting in Tallahassee, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) directed staff to expand a recent catch-and-release only measure for snook and redfish to include Tampa Bay (including all of Manatee and Hillsborough counties) as well as all of Pinellas and Pasco counties starting Friday, Sept. 28.

The FWC also directed staff to extend these measures through May 10, 2019, in these and other areas previously made catch-and-release for redfish and snook.

Scientists, resource managers share major updates on tackling Florida red tide

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Florida Department of Health (DOH) and Mote Marine Laboratory (Mote) gathered on Monday, Sept. 24, for the State of Florida’s press announcement of a new partnership initiative to address red tide. A related roundtable discussion with scientists and local stakeholder groups shared important updates on Florida’s state-local-private partnership efforts to manage red tide impacts.

Mote — an independent, nonprofit marine science institution based in Sarasota — served as host site for the news conference, highlighting its innovative work in red tide research and response.

During the news conference, FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton announced that Governor Scott was directing a $2.2 million investment to test innovative, red tide mitigation technologies, including specialized clay field experiments and expansion of Mote’s novel mitigation technologies, such as its ozone treatment system. Mote originally patented its ozone system to remove red tide and its toxins from water entering Mote Aquarium, later tested the system with seawater in a 25,000-gallon “mesocosm” pool at Mote’s Sarasota campus to prepare for field tests, and most recently conducted a pilot-scale field test in a dead-end canal in Boca Grande. While data from the pilot test are still being analyzed, it’s clear that the technology merits future testing to determine its effectiveness at commercial scale.

Archaeology lecture series: a prehistoric cemetery in the Gulf of Mexico

Join the Central Gulf Coast Archaeological Society (CGCAS) in partnership with the Alliance for Weedon Island Archaeological Research and Education (AWIARE) for his annual lecture series on the third Thursday of every month, spanning diverse archaeological topics. This evening's speaker will be Dr. Ryan Duggins, the Underwater Archaeology Supervisor within the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research.

An unexpected discovery by a fossil hunter diving a quarter-mile off Manasota Key near Venice, Florida, has led to a groundbreaking archaeological project that could change everything scientists thought they knew about offshore archaeology. Investigations by the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research at the Manasota Key Offshore site (8SO7030) revealed evidence of a prehistoric Native American burial site in what appears to have been a freshwater peat-bottomed pond thousands of years ago. Ongoing archaeological investigation revealed multiple discrete areas containing peat, worked wooden stakes that were used in burial practice, and the remains of multiple individuals. Radiocarbon dating of two stakes dated them to more than 7,200 years old. When this site was in use, the waters of the Gulf of Mexico were about 30 feet below their current level. This talk presents results from remote sensing investigations and underwater archaeological documentation while addressing long term management plans for this delicate and unique site.

$30,000 in grants available for protecting Tampa Bay area drinking water sources

CLEARWATER – Ensuring the region’s drinking water is clean and safe starts at the source. Tampa Bay Water is offering mini-grants ranging from $2,000 to $10,000 to community groups, non-profits, schools and universities that will to join the water utility in preventing pollution, cleaning local waterways and protecting our drinking water sources.

The Tampa Bay region depends on water from our aquifer, rivers and desalinated seawater for its drinking water, and Tampa Bay Water works with the community to protect those sources. Mini-grant projects are ideal opportunities for scouts to earn merit badges, students to fulfill volunteer hour requirements, and service clubs and organizations to get involved in supporting public health and safety. The projects are also great for educators looking to combine STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) concepts and lessons with hands-on experience to supplement classroom learning.

To qualify for a grant, applicants should submit an event or project plan related to source water protection in Tampa Bay Water’s service area that includes Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties.

Here's how to apply:

  • Download an application at
  • Provide a plan for events or projects such as river cleanups, litter prevention projects, public education campaigns and conservation outreach events in Tampa Bay Water’s service area.
  • Submit applications by Nov. 15, 2018, at 5 p.m.
  • All applications will be reviewed and screened against the program’s selection criteria. Organizations receiving a mini-grant will be notified in December 2018 and funds will be granted in 2019.

Measures that would help address Florida's harmful algal blooms remain stalled In Congress

Florida is waiting on Congress to authorize two efforts that could help address algal blooms plaguing the state's coastal and inland waterways.

Congressional authorization expires Sunday for legislation that helps communities cope with harmful algae blooms. The Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and Control Act enables the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, and an inter-agency task force to do things like monitor algae blooms, research their causes and give grants to communities trying to cope. A lapse in authorization wouldn't eliminate the program, but it would make it less likely that Congress would continue to fund it.

Simultaneously, Florida leaders and environmental groups are calling on the Senate to vote on a bill that includes plans for a water storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. That reservoir would reduce the need for lake water discharges that contribute to blue-green algae outbreaks.

Deal proposed in Peace River water feud

A potential lengthy and costly legal battle over water withdrawals from the Peace River may be averted if all of the parties accept a proposed compromise.

The board of the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority held a closed session with attorney Douglas Manson on Wednesday to discuss the possible settlement.

Patrick Lehman, the authority’s executive director, said he hopes that an agreement can be reached that satisfies all parties – including Polk County, the Polk Regional Water Cooperative and the municipalities of Lakeland, Fort Meade, Wauchula, Bartow and Winter Haven, which sued to block the regional water utility from taking more Peace River water.

“They need options, let’s face it,” Lehman said of Polk’s interest in finding additional water supplies.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District, which regulates water resources across a broad area, suggested a way to quench all of the parties’ future thirst that Lehman says takes in the “broader picture.”

Yet it involves making Hillsborough County part of that regional solution.

The Peace River authority supplies drinking water to Sarasota, Charlotte and DeSoto counties and the city of North Port.

The authority draws water from the Peace River during the rainy season and stores it underground and in two reservoirs to distribute during the dry months.

Currently, the authority’s permits from the water district, commonly known as Swiftmud, allow it to withdraw a maximum 120 million gallons per day from the river. It has contracts to provide up to 34.8 million gallons daily.

Oil spill money to restore wildlife habitats

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The five projects spearheaded by the Tampa Bay Estuary Program cover hundreds of acres in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Manatee counties.

ST. PETERSBURG – The Tampa Bay Estuary Program has been awarded $1.5 million to support projects with local government partners that will restore coastal habitats, improve stormwater quality, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The money comes by way of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, which administers a trust fund created with penalties from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill as part of the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act).

These funds will be used to implement five coastal restoration and climate resilience projects within the TBEP’s watershed boundary:

  • Tidal recirculation and seagrass recovery at Ft. DeSoto Park (Pinellas County)
  • Restoration expansion at Robinson Preserve (Manatee County)
  • Invasive plant removal at Cockroach Bay Nature Preserve (Hillsborough County)
  • Stormwater improvements at Copeland Park (city of Tampa)
  • Biosolids-to-energy facility development (city of St. Petersburg)

Local benefits include habitat restoration for approximately 650 acres of coastal wetlands, 14 acres of coastal uplands, and 2 acres of freshwater wetlands – improving their capacity to support native wildlife and provide ecosystem services such as flood mitigation and pollution reduction in the Tampa Bay estuary.

These RESTORE Act projects are consistent with TBEP’s mission to build partnerships to restore and protect Tampa Bay through the implementation of a scientifically sound, community-based management plan.

Is spraying weeds in Central Florida lakes, contributing to Southwest Florida’s water crisis?

FORT MYERS - Scott Wilson is not a scientist. He’s a pastor and a fisherman with a passion for the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes where he spends most of his time off.

“I’ve grown up on this chain of lakes since I was 4 years old, and I love this part of Florida more than anywhere else,” he said, getting choked up as he tried to get the words out.

Wilson claims since 2012, he’s seen an excessive amount of chemical spraying done near his fish camp.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission does maintenance control throughout Florida to keep populations of invasive plants, or weeds, low.

“Invasive plants degrade and diminish Florida’s conservation lands and waterways. Decaying plants in lakes release nutrients that help algae to grow,” said Carli Segelson, a spokesperson for FWC.

State directs $2.2 million to Mote for red tide research

The state has granted nearly $2.2 million to Mote Marine Laboratory to expand testing and researching of red tide.

An announcement Monday at Mote Marine Laboratory brought experts from Mote, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Department of Health together to discuss the investment. expand testing and researching of red tide.

FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton said the money will allow for innovative research technologies to be tested in the field. expand testing and researching of red tide.

“We’re building on that incredible productivity of research to now be able to launch an additional initiative that is going to focus on applied science and technology that is going to help us in fact attack red tide and decrease the impact that their harmful algal blooms have on our ecosystem, our quality of life and our economy,” Mote President and CEO Michael Crosby said. expand testing and researching of red tide.

The state will direct $2,178,000 to Mote to test technologies, such as Mote’s ozone treatment system and clay field testing, to mitigate the effects of red tide, a release from the governor’s office said. expand testing and researching of red tide.

How your lawn's fertilizers can contribute to the red tide; counties combat their use

ORLANDO - Water. It is everywhere in Florida, from our beaches to our lakes and canals. The red tide has not only affected our beaches, the ecosystem and tourism, but harmful algae blooms have also affected other bodies of water, such as inland lakes and canals closer to our homes.

For months, we have seen how some canals have turned red and how some even filled with green slime-like algae. Although algae blooms can occur naturally, nutrient runoff is one of Florida’s biggest problems contributing to the harmful blooms.

FGCU researchers install air quality pump to test blue-green algae toxins

CAPE CORAL - Florida Gulf Coast University researchers are tired of waiting on other groups to test how blue-green algae affects our air quality.

They took matters into their own hands and created an air quality pump.

The air pump has different layers of filters, similar to your respiratory system.

“We are looking at microsysten. So that’s a toxin produced by mycrosystis which is the blue-green algae that’s been a big concern this summer here in the Cape,” said Dr. Mike Parsons, Professor of Marine Science Florida Gulf Coast University.

Parsons is also the director of the Coastal Watershed Institute, and he says the residents along the canals are asking if breathing the air near blue-green algae is healthy.

Hurricane rating system fails to account for deadly rain

When meteorologists downgraded Hurricane Florence from a powerful Category 4 storm to a Category 2 and then a Category 1, Wayne Mills figured he could stick it out.

He regrets it. The Neuse River, normally 150 feet away, lapped near his door in New Bern, North Carolina, on Sunday even as the storm had "weakened" further.

People like Mills can be lulled into thinking a hurricane is less dangerous when the rating of a storm is reduced. But those ratings are based on wind strength, not rainfall or storm surge—and water is responsible for 90 percent of storm deaths .

Several meteorologists and disaster experts said something needs to change with the 47-year-old Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale to reflect the real risks in hurricanes. They point to Florence, last year's Hurricane Harvey, 2012's Sandy and 2008's Ike as storms where the official Saffir-Simpson category didn't quite convey the danger because of its emphasis on wind.

"The concept of saying 'downgraded' or 'weakened should be forever banished," said University of Georgia meteorology professor Marshall Shepherd. "With Florence, I felt it was more dangerous after it was lowered to Category 2."

It was a lowered category that helped convince Famous Roberts, a corrections officer from Trenton, to stay behind. "Like a lot of people (we) didn't think it was actually going to be as bad," he said. "With the category drop ... that's another factor why we did stay."

Tampa's flood control canal gets 50-year checkup

TAMPA – The canal that protects Tampa and Temple Terrace from river flooding is getting a 50-year check-up.

The Tampa Bypass Canal took 20 years and hundreds of millions of dollars to build.

The Army Corps of Engineers began the project in the 1960s and finished it in the 1980s. So far, the canal and its flood control structures have prevented major flooding along the Hillsborough River that was seen in decades past.

Destructive floods after Hurricane Donna in 1960 sparked the project that was championed by the late Congressman Sam Gibbons and others.

"It's a 50-year-old fortress," said Mike Barlett, of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, now in charge of the canal.

Barlett says even during Hurricane Irma last year, the canal was carrying less than half its capacity.

"It was designed to handle a hundred-year storm event, plus 25 percent and we have come nowhere near getting to the capacity of this system," said Jerry Mallam, of the water management district.

He calls the bypass canal "amazing" and believes it's in good shape even after a half-century of operation.

Your questions about Red Tide’s attack on Pinellas County answered (w/video)

Now that the Red Tide algae bloom that’s been lingering along the Southwest Florida coast since last November has finally reached Pinellas County’s beaches, a lot of readers have questions about the toxic bloom’s effects. Here are some answers.

Why did Red Tide land here after all this time?

The algae bloom shifts a bit each day, depending on winds and currents. This Red Tide algae bloom, the worst in a decade, has slowly been creeping northward along the gulf coast. It hit Anna Maria Island near the mouth of Tampa Bay in early August, and then showed up about 5 miles off Fort DeSoto by the end of August. It reached Pinellas’ famous beaches over the Sept. 11 weekend and has been here ever since.

Where is it?

Generally speaking, all the beaches south of Tarpon Springs have been hit. As of Monday the bloom had also invaded the Intracoastal Waterway as well as residential canals, so it’s popping up all over.