The algae that causes red tide is naturally found in the waters of Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico but blooms of this abundance and intensity are rarely seen this early in the summer.
While there is a time correlation, at this time, we cannot make a definitive causation. However, the fact that the 215 million gallons of wastewater was dispersed from Piney Point so early in the season, tied to the lack of rain we experienced in May, indicate there is a connection. The additional nutrients coupled with rainfall, wind and the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in the water are all fueling the bloom with no end in sight. It can be expected that we will be experiencing the effects of the red tide bloom for many weeks or months to come because of the abundance of nutrients in the bay fueling the bloom of the red tide.
The effects of the red tide are not only impacting our estuary and cherished marine life, but is also directly impacting our economy as local businesses such as restaurants, hotels, tourism destinations and charters. Red tide is preventing visitors from spending the tourism dollars that our local economy depends on, and residents from enjoying the beauty and activities that make living here so appealing.
What can you do to help?
Tampa Bay Watch has been restoring and supporting the estuary for 28 years, and making incredible progress. However, the current situation demonstrates the need for stronger water protections and monitoring. And, there are still close to 24 plants like Piney Point around the state. While not all are on the Atlantic or Gulf, nitrogen releases can still impact fresh water and contaminate the water tables and aquifer. Please Contact your elected officials at the local and state level (city council representatives, congressional representatives) and ask them to commit to stronger water quality protections, to support continued monitoring, and to fund emergency clean-up efforts.