Originally published in USA Today on April 6, 2021 by Chad Gillis and Zac Anderson

Environmental groups worry that releases from the Piney Point wastewater treatment facility near Tampa Bay will eventually fuel an algae bloom that could harm areas of coastal Florida.

Nutrient-rich waters from the treatment facility will offset natural balances in the coastal estuaries and eventually end up in the Gulf of Mexico, where red tide initiates.

“It does seem like if they pump that volume of water into Tampa Bay that it could very likely stimulate an algae bloom,” said John Cassani of the southwest Florida nonprofit organization Calusa Waterkeeper. “But they’re not telling us the concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus. Usually, you look at concentrations, and they’re not giving us that data.”

A harmful algal bloom, also known as red tide, occurs when algae grow out of control and yield toxic or harmful effects on people and wildlife, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Karenia Brevis is the naturally occurring organism that causes red tide blooms. But the organism can grow to toxic concentrations when conditions are right and spread from the Tampa area south to the Florida Keys.

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