We are now getting a full view of the damage done to Florida’s waterways following Hurricanes Ian and Nicole.
The overwhelming amount of water dumped on the state by Ian alone has already fueled fish kills and algae bloom.
Channel 9 investigative reporter Christopher Heath discovered the worst may still be yet to come.
When Ian cut its way through Central Florida, the massive storm brought with it unprecedented rain, dumping almost 2 feet of rain in some places. The torrential rains flooded streets, swelled creeks and combined ponds into small lakes.
But almost as soon as the water started to crest, it started to recede, and that’s a problem.
“It can also change the temperature in a really rapid fashion, and they’re not used to the temperature and salinity changing that quickly,” said Dr. Kevin Johnson with the Florida Institute of Technology’s Ocean Engineering and Marine Sciences. “It puts a stress on the system.”
Johnson regularly samples the water, muck and species of the Indian River Lagoon.
“It certainly appears that there have been some negative effects to the water clarity and the number of organisms that we find in the sediments,” Johnson said.
Not far from the FIT campus, the hurricane caused a 7 million-gallon sewage spill into the lagoon as water overwhelmed the stormwater and wastewater system.
Natural areas that normally absorb rainfall quickly became saturated. The resulting runoff picked up everything from excess motor oil and debris on the ground to yard chemicals.
Since the storm, the Saint Johns River Water Management District has not only kept an eye on widespread flooding, but also maintains sensors tracking what’s in the water now.
The silver lining to the storm is the time of year, when Central Florida is moving out of when algae blooms occur.
Even still, the damage done from water quality to fish shills will have an impact on the already fragile ecosystem.