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Exploring Solutions: Marco Island's Water Quality Concerns

The search for a solution to Marco Island's ever-elusive water quality concerns continues, and the Marco Island City Council is doing its best to take on this challenge.

To this end, the city has enlisted the help of engineering firms based in Belleview, Florida and Fort Lauderdale, Florida to help determine the sourcing of the abnormally high nutrient levels and their impact on the region's water quality.

In 2021, the city received a report from the engineering firm headed by Harvey Harper, PhD of Environmental Research and Design. This report, along with a subsequent follow up review of the city's re-use process done by Jacobs Engineering, has brought up more questions and complexities to the issue. Dr. Harper has stated that the issue is a "regional" one, and should be approached in this manner.

This December, the Waterways Committee has continued to grapple with the issue, and have since been presented with some interesting test results since Hurricane Ian struck the island in late September. The numbers for 2021 had already dropped below the 0.30 milligrams per liter standard required by the State of Florida for both phosphorus and nitrogen, and the testing numbers for 2022 appear to be continuing in the same direction.

Terrell-Hall, the city's consulting engineering firm, believes that the increased numbers back in 2017 may have been a result of decaying debris in the Marco waters from Hurricane Irma in September 2017. The city presently tests at fourteen sites within canals, and the results of the tests performed from August through November show that nitrogen amounts were undetectable and the total average from all sites was below the 0.3 limit.

In an effort to improve water quality, the city is examining the possibility of aeration within canals to help improve circulation and the dissolved oxygen content. City staff has also presented a draft for request for information regarding aeration and other similar systems for a pilot project that may be eligible for some funding on the state level.

Jeff Poteet, Director of the City’s Utility Department, has been attempting to explain the positive effects of the nutrients in reuse water to condominium associations in an effort to have those associations reduce the need for additional fertilizer being applied on their properties. However, staffing shortages have been an obstacle for his efforts. He is confident that he will have that effort completed by the end of first quarter of 2023.

The Waterways Advisory Committee meets on the third Thursday of each month at 9:00 AM in council chambers at 51 Bald Eagle Drive. Those meetings are open to the public and those who wish to get involved in the search for a solution to Marco Island's water quality issues are encouraged to attend.

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