"To protect and restore the Florida coastal and Indian River Lagoon ecosystems
through education, research and community stewardship."

Water Quality & Waterborne Illness Abstract

Apr 25th, 2016 | Category: Announcements

Objective: Algal blooms can cause devastating effects on marine animals and flora. In recent years, the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) suffered a devastating brown tide event. Scientists documented large sea grass die-offs, large fish kills and an increase in dolphin deaths. Recent dolphin studies demonstrate that they can be an effective sentinel species and indicate when there should be a public health concern regarding the IRL. Though studies provide evidence that algal blooms can cause human illness and even death, there have not been any studies related to brown tides, specifically in the Indian River Lagoon. The purpose of this study is to determine whether there is a possible correlation between poor water quality and an increase in reportable waterborne illnesses in Volusia County’s portion of the IRL.

Methods: Water quality data was obtained from Volusia County’s Environmental Management department. Four water quality parameters were chosen and studied. The four parameters are dissolved oxygen, turbidity, total phosphorous and total nitrogen. Dissolved oxygen, total phosphorous and total nitrogen data are at a depth of 0.5m. Descriptive statistics will be generated using Microsoft’s Excel program to run the analysis. Human waterborne reportable disease cases data will be obtained from Florida Charts.

Results: Water quality decreased in years 2004-2005 and 2011-2012, as demonstrated by Secchi disk, total nitrogen and dissolved oxygen means. During these same periods, cases of waterborne illnesses increased.

Conclusion: Our results provide evidence of a possible correlation between the IRL’s water quality and cases of human waterborne illnesses. Human disease caused by algal blooms is an environmental public health concern. Further studies are indicated because the IRL is not only a source of diverse marine animals and flora, but is also a great source of recreation and food for Florida residents and visitors alike. Further studies could help provide better insight to the true cost of algal blooms by assessing healthcare costs and work productivity loss related to illness.