Once Again, are the Canals Cleaner than the Indian River Lagoon?

water lettuce 2012 002-2

“Tom, Here is a photo of the water lettuce we have trapped behind a barrier so we can remove it.”

(For More Background Information on the Indian River Canals Being Cleaner than the Lagoon Please Click Here:


WE RECEIVED A FRIENDLY ENVIRONMENTAL INQURY THIS WEEK that took into question a previous article we wrote that the 225 miles and ditches that lead into the three major Vero Beach canals, and the three canals themselves, may be cleaner than the Indian River Lagoon.

First of all, according to C. E. (Chip) Swindell, Jr., principle scientist and president of Ecotech Consultants, located her in Vero, who designed and developed Spoonbill Marsh, the salinity ranking of pure water is zero. However, the salinity ranking of water entering the Marsh as brine is 2.5 whereas the water entering the Marsh from the Lagoon is 25.

That speaks to an enormous problem, perhaps greater than understood.

The inquiry we received had to do with remarks made by Ms. Marie Tarnowski, a researcher at FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute in Fort Pierce (and Doctoral candidate) at the Fourth Annual Indian River Lagoon Symposium on February 5, 2015.

According to Ms. Tarnowski, “septic effluent is a contributing to elevated nitrogen levels in the Indian River Lagoon.” “Our study…showed that the canals are a conduit for these nutrients.”

The Indian River Farms Water Control District (IRFWCD), an independent water control district, creates, organizes and maintains all the canals.

We asked David Gunter, Superintendent of IRFWCD about Ms. Tarnowski’s study that the canals “showed that the canals are a conduit for these nutrients.”

Mr. Gunter responded quickly, indicating that reducing septic effluent leaking into the canals “is the best way to keep the nutrients from getting into the canals in the first place, but I have no power in that fight.”

“My only recourse is to harvest the the vegetation where the nutrients are sequestered in the plant matter (water lettuce) thereby removing it from the storm water hence better water quality.”

“Tom, the nutrients don’t soak into the plants like a sponge, they are what is necessary food for growth of the vegetation (no nutrients no growth). The abundance of floating vegetation is a good indicator of the nutrient load of the water. As to the quality of the water in our canal system all I have to go on is the water quality tests we have been conducting for the past 25 years as compared to the SJRWMD testing results for the main stem of the Lagoon.”

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