Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried pushes for cleaner water in Jacksonville and around the state

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is stepping in to protect the state’s water and, in turn, the St. Johns River in Jacksonville.

Action News Jax first told you last week about the rise in blue-green algae in the St. Johns River.

The St. Johns Riverkeeper reported the toxin levels from the algae were 300 times the recreational safe limit.

Fishermen like Jake McIntosh and Chase Weaver have a plan when they see algae in the water.

“The main thing that we do is we try and look for waters that are normally moving. Stagnant waters will hold more of it, so if you see anything like that I mean that’s typically where we won’t try and fish,” McIntosh said.

They said they make sure to clean and cook their fish thoroughly but look forward to the day they don’t have to worry about algae in the river.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried sees the need for change.

She sees it not only in the St. Johns River, where health officials detected harmful amounts of blue-green algae, but coast to coast where our state is seeing record manatee deaths, red tide and continued damage from Piney Point.

“The moral of it is we all need to do better,” Fried said.

That’s why she’s promoting the agriculture department’s new clean water initiative. Her goal is to strengthen policy to better protect the state’s natural resources.

St. Johns Riverkeeper board member Lisa King said the initiative will be beneficial right here in Jacksonville.

“I have been very concerned about what we have seen in terms of blue-green algae here in the St. Johns and the impacts that can have on people’s health particularly,” King said.

St. Johns Riverkeeper Lisa Rinaman said the algae bloom we saw the last two weeks has since declined, but the threat of it coming back is real.

“Just out here today I saw some of the specks of algae. So the toxins can still linger around,” Rinaman said.

The initiative is focused on educating and thus preventing such issues as an algae bloom.

“Hopefully, we can get it cleaned up,” McIntosh said.

The toxins in blue-green algae blooms are harmful if you swim in it, briefly touch it or even breathe it in from a short distance.

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