BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - In
August Eyewitness News took to the waters of the Indian River Lagoon with scientists to discover what was killing the dolphins, manatees and pelicans. At the time 60 bottlenose dolphins had died; this month we returned to the lagoon to discover that number now stands at 79.
"Yesterday was a bad
Less than 24 before Heath's arrival, Stolen and her team removed two dead dolphins from the lagoon and were forced to euthanize a third; on the day Heath spoke to
"I'm not too optimistic at this point," Stolen told us as she began the grim task of removing the dolphin's brain to take samples.
This summer the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared an Unusual Mortality
NOAA estimates there are currently more than 660 bottlenose dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon.
Joining the fight for answers is The Florida Institute of Technology. Located on the shore of the lagoon, the university announced in early November that it was creating an Indian River Lagoon Research Institute to address what the school calls "pressing issues of the health of the Indian River Lagoon." In it's announcement the school pledged to use its "state-of-the-art laboratories and field sites for chemical and biological testing and for designing and developing engineering solutions to lagoon problems."
"We've recently encountered sort of a perfect storm," says Florida Tech Professor of Oceanography Dr. Gary Zarillo.
But while scientists investigate the
In the last several
In a March presentation by Florida Atlantic University, researchers found that, "Septic Tank Effluent contaminated groundwater to levels in violation of State standards and suggest subsurface transport of contaminants into Jones Creek via the uppermost zones of the surficial aquifer."
More than 150 miles west of the Indian River Lagoon is another Florida estuary on the opposite end of the ecological spectrum. Since the late 90s Sarasota Bay has experienced the return of fish and water mammals to its waterways.
"That waste percolates into the ground," says David Cash of Sarasota County Public Utilities as he points to a neighborhood in the watershed that is still on septic tanks. "What eventually ends up in the
In the last decade Sarasota County has spent almost $100 million on sewer and water projects. The county has laid new pipes, closed old and outdated facilities, built new water treatment plants and begun an aggressive program to replace septic tanks with sewer lines.
"Ultimately it is the right thing to do,
Back in the Indian River lagoon, the estuary may soon start seeing some of its own financial help. On
"We have a lot of fine grain sediment washing out of the canals and watersheds into the lagoon," says Zarillo.
The dredging and sediment removal will, according to researchers, help to bring the ecosystem back into balance, but is not considered to be a total solution for the health of the estuary. Researchers caution that they still do not know the underlying cause of the dolphin or manatee deaths, and while the removal of the