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Reuse Water (purple pipes) Tradeoffs


What do we give up if we clean the excess nutrients from the reuse water (purple pipes)? What do we gain? The City of Marco Island is currently at an impasse regarding the next steps to clean up the pollution in the Marco waterways. Why? What are the “political winds” that prevent us from making progress? Are there hidden forces at work? The simple answer is “Yes.”

The special interests that benefit from the polluted reuse water (purple pipes) are the condos and hotels along the beach and the golf courses. People at the hotels, condos, and golf courses are happy, fun-loving, and generous people. They enjoy being in natural settings, like the beautiful golf greens and the wonderful Marco beach. The landscaping around the condos is gorgeous as well. All fed by polluted reuse water.

What is wrong with that? Well, the nutrients in the reuse water (purple pipes) used for landscape irrigation are excessive and feed an enormous population of algae in the Marco canals and waterways. The canals and waterways are cloudy, often greenish, but lately a brownish color. Starting in June each year, Marco experiences algal blooms.

The wealth effect of having polluted water on Marco is a decrease of up to 15% in property values from living next to polluted waterways. Research currently explores the relationship between algal blooms and degenerative brain diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and ALS. The seagrass in the waterways has died off. The Manatee no longer come to the Marco canals to feed. What to do if you see an algal bloom?

  • Do not drink, swim, wade, use personal watercraft, water ski, or boat in waters with a visible bloom.

  • Wash your skin and clothing with soap and water if you have contact with algae or discolored or smelly water.

  • Keep pets away from the area. Waters, where there are algae blooms are not safe for animals.

  • Do not cook or clean dishes with water contaminated by algae blooms. Boiling the water will not eliminate the toxins.

  • Eating fillets from healthy fish caught in freshwater lakes experiencing blooms is safe. Rinse fish fillets with tap or bottled water, throw out the guts, and cook fish well.

  • Do not eat shellfish in waters with algae blooms.

  • Wear a covid mask if you see a bloom.

If the condo owners knew that reuse water was the cause of the algal blooms on the island, they might rethink using the polluted reuse water. If the city cleaned up the reuse water, it would no longer be a source of cheap fertilizer. The condos would then have a choice: either supplement the newly cleaned reuse water with fertilizer or switch to Florida Friendly Landscaping (FFL).

The added cost of additional fertilizer is the economic barrier stopping Marco Island from upgrading the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) to eliminate the nutrients in the reuse water. Who knew this was preventing the city from cleaning up the reuse water? Of course, the “political winds!”

Florida Friendly Landscaping (FFL) is much cheaper than conventional landscaping. No watering. No fertilizer. No mowing. Good for the environment. FFL is also beautiful and unique to Florida. The condos would save a lot of money by shutting the purple pipes' valves and stopping using the nutrient-rich reuse water.

Let’s Make Marco Awesome!

Nanette Rivera

Candidate for Marco Island City Council

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