Another attempt to solve our algae problems with ‘innovative tech’

When it comes to solving Florida’s water pollution problems, we’re always looking for the silver bullet, the easy way, the shortcut.

And these shortcuts almost always involve “technology.”

Photo by John Moran

So we were unsurprised to see a bill filed earlier this month by U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds of Southwest Florida — and co-sponsored by Rep. Brian Mast of Southeast Florida — directing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to develop and deploy innovative tech that will filter water and convert retrieved algae biomass into renewable biofuels.”

In other words, scoop all the toxic algae out of the Caloosahatchee River watershed, the St. Lucie River and estuary basin, and the Lake Okeechobee watershed and spin it into gold… er, turn it into something useful.

To be sure, such technology exists but it does not appear it’s ever been implemented at this scale. The actual text of the Donalds bill hasn’t yet been filed; but as his post on X said he wants the Corps to “develop” and deploy the technology, it suggests he’s looking to the Corps to invent something new. Is what he’s asking even possible?

Boy, wouldn’t it be great if fixing our algae problem was this simple?

And the Donalds bill is only the latest in a long line of “high-tech” “fixes” for our water quality problems; we’ve written about this time and again. And always, we note that there’s a better way: cracking down on polluters.

Looking at how Florida’s “Basin Management Action Plans” have failed and demanding accountability from the Department of Environmental Protection. Hiring more inspectors to go upstream in impaired basins to find where the excess nutrients are coming from and do something about it.

Stopping pollution at its source is always going to be cheaper and more effective. But it also involves confrontation with polluters, with industry interests that might object to tough new enforcement.

Relying on “technology,” by contrast, rattles no cages, requires no courage and allows politicians to show their concern for clean water the easy way.

So the search for the silver bullet will continue until we find it — or our waterways die off waiting.