Air pipes

Water Reuse (Purple Pipes) Trade Offs | Guest Comments

What do we give up if we clean excess nutrients from reused water (purple pipes)? What do we earn? The City of Marco Island is currently at an impasse over next steps to clean up pollution in Marco’s waterways. Why? What is “in the air” preventing us from progressing? Are there hidden forces at work? The simple answer is yes.”

There are special interests among us. These special interests are our friends. Who are they? The special interests that benefit from the reuse of polluted water (purple pipes) are the condos and hotels along the beach and the golf courses! People in hotels, condos, and golf courses are happy, fun-loving, and generous people. They love life. They love to be in natural settings, like the beautiful golf greens and beautiful Marco Beach. The landscaping around the condos is also beautiful. All fed by polluted reuse water.

What’s wrong with that? Well, the nutrients in the reuse water (purple pipes) used for landscape irrigation are excessive and are feeding a huge algae population in the Marco canals and streams. Canals and waterways are cloudy, mostly greenish, but lately a brownish color. Beginning in June each year, Marco experiences algae blooms.

The wealth effect of having polluted water on Marco is up to 15% of the property value. Research is currently underway to explore the relationship between algal blooms and degenerative brain diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and ALS. The seagrasses in the waterways are dead. Manatees no longer come to the Marco Channels to feed. What to do if you see an algae bloom?

  • Do not drink, swim, wade, use a personal watercraft, water ski or boat in waters where there is visible bloom.
  • Wash your skin and clothes with soap and water if you come into contact with algae or discolored or smelly water.
  • Keep pets away from the area. Waters with algal blooms are not safe for animals.
  • Do not cook or clean dishes with water contaminated with algae blooms. Boiling water will not remove toxins.
  • Eating healthy fish fillets caught in freshwater lakes with blooms is safe. Rinse the fish fillets with tap or bottled water, discard the casings and cook the fish thoroughly.
  • Do not eat shellfish in waters with algal blooms.
  • Wear a covid mask if you see a bloom.

If the condo owners knew that the reused water was the cause of the algae bloom on the island, they might rethink using the polluted reused water. If the city cleaned up the reused water, it would no longer be a source of cheap fertilizer. 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 fertilizers is the economic barrier preventing Marco Island from upgrading the Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP) to remove nutrients in reused water. Who knew that was what was stopping the city from cleaning up reused water? Of course, special interests!

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. Condos would save a lot of money by shutting off the purple pipe valves.