|The 2011 Superbloom started in parts of the Indian River Lagoon closest to Kennedy Space Center.|
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Florida – The public has until 5 p.m. May 2, 2016 to submit comments about how future operations at Kennedy Space Center may impact the local environment, including impacts to the Indian River Lagoon. Public comments can be emailed to: email@example.com
All Three Major Algae Blooms Erupted Around Kennedy Space Center
In 2011, an algae superbloom erupted in the northernmost portion of the Banana River that is bordered by Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. According to the St. John’s River Water Management Districts investigation that followed, the superbloom then spread westward through the Barge Canal into the northern portion of the Indian River Lagoon near Cocoa. Eventually, this superbloom expanded northward through Haulover Canal and into southern Mosquito Lagoon to cover 132,500 acres.
In August 2012, a brown tide bloom began in the Mosquito Lagoon on the northern side of Kennedy Space Center and moved into the northern Indian River Lagoon near Titusville. The same brown tide reappeared in 2013.
In January 2016, a brown tide bloom reappeared in the northernmost portion of the Banana River that is bordered by Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
In March 2016, the biggest fish kill in the Indian River Lagoon’s history was first detected in the Banana River north of State Road 528 near KSC’s southeastern boundary.
Few People Live Where The Algal Blooms Started
The geographic locations of the algal blooms appear to contradict the most-often cited hypothesis that sewage, grass clippings, pet waste, and fertilizer from the surrounding civilian residents were the cause of the recent algae blooms.
That’s because the restricted federal lands of the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Canaveral National Seashore, and the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge make up most of those areas’ surrounding landmass. The inhabitants consist mostly of wildlife with feral hogs being an invasive species.
“Before NASA took control of the property that is now KSC, the area was home to many people who had livestock and/or citrus groves. As the people relocated to surrounding towns, their domestic hogs (Sus scrofa) were occasionally left behind,” the KSC Environment Impact study notes. “The mild central Florida winters and abundance of food resources made it possible for feral hog populations to explode.” There are no efforts currently underway to remove the feral hog population from KSC. Waste from domestic hogs has been determined as the cause of algal blooms in other parts of the U.S.
Additionally, a manatee population remains in the waters surrounding KSC on a year-round basis because the warm water discharge by the nearby Florida Power & Light power plant has disrupted their natural winter migration pattern. The power plant was built during the Apollo Era at that location to provide power for KSC’s operations and the neighborhoods nearby where the space workers lived.
The manatee population has since exploded in the years leading up to the recent algae blooms, leading many to believe that the sea cows’ heavy seagrass consumption and resulting excrement contributed to the algae blooms. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection estimates that manatees contribute 25 to 109 tons (1.7% to 6.7% of the total) nitrogen and 2 to 7 tons (0.7% to 3.0% of the total) phosphorous entering the Indian River Lagoon system.
The Impact Of KSC Pollution On The Indian River Lagoon
Pollution from launch operations at Kennedy Space Center and neighboring Cape Canaveral Air Force Station has been occurring since the late 1950’s. According to NASA’s 2016 draft environmental impact study for Kennedy Space Center, ” … the ecologically, recreationally, and commercially important Indian River Lagoon adjacent to KSC has been impaired by the cumulative impacts of all point and non-point sources of pollutant loadings that have grown enormously in magnitude over the last half century.”
The investigation also specifically excluded sampling areas near KSC and CCAF which was ground zero for all three major algal blooms in Brevard County, Florida.