Sierra Club criticizes use of clay to stem red tide outbreak

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On Monday, Governor Rick Scott’s office announced the state would spend nearly $2.2 million  to expand research into ways to control the massive red tide outbreak along the Gulf Coast of Florida. One experimental treatment is to use ozone to kill red tide algae. Another is to use “a form of specialized clay to quell the effects of red tide.” But opponents are skeptical. That includes the Florida chapter director with Sierra Club, Frank Jackalone.

“They’ve experimented with clay before. Mote Marine Laboratory has been experimenting with clay for fifteen years. And clay has not proven to be the panacea and the instant solution that people thought it would be.

“It produces other ecological effects that could be far worse. So what you’re doing is you’re spreading all this clay all over this very large red tide area. The clay then combines with the red tide [organism] and theoretically sinks it to the bottom of the Gulf where then it coats the Gulf of Mexico. And then it kills other sea life in the process. So, this may be a sure way of killing the Gulf long-term just to get rid of the red tide bloom.

“Let me remind your listeners about the BP oil spill disaster. The solution that we came up with, unfortunately, was spraying Corexit over the BP oil spill. Corexit is a dispersant and it dispersed the oil but the oil didn’t go away. And the Corexit then caused additional problems in the Gulf of Mexico. So that now you had two problems: the oil residual plus the toxic dispersant. That made the Gulf of Mexico that much more sick. And we don’t want to repeat that with this kind of solution.

“The other thing I’ll mention is that this clay is an experimental clay that’s coming from China. So, it is highly dependent on our being able to buy the clay from China, getting adequate supplies, then testing it in the Gulf of Mexico to make sure that it works, making sure that there aren’t other harmful effects.

“And it’s not just clay. They combine the clay with an artificial polymer. So that then you really have a substance that is foreign to the Gulf of Mexico going in there. And nobody really knows what the impacts will be.

“So if anybody thinks this is a quick fix, it’s not. This is something they’re going to research and test over several years before they apply it to the Gulf as a whole. And the better solution is to immediately take action to enforce our clean water laws in the state of Florida, stop the pollution that is fueling these red tide blooms.”

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Here’s a link to the FWC Red Tide FAQ.