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Treasure Coast Essay

Muck: a threat to our lagoon

Our subject today is muck. Scientists and bureaucrats may refer to it as sediment, silt or suspended solids. But most of us just call it muck. It blankets the bottom of the Indian River Lagoon and its tributaries, and it's causing damage. Muck was always down there. It consisted mostly of saturated soil from natural erosion. But when people established farms, dug canals, laid down roads and put up buildings, the soil runoff increased exponentially and so did the muck. Churned-up muck and the accompanying algae blooms block the sunlight. The sea grass dies, and the loss of sea grass is blamed for the die-off of manatees, dolphins and pelicans. Muck is a headache in Brevard County, but also down our way in the St. Lucie River estuary, where the muck can be 15 feet thick. It's as big a threat to the lagoon as fertilizer runoff and septic tank failure. A state Senate committee has added $20 million for muck dredging to a list of proposals to restore the lagoon's health. But dredging can be controversial. Residents of Sebastian oppose a plan to dredge a section of the lagoon's boat channel and dump the muck on a site at the south end of town. On the bottom or dredged up, muck can be a sticky problem. For 88.9 FM, this is Paul Janensch.