“They’ve gotten out on boats, they’ve started collecting water samples."

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla.  (CW44 News At 10) – Last week, CW44 News sat down with national environment advocacy nonprofit Ocean Conservancy as they called on Environmental Protection for a solution to the Piney Point leak. Now they’re working with researchers to launch a rapid response team to track those impacts.

As efforts in finding a solution to the Manatee County reservoir leak continue, environmental experts from the University of Florida and Ocean Conservancy are working to get ahead. Scientists will monitor water quality and track pollution impacts on marine life resulting from the Piney Point debacle.

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“They’ve gotten out on boats, they’ve started collecting water samples and surveying seagrass and macroalgae,” said Christine Angelini, Director, Center for Coastal Solutions with the University of Florida. With the cutting-edge research being funded by Ocean Conservancy, scientists will be able to trace the pollution being released as it makes its way through the bay and the marine ecosystem.

“Stable Isotope Analysis,” said Angelini. This allows the team to fingerprint those discharges — and trace them back through the local food web. “And what we can do is look at whether or not that nitrogen and phosphorus are actually getting consumed and taken into the tissues of the algae,” said Angelini. But science isn’t where it stops for this team of experts. “Really, the partnership evolves around us taking what we learned from that research and translating it into some of the policy and advocacy that the Ocean Conservancy will then take to enact changes to hopefully prevent these types of issues from happening again.”

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Angelini tells CW44 News At 10 that environmental management stem from the lens of policies and that those policies are made based on the science and data that support them. So, after gathering data on Piney Point and communicating that to Ocean Conservancy, the nonprofit will then advocate for ocean-health solutions. “It’s those kind of extra bits of information that really help us create a more holistic picture. We kind of add some bells and whistles to a lot of really important foundational work that our other partners are providing,” said Angelini.

With the Florida legislature currently in session, Ocean Conservancy says this rapid response can act in a meaningful way to address the Piney Point site and its potential impact on the Floridian marine environment.

For now, U.F. researchers plan to continue through next week alongside other local research teams. “So, there’s a large consortium of different academic universities, the local estuary programs, the Department of Environmental Protection and other entities like the Ocean Conservancy that are meeting on a regular basis that are meeting to help coordinate our different efforts.”

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