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City of Sarasota prepping for next wave of toxic red tide destruction

The city has formulated an aggressive plan to clean up the carnage left by red tide

SARASOTA — The city has formulated an aggressive plan to clean up the carnage left by toxic red tide should the area experience a noxious resurgence of the bloom, which has granted Southwest Florida a slight reprieve in recent days.

The city plans to use roughly $228,807 of Florida Department of Environmental Protection grant money disbursed to the municipality through Sarasota County to contract with about 12 laborers, slated to work eight-hour shifts on weekdays through November, if the toxic bloom once again transforms pristine white sand beaches and clean canals into ghastly graveyards of rotting fish, sea turtles, manatees, dolphins and whale sharks as it did last month.

Water samples taken earlier this month from Sarasota County beaches showed a significant decline in red tide cell levels, according to Mote Marine Laboratory officials who performed the testing. There were no longer high concentrations of the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, at any Sarasota County beaches, but four sites — Blind Pass, South Lido, Siesta and Turtle beaches — had medium concentrations. It’s anybody’s guess if the levels will stay low, so city officials are prepared, they said.

“The odor is back, but we’re not seeing yet the abundance of dead fish that we were seeing a little while ago,” Todd Kerkering, the city’s emergency manager, said, adding that since the county is responsible for beach cleanup, the city’s efforts will focus on canals and affected inland waterways.