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Red tide: Sarasota County will host water quality summit

A water quality summit hosted by the county to address problems plaguing area waterways could happen as soon as April.

The Sarasota County Commission on Wednesday directed its staff to begin planning a summit on water quality following the apparent dissipation of the longest local red tide outbreak in recorded history. The summit, which will address efforts the county and surrounding jurisdictions have made to create clean water, as well as ongoing efforts to reduce water pollution and toxic red tide, will take approximately 90 days to organize, County Administrator Jonathan Lewis said. Commissioner Nancy Detert suggested the summit be held sometime in April.

The planning of a summit — at the urging of Commissioner Christian Ziegler — comes after the area faced the lengthiest documented toxic red tide event since the 1940s, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials. After more than a year, lab tests in late January by FWC showed red tide concentrations around Florida were rated at “not present” to “background” concentrations. FWC tested more than 100 water samples offshore and in bay areas from Northwest, Southwest and off the east coast of Florida, where red tide peaked in August and September. Those tests showed levels of the red tide organism, Karenia brevis, were under 1,000 cells per liter for the first time since the outbreak began in late October 2017.