PUNTA GORDA — Charlotte County is gearing up for its water quality monitoring program that will begin this spring.

Residents are invited to the first strategy session, to focus on mid-county, will be held 6 p.m. Jan. 19 at the Charlotte Harbor Event & Conference Center, 75 Taylor St., Punta Gorda.

It is the first of three sessions.

The second session will be Jan. 20, at the Ann and Chuck Dever Recreation Center in Englewood and will focus on West County. The third session, focusing on South County will be on Jan. 26 at the event center in Punta Gorda.

The purpose of the meetings is to present the plan for water sampling so far, and for the public to ask questions of Water Quality Manager Brandon Moody.

Drafts of the site map and site selection strategy report are available for review on the county website at https://bit.ly/3JtUcKc

The 11-page report outlines strategies for sampling, costs, locations, timing and what the sample tests will analyze.

Moody was hired in March to coordinate a review of water quality in the county and to set up a monitoring program.

County commissioners decided to add this new element of the water quality agenda after the 2018 summer of red tide and blue green algae outbreaks paralyzed the state. One purpose of added sampling is to pinpoint sources and location of excess nutrients that increase the growth of algae and red tide, as well as decrease the presence of sea grass and water clarity.

Known causes of excess nutrients are septic systems, use of fertilizer and possibly sewage treatment plants.

The review has required an assessment of all current water quality monitoring ongoing in and around the county, including where and by which agency. These locations and agencies are presented on the site map.

Many agencies and groups have been monitoring water quality in Charlotte Harbor, the Peace and Myakka rivers and other open water bodies, the strategy report notes.

But few have focused on the county’s internal canals or streams that start in some cases in North Port and flow ultimately into the harbor, the report states.

Moody has been working with North Port officials on that Sarasota County city’s potential contribution to Charlotte County’s water quality. North Port, even more than Port Charlotte, is a city heavily reliant on septic systems.

The report itemizes what molecular compounds the sampling will test for including algae-inducing nitrogen and phosphate along with radioactivity associated with phosphorus deposits.

A monitoring strategy must include what time of year and in some cases, what time of day to hit the tides just right. Sampling in tidal zones should be at ebb tide, the report states, which could be tricky.

Other issues affecting sampling include whether the flow of water in a canal is blocked by some kind of dam structure before it flows into the harbor or river.

To pay for the sampling, the county will depend in part of assessments paid by property owners living in three storm water Municipal Service Benefit Units, specifically, MSBU’s for mid, south and west counties.

The county will kick in about $50,000 from the general fund. The average cost per monitoring site is anticipated to be $3,000.

Choice of monitoring locations and methods could change depending on initial results, new understanding of the region’s water flow, recommendations from experts and the public and county commission directives.

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