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Councilmember Cosden pushes for air quality checks

By Staff | Oct 3, 2018

With all the attention this summer on the quality of water, red tide and blue-green algae, something that has flown way under the radar has been the resulting air quality.

On Monday, Cape Coral City Councilmember Jessica Cosden took the subject to task.

Cosden pushed for a discussion on air quality at the elected board’s weekly meeting and made a motion to send letters to the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Health, asking the agencies to conduct air quality checks.

The Cape Coral City Council unanimously.

Cosden said she has been getting calls and e-mails regarding air quality and has felt the effects herself while at the Cape Coral Yacht Club. She said as a lifelong Cape Coral resident, this year’s algal blooms and their result are been the worst they have ever been.

“There is clearly something happening when we breathe this in. The question is whether it’s harmful long term. Will it cause long-term diseases,” Cosden said. “In what I’ve read, the answer is maybe. In 30 years, I could have Parkinson’s or cancer and I would like to know that now.”

Maya Robert, Environmental Resource manager, said air quality is measured by the state DEP and the Department of Health, but they have not conducted checks on the algae toxins.

Robert also said science suggests that there could be long-term ramifications healthwise to the central nervous system because of long-term effects of algal air.

The county does not plan to conduct air quality checks for toxins when it and the Department of Health conduct air quality checks in the city’s canals. Cape Coral has one air quality checkpoint, but that’s for ozone.

Cosden said the city cannot do toxin checks, since they don’t have the equipment or the reference basis to know what acceptable levels are.

Mayor Joe Coviello said it may be time to call the DEP and the Department of Health and ask those agencies to do some of these tests.

“It’s not bad now. It would have been better to do these tests when it was really bad, but this is something we need to lobby them for,” Coviello said.

Cosden made the motion to send the letter. Councilmember John Gunter said it was important for the city to get in front of this, while Councilmember Dave Stokes added it could take a long time to fix the issues at Lake Okeechobee, making the move imperative.

Cosden said holding the discussion was the right thing to do, and its time for the DEP and health agency to do their jobs.

“They need to make sure we’re healthy here in Southwest Florida. If we’re breathing air that is not healthy, we need to know about it and be given remedy,” Cosden said. “When it comes to testing the air for algal blooms, that goes above our scope and that’s where the Department of Health should be.”

In other business, the city also approved a plan to expand the parking lot at Duffy’s on Cape Coral Parkway and granted an easement to Florida Governmental Utility Authority to survey, construct, operate, maintain, repair, remove, replace or abandon a 16-inch irrigation main and associated valving and telemetry facilities in, along, under, above and upon property owned by the city that is in the area of the Del Prado Irrigation Storage Tank.

Also, the Cape Coral Youth Council was presented its third-place award in the 2018 Municipal Youth Council Community Service Contest, sponsored by the Florida League of Cities.

Chaz Smith was there to hand out the award for its “Blessings in a Backpack,” a national initiative that helps provide food on the weekends for elementary school children who might otherwise go hungry.