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Local Organization Spreads Awareness About Dangers Of Red Tide

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - As red tide continues to impact the Tampa Bay Area, one local organization called Tampa Bay Waterkeeper is trying to help with the issue.

Captain Dustin Pack is on the board of directors for the Tampa Bay Waterkeeper. He says "I didn't think it was going to be this bad. 1,400 tons so far of dead fish far surpasses what I thought could have happened."

Pack says it's heartbreaking to see so much dead marine life this year.

"I started getting photos from other guys from other fisherman every day of lines of dead fish," said Pack.

It's all because of red tide.

"I mean awful. It sucks," said Pack.

Pack is also owner of fly tide fishing charter, and says his company has lost over a month of business this Summer.

"Areas you can't fish or your clients are coming from out of town, they hear something is going on, it's not really worth their time to come, so they don't come," said Pack.

Pack originally joined the Tampa Bay Waterkeeper organization to protect the Hillsborough River from pollution, but his goals quickly shifted after almost 300 million gallons of contaminated water spilled from the Piney Point reservoir into Tampa Bay back in March.

"The state has allocated $100 million towards closing Piney Point. We need a plan to get that closed, that has to happen," said Pack.

Along with coming up with that plan, the organization is suing the state, Port Manatee, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and HRK Holdings (the company that owned the Piney Point reservoir) for the spill into Tampa Bay. Pack says there are also other issues he's trying to address with St. Petersburg and Tampa.

"Sewage leaks of thousands of gallons at a time, whether that's Hillsborough, or it's downtown St. Pete. That kind of stuff can't happen. There needs to be investment in infrastructure, there needs to be investment in storm drains, and stuff like that. Fertilizers in people's yards, and fertilized golf courses and stuff like that needs to change," said Pack.

Pack says the Piney Point spill and all of these issues have contributed to how bad red tide has gotten this year.

"The Tampa Bay is slowly…maybe not even slowly…it's just going to start to die," said Pack.

Pack says Tampa Bay Waterkeeper is spreading awareness about these issues, and they hope to make enough of an impact so red tide won't get so severe in the coming years. Pinellas County officials say after a brief improvement over the weekend, red tide conditions have worsened again along the coast, and you should check the county's red tide map if you plan on heading to the beach anytime soon.

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