What Causes Foam in the Indian River Lagoon?

Indian River Lagoon Pollution
Foam on the Banana River in Brevard County taken by Stel Bailey

What is the foam that builds up along the river shoreline?

This foam can result from plants decomposing, too much phosphorus in the water, temperature rises, soil erosion events, movement of wind and waves, and human activities. It can be naturally occurring or caused by pollution.
If entities release material (such as firefighting foam) to a water body in large quantities, it can cause foaming. PFAS foam rests on the water's surface and can be identified as sticky, bright white, usually lightweight, and tends to pile up like shaving cream. Foam can have much higher concentrations of PFAS than the waterbody it is found in.
  • Foam from human activity usually appears white, gives off a fragrant (perfumed or soapy odor), and usually occurs over a small area, localized near the discharge source.
  • Natural foam usually appears light tan or brown, smells earthy (fishy or has fresh-cut grass odor), can occur over large areas and accumulate in large amounts, and dissipates fairly quickly, except when agitated (as in high wind and rain conditions).
Foam can risk your health if it contains harmful bacteria or PFAS chemicals released into waterways by industries like the Department of Defense, aerospace, discharged wastewater, and chemical companies. It is not recommended that you swallow the foamy water or allow your pets to come into contact with it.
Thankfully, we will know more as we continue collecting samples for the UF project to understand how flooding caused by hurricanes influences the distribution of PFAS in the environment. To learn more about that project, visit https://www.fight4zero.org/ufproject

PFAS Foam in Michigan: https://www.michigan.gov/pfasresponse/0,9038,7-365-86514---,00.html

Fight for Zero

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