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It Takes Heart To Keep Florida's Waterways Clean

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14 December 2010, 11:01 AM
Industry-fed politicians fight court order to cleanse the waters
"As Stoneman Douglas warned: we're not done." (Mark Wallheiser)

Many years ago, a friend of mine was just starting out in the environmental movement, and the late Florida environmental activist Marjory Stoneman Douglas (she authored the classic Everglades: River of Grass) offered some advice.

If you're going to do this kind of work, prepare to have your heart broken, because even when you win, you're never done.

So it is with our landmark lawsuit to get enforceable limits on the amount of sewage, fertilizer and animal waste that run into Florida's public waters. Even though we've had bright green slime covering rivers and lakes, even though health authorities had to close famed Florida beaches because of pollution, and even though drinking water has been fouled, polluters and misguided politicians continue to fight cleanup.

In 2009, we negotiated our historic settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in which the EPA agreed to set enforceable numeric standards in Florida for the nutrients phosphorus and nitrogen—which come from fertilizer, animal waste and improperly treated sewage. The rules were put into motion under the administration of President George W. Bush after the EPA had worked for a decade with two Republican governors of Florida to write tighter pollution standards.

On Nov. 15, we hailed a major victory when EPA finally set nutrient pollution limits for Florida's freshwaters and lakes. But, as Stoneman Douglas warned, we're not done.

On Dec. 7, Florida sued the EPA to try to block the new pollution limits.

It was one more painful political permutation that we've had to endure this year. Polluters staged a propaganda campaign with trumped-up numbers and an absurd premise: clean water is too expensive.

They reached out to political candidates, who, in turn, tried to capitalize on election-year hysteria and paint pollution cleanup as a jobs-killer. They released a study that supposedly analyzed the cost to average utility customers with scare-tactic numbers. When the EPA analyzed the study, the agency found that the actual cost would be a tenth of what the polluters were claiming. People will pay about $3 to $6 per household per month. A reasonable price for clean water.

Florida's lawsuit against the EPA was engineered by two outgoing Florida politicians—Attorney General Bill McCollum and Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson. But it is being embraced by incoming Florida leaders, including Florida's new governor, Rick Scott.

Florida's leading newspaper, The St. Petersburg Times, took our newly elected politicians to task for shilling for polluters instead of protecting public health. A Times editorial said:

These leaders need to get their facts—and their priorities—straight. Polluted water endangers public health, threatens the golden geese of property values and tourism, and destroys the very environment that attracts residents here. The state should welcome the new standards and work with polluters to clean up the public's waterways.

This new turn of events in the political and legal arenas is a setback at a time when we've made so much progress. But we know that the public is behind us. The EPA reports that it received 22,000 public comments on the proposed new nutrient pollution standards, and a full 20,000 of those comments were in support of the clean water standards.

 We will continue our fight in the coming year. Our hearts are not broken. And we're definitely not done.



Gosh, I'm still amazed at how the public can be manipulated so easily by Politicians and Corporate Companies with their so corruptive studies about these kinds of issues. I feel shame for them!

Whew! Am I ever relieved. I just know that now that we have these limits the waters of Florida will turn clean! I won't have to actually THINK anymore about the real cause of pollution problems nor focus my intellect on solving the REAL water quality problems faced in Florida. Instead, this fantastic "one size fits all" approach prevents all need to think constructively and to truly evaluate and understand the uniqueness of each water body. Oh, and the best thing is that now I know for sure that it's those evil "polluters" who are causing the problem. I have no personal responsibility whatsoever!! I can blame someone else! Thank goodness for litigation driven water quality science!!

The biggest and worst polluters are the phosphate industries. The phosphate ore contains various levels of fluorides, uranium, radium 226-228, and the other in this decay series down to 3 isotopes of lead. the 1970's they were warned to use "Wet Scrubbers" to capture these gases that were damaging the farms, cattle and etc. So....what to do with all that aquifer water that is now contaminated? Ah! Sell it to cities for fluoridation and just add it drop by drop, so as not to REALLY hurt anyone, or get CAUGHT doing it. But it winds up in the sewage and ultimately into the bay waters and causes algae blooms. Back when the manatees were dying, they checked the water and the mud, and found.....2 drugs that are fluorinated; a certain amount in the water, but in the mud it was much more. So...when we have a storm and it rails up the mud that winds up in the water above, causing more harm to the sealife. They have found Prozac in Mussels!! Let's go back to organic fertilizers like cow, sheep, and chicken manure. And no need to fertilizer St. Augusting grass, I found that spreading mulch and a little manure, after using a pitchfork to loosen up the silica sandy Florida soil! Just sprinkle water and the mulch holds it for longer time and real soon the grass will make a comeback.

I went back to USF (environmental science and policy and environmental geography) in 1999 and hooked up with Terri Wolfe and her decade long battle with Zephyrhills Spring Water Co. I haven't heard from Terri in a long time, but she was tireless in her attempt to save Fl. springs from industrial abuse. There are still volumes of information on her website; The photos of crystal springs under the care of the Thomas family/Zephyrhills/Perrier/Nestle are ones I took "under cover" around 2000-2001. Florida is way too fragle to give up the fight. I wish there were something I could do to help...but I finally left Fl (and I am a native) out of total frustration. NM is much worse so I may try to come home...keep me in the


Somehow the thinking of the people against limiting pollution in Florida must be that "the pollution won't affect me". Maybe they think that their money will put up a barrier against air, water and land pollution. When people are addicted to money and wealth it's no different than if they were addicted to heiron. They are delusional, sneaky, grandiose, and extremely self-centered, to name only a few. They are also a menace to society!! It's too bad that they don't take advantage of some of the 12 step groups offered concerning this illness.

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