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Florida: The Polluters' Paradise State

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View David Guest's blog posts
21 September 2011, 5:31 PM
Earthjustice fights to stop epidemic sliming of state waterways
Slime-choked waterway

<Editor's Note: this op-ed by David Guest, managing attorney of Earthjustice in Florida, recently appeared in newspapers throughout Florida. Also, view multimedia interview with David Guest.>

At the end of August, a large, disgusting algae outbreak slimed Old Tampa Bay. Two months earlier, an algae outbreak in the Caloosahatchee River near Fort Myers turned the river bright green, smelled like raw sewage, and made thousands of fish go belly up. Water with algae outbreaks like this is so toxic that health authorities say you shouldn’t touch it, much less drink it or swim in it. It can give you rashes, respiratory problems, and even kill you.

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, found that out the hard way. He swam in the same type of toxic algae outbreak in Grand Lake, Oklahoma in June and said he became “deathly sick” that night with an upper respiratory illness. “There is no question,” Ihhofe told the Tulsa World, that his illness came from the toxic algae in the lake. Oklahoma health officials had warned people not to touch the water, swim in the popular lake, or eat fish from it. Like Florida’s outbreaks, the one in Grand Lake was fueled by the so- called “nutrients,” nitrogen and phosphorus, which come from inadequately treated sewage, fertilizer, and manure.

After years of seeing nauseating algae outbreaks on popular Florida tourist beaches like Sanibel Island and at fishing meccas like the St. Johns River, we citizens finally got the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to start setting limits on the sewage, fertilizer and manure pollution that’s threatening our drinking water and our health.
This type of pollution is preventable. We can combat it at its source — by upgrading old sewer plants, using modern manure management on agricultural operations and being smarter about applying fertilizer.

Cleaning up our waters is a good thing, but you wouldn’t know it by reading the distortions and inflated cost estimates that highly paid polluter-lobbyists are peddling to scare people. They will spend whatever it takes to make sure they can keep using our public waters as their private sewers.

The truth is that meeting Florida's new limits for these contaminants is likely to cost a few dollars extra per person per month phased in over many years. In Chesapeake Bay, for example, advanced wastewater treatment cut pollution at a cost of only $2.50 per household per month. Not a bad price for clean water.

The Florida DEP is in the process of setting new statewide standards for phosphorus and nitrogen pollution. Unfortunately, the rules that state regulators have proposed so far are inadequate to protect public health and clean up the waters. It is critical that the state’s polluters, now emboldened by the current anything-goes mentality in Tallahassee, don’t end up writing the DEP’s water-pollution rules. It is critical that our state regulators protect the public, not the polluters.

Tourism, fishing and boating are our economic lifeblood in Florida. When visitors come here and see dead fish and “No Swimming” signs, they won’t come back, and that affects our state budget and our jobs.


WTF? The Clean Water Act mandates ELIMINATION of US water pollutants by 1985 (A Quarter CENTURY AGO!) :
SEC. 2

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act is amended to read as follows:


SEC. 101 [33 U.S.C. 1251] Declaration of Goals and Policy

(a) The objective of this Act is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters. In order to achieve this objective it is hereby declared that, consistent with the provisions of this Act--

(1) it is the national goal that the discharge of pollutants into the navigable waters be eliminated by 1985.

JUST(LY) DEMAND strict Compliance, NOW!

As a wildlife and nature photographer and one who loves all types of recreational water sports, I moved here because of the clean natural waterways,estuaries,passes and Gulf waters. Tourism and water related industries, and all types of off-shoots including restaurants, hotels, motels, tour guides, boat sellers, all types of domestic service providers, and retailers, including auto dealers and service facilities and rental agencies, fishing related businesses, the list goes on and on..... depend on maintaining clean, safe, beautiful beaches and waterways and the natural tropical environment Florida is blessed with. Regardless of the cost of keeping these resources natural and pristine for quality of life for residents and tourists alike, it must be done, because the economic lifeblood of this state depends on it. Environmental monitoring and protection is an investment in our present, and our future, not a cost that can be cut without careful consideration, and the laws and regulations that keep our environment safe for people and animals and birds and fish are necessary. What we have is invaluable, and irreplaceable, and that is why we get so many seasonal tourists and visitors. Without the attractive natural environment which it is our responsibility to maintain,we would be living in a polluted tropical paradise, and an economical disaster zone.

The polluter lobbyists are the biggest threat to our future both environmentally and economically, and they must be stopped before the water environment becomes polluted beyond recovery. Our waters are not public or commercial sewers and any company, person or agency or politician who does not make preserving them a priority here in Florida is a fool. People of all walks of life and economic status use and benefit from our wonderful water rich environment, and we all need to make sure that the regulators and Tallahassee politicians get the message that we expect and demand it to be protected and preserved for now and forever.

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