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Clean Water For Florida

As I write this, half of the 75-mile long Caloosahatchee River in southwest Florida is covered by nauseating green slime. It’s a heartbreaking sight – dead fish wash up along the banks, and waterfront homes have a pricey view of a stinking mess.

One dismayed homeowner told me he plans to petition local government to lower his property valuation because his waterfront lifestyle is now so gross that no one would ever want to live there.

You decide. Check out this picture of Florida's waterways—choked with algae—and choose which of the following quotes best describes the photo. Both speakers were referring to attempts in the state legislature to keep the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating the amount of nutrients flowing from utilities, industry and large-scale farms into Florida's waterways. The nutrients feed an explosion of algae.

Florida Slime

From the Now We’ve Seen Everything Department (A large and busy department here in the Sunshine State):

Florida Republican Congressman Tom Rooney has introduced language into the federal budget bill to block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from implementing important new public health protections for Florida.

As you’ve read in this space before, the EPA’s new water pollution limits are designed to control the public health threat posed by the green slime that continually breaks out on Florida waterways. This horrid slime is fed by partially treated sewage, animal waste and fertilizer pollution. (Pictures here. ) Florida health authorities have had to close swimming areas and drinking water plants because of this toxic algae. The algae outbreaks can cause breathing problems, sores, rashes, illness, and even death.

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.

Our long fight to get clear standards to control pollution from fertilizer, animal waste, and sewage hit a major milestone this week (Nov. 15), when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced new, enforceable limits in Florida—the first ever in the U.S.

EPA scientists worked in conjunction with scientists at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to set these important limits on excess nutrients—phosphorus and nitrogen—which are wrecking waters in Florida and all over the U.S.

The EPA committed to set these new limits after Earthjustice, representing Florida Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, and St. Johns Riverkeeper, sued in 2008.

It turns out that these former secretaries are at drastically at odds with public opinion. The EPA reports that it has received 22,000 public comments on the proposed new nutrient pollution standards, and 20,000 of those comments were in support of the standards.

Florida's St. John's River is fouled this summer with green slime, and dead fish are washing up on its shores. Every time it rains, nutrients like phosphorous and nitrogen poison this river and others all over Florida. The poison comes from sewage, animal manure and fertilizer.

It is a crisis big enough that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency agreed in November 2009 to set the first-ever legal limits for nutrient poisoning.

The EPA has taken a historic first step toward cleaning up Florida's waters by proposing limits on pollution which costs the state millions of dollars and triggers toxic algae outbreaks. Every time it rains, phosphorous and nitrogen run off agricultural operations, fertilized landscapes, and from septic systems.

The poison runoff triggers slimy algae outbreaks which foul Florida's beaches, lakes, rivers and springs more each year, threatening public health and closing swimming areas.

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