Florida's Congressional Delegation Must Protect Public From Toxic Algae

Coalition sends letter urging cleanup of slimed rivers and polluted drinking water


Monica Reimer, Earthjustice, (850) 681-0031

The Florida Water Coalition today sent letters to Florida’s Congressional delegation, urging the state’s representatives and senators to support water pollution limits for Florida—especially in light of the public health threat from the toxic algae outbreak that’s covered the Caloosahatchee River with noxious slime for the past several weeks.

Microcystis bloom in Caloosahatchee River at Olga, Florida approximately a mile and a half west of the Franklin Lock, south side of the river, October 14, 2005. (Richard Solveson) View photo slideshow.

As Lee County Commission Chairman Frank Mann told local television news reporters June 23, the Caloosahatchee “is as foul as I’ve ever seen it with pollution. In front of my own house there’s an algae scum nearly an inch thick. It smells as though you were standing by a septic tank with the lid taken off.”

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe swam in the same type of toxic algae outbreak in Grand Lake, Oklahoma, the last week of June and said he became “deathly sick” that night with an upper respiratory illness. “There is no question,” Ihhofe told a reporter from the Tulsa World, that his illness came from the toxic algae in the lake. Like public health officials in Florida, Oklahoma health officials are warning people not to touch the water, swim in it, or fish in it.

The toxic algae outbreaks are fueled by the so-called “nutrients,” nitrogen and phosphorus, which come from inadequately treated sewage, fertilizer, and manure pollution.

In Southwest Florida, a drinking water plant on the river at Olga, which should serve 30,000 people, is shut down due to contamination.

Anabaena algae bloom in Caloosahatchee River at Franklin Lock, June 17, 2008. (John Cassani) View photo slideshow.

The Florida Water Coalition points out that “It would be a clear dereliction of that duty to allow this public health threat to continue.”

“We urge you to protect your constituents by supporting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s numeric nutrient criteria for Florida,” the Florida Water Coalition writes. “Having enforceable standards will prevent overloading waterways with the phosphorus and nitrogen which spur these repeated toxic algae outbreaks.”

If you would like contact information for riverside homeowners affected by the toxic algae outbreak on the Caloosahatchee—including a woman whose home sale fell through due to the pollution, please call Julie Hauserman at (850) 656-2498.

In addition to the photos in the letters, images of the Caloosahatchee toxic algae outbreak are available at http://www.sccf.org/content/209/Algae-in-the-Caloosahatchee-in-2011.aspx. We can provide additional images upon request.

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