Without Lake Okeechobee discharges feeding toxic blooms, the water on both Florida coasts is clearing up, like a Christmas gift from water management agencies. Memories of the sight--and smell--of death and slime piling up on our shorelines are starting to fade. Trying to forget Toxic 2018 is entirely forgivable.
What’s not forgivable is spreading disinformation to avoid changing the policies that poisoned people and animals this year.
These are three of the worst examples making the rounds this holiday season:
1. This is all your septic tank’s fault.
Total phosphorus concentrations (i.e., pollution) in this year's discharges from Lake Okeechobee were 15x to 25x higher than the clean water target set for the Everglades, but as the water--and toxic algae--surged past riverside communities and population centers near the coasts, those pollution levels dipped. The water got cleaner--not dirtier--as it flowed to the estuaries, although it still contained enough fertilizer to feed toxic blooms and make people sick up and down the coasts.
No question we should keep sewage out of our rivers, but whatever leaked out of residents’ septic systems this summer was somehow CLEANER than the discharged water. And somehow clean enough at the moment to let the water clear up again.
2. In 10-20 years when CERP and the EAA reservoir are complete, we might dump less toxic water on the coasts.
So our government is only planning on poisoning us for another decade or two? And don’t forget that experts say the EAA reservoir can’t clean enough water to hit its discharge reduction targets. We shouldn’t have to wait a generation to see if they’re right, especially when water management agencies can change operational policies now to keep people safe in the meantime.
3. Fresh water discharges can prevent red tide.
A FWC spokesperson was quoted this week saying that fresh water discharges can prevent red tide because of lowered salinity levels. How’d that work out this year? Hopefully this was a misquote.
Dishonorable Mention #1: Saltwater kills toxic algae.
This might be true but it’s scary news for coastal residents, not a solution. A USGS study found that cyanobacteria blooms can become highly toxic when they’re discharged into estuaries, because saltwater destroys the cells, releasing the toxins inside. People who wondered why so many dogs were poisoned at the same time and place on the river already suspected something like this--a sudden, mass release of microcystin where Lake Okeechobee discharges mixed into the St. Lucie. The study suggests they’re right, and that cyanobacteria pose a far more severe health threat when they’re allowed into the estuaries, where the biggest residential communities are.
Dishonorable Mention #2: Toxic blooms occur naturally.
Also true. Red tide and cyanobacteria are natural. So is cancer, but doctors don’t use that as an excuse not to treat it. And there’s nothing natural about feeding megatons of industrial fertilizer to toxic organisms. Stopping that practice immediately would go a long way toward fulfilling our government’s obligation to protect us.
Here’s How You Can Help
Congressman Brian Mast is hosting an online survey on voters’ concern and knowledge about Florida’s water crisis. Please click here to take the survey, ask our government to consider human health before dumping or feeding toxic blooms, and also for an EAA reservoir with guaranteed capacity to clean enough water to stop these discharges.
As always, we’re grateful for Bullsugar supporters’ willingness to speak up for clean water. Thank you!