Avoid another summer of slime

gainesvillesunlogonumbver 2 In: Avoid another summer of slime | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River

The state needs more than voluntary practices to control pollution from agricultural operations and more aggressive steps to prevent pollution from home septic tanks and fertilizer.

As long as our state continues to pussyfoot around, ignoring the causes and trying to treat the symptoms, we will lose this battle.  They are at least beginning to talk about septics, but pretty much silent on agricultural nutrients, one of the major problems.  The probable reason is that AG is too powerful and will raise a real ruckus.  DeSantis and cronies don’t want that.  Politicians don’t like to stir up problems that might cost them money, influence or re-election.  Having AG mad at you could do all that.

But someday, somebody will have to do that.  We are just not ready yet.

Hats off to the Gainesville Sun editorial board for presenting these facts below.

Sorry, no link to the Gainesville Sun article could be provided, other than to the daily edition, which is here.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-

Avoid another summer of slime

July 10, 2019

Nature is telling us something, but we’re still not listening. During last year’s “summer of slime,” toxic blue-green algae blooms befouled Lake Okeechobee and rivers across South Florida. A lingering red tide crept up both of the state’s coasts, killing marine life and sickening beach-goers. The condition of North Florida’s natural springs continued their long decline due to algae growth and reduced flows.

Gov. Ron DeSantis was elected in November on the promise of being a “Teddy Roosevelt conservationist” who would better protect the environment than his predecessor. Given the dreadful record of Rick Scott, who shredded environmental regulations and the agencies tasked with enforcing them during his eight years as governor, there was huge room for improvement.

DeSantis struck the right tone with early moves such as establishing a Blue-Green Algae Task Force and selecting the state’s first chief science officer, Tom Frazer, from the University of Florida’s ranks. But the state legislative session and subsequent moves by the DeSantis administration suggest more of the costly restoration projects and endless studies that fail to stop the pollution fueling algae blooms.

Blue-green algae is again popping up in waters across Florida, the Tampa Bay Times reported this week. The problem has led the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to consider new limits on how much toxic algae should be allowed in the state’s waterways.

But these limits would only be used to determine when to declare public emergencies, not as a tool to prevent such emergencies, a DEP spokeswoman told the Times. Environmental advocates rightly argue that the limits should be used to stop practices that cause algae blooms to be longer lasting and more widespread, such as pollution from inappropriately located septic tanks and agricultural operations.

During this spring’s state legislative session, lawmakers considered but failed to pass new regulations on septic tanks and other pollution sources. Instead they passed and DeSantis signed a budget that repeats many of the same mistakes that allowed Florida’s environment to deteriorate.

The state continues to spend big to make up for the mistakes of polluters while dedicating too little money to the most promising solutions. Lawmakers again shortchanged the Florida Forever land-conservation program, ignoring the will of voters who passed an amendment requiring otherwise.

Even the $100 million dedicated to springs restoration provides little assurance of improvements. As Robert Knight of the Florida Springs Institute told The Sun, some restoration projects have done good but there is no evidence of a turnaround at any major spring as nitrate pollution rises and spring flows decline.

The state needs more than voluntary practices to control pollution from agricultural operations and more aggressive steps to prevent pollution from home septic tanks and fertilizer. These measures would benefit Florida’s springs as well as the waterways again experiencing algae blooms.

Warming temperatures mean these problems will only worsen unless we do things differently. If Florida wants to avoid another summer of slime this year and for years to come, we must start listening to what nature is telling us.

The Gainesville Sun editorial board

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