The important message here is that we must all pay for clean water.
We are still finger-pointing but we all know the causes: excessive fertilizer, stormwater runoff, septics and over pumping our aquifer. These are the issues to address.
Industry and agriculture have been getting a free ride. For them to use less fertilizer and less-polluting methods will cost them money, for which all citizens will have to help make up the deficit.
We have no other choice.
The following article from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune was reprinted in the Gainesville Sun on Monday, April 22, 2019, and can be seen at this link.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Florida must reduce water pollution
The Sarasota Herald-Tribune
The long, intense red-tide outbreak in the Gulf of Mexico that finally ended late last year, and the streaming waters filled with blue-green algae in South Florida, led to at least two beneficial results: It raised the consciousness of governments, businesses and residents in a state where environmental regulation had been devalued; it caused Floridians to ask whether they had contributed to the problems.
During and after the nasty episodes — which killed marine life, depressed tourism and triggered respiratory and perhaps other illnesses in humans — the search for causes and solutions intensified.
Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order intended to promote research and examine ways to mitigate the effects of pollutants on inland and coastal waters. Congress approved additional funds for research. The University of South Florida and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission re-evaluated their red tide reports. Media organizations examined spills of untreated and inadequately treated sewage containing, among other things, nutrients believed to fuel algal blooms.
These are all positive steps, although preliminary in nature.
Efforts to limit the flow of water, laden with nutrients and pollutants, into waterways have come a long way since the days when municipal sewage and industrial wastes were regularly dumped into creeks, rivers and bays.
Federal and state regulations adopted in the late 1970s and 1980s, accompanied by funding for local governments willing to build better treatment systems, reduced nutrient and pollutant loads dramatically and helped restore marine life and sea grasses.
These improvements came at significant costs and required both political and civic leadership. Local communities leveraged outside investments to substantially reduce ongoing pollution. Incremental steps were taken to eliminate septic tanks in areas with high water tables that prevent the individual systems from functioning efficiently. What’s more, some Florida counties have in recent years approved meaningful limits on the use of nutrient-filled fertilizers during the rainy season when runoff into waterways accelerates.
But, as reported by GateHouse Florida in a story published last week in The Sun, sporadic wastewater spills continue. And, perhaps just as damaging over the long term, municipalities such as Sarasota County have too many sewage plants that are not built to provide the highest levels of treatment that radically reduce nutrients in leftover wastewater.
Even though a recent report by USF and the state conservation commission cited ocean circulation as the major determinant of Florida’s red-tide outbreaks, it also concludes that “pollutants can exasperate an existing red tide.”
The available data on nutrient and pollutant loads are much improved, but additional research is warranted. It is needed, however, for the public and private sectors to recognize that reducing pollution from yards, farms, sewage-treatment and stormwater-management systems is warranted.
Prioritization of tasks will be important. But the most vital needs are political will and public support. These improvements will cost huge sums, and ratepayers and taxpayers will be the funding sources. Let’s hope that all the calls for action will be accompanied by a willingness of Floridians to pay for cleaner waters.
*Photo by Herald Tribune