Guest Column: Legislature dropped the ball on toxic green algae

 

We urge DeSantis to make sure the task force addresses the needs of all of Florida’s waters — including the St. Johns — and focuses on stopping pollution at its source.

These are the two most important points to remember.  The high visibility of the red tide kill and the gross, green algae catch our attention, but we must remember that all of North Florida is suffering a similar crisis of impaired water flow and increase in nutrient pollution.  This has gone forgotten because it is much less visible.

The second point is even more important, as our water leaders  have not the spine nor are they ready to take on pollution sources; mainly agriculture and the septic problem and we must add the developers bringing more people into areas where there is not enough water.

We are tired of listening to them bragging about how much money they spend on little band aids for the symptoms, never once attacking the sources.  Their message is that if they spend enough money, they are doing their job.  They are fooling no one.

Tallahassee and local authorities should listen to Lisa Rinaman and the other riverkeepers and to Bob Knight, Jim Gross, John Moran, Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson, Lu Merritt, Bob Palmer, Linda Young and many, many others who are in this battle for our lives.

Read the original article here in the Florida Times Union.

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


Guest Column: Legislature dropped the ball on toxic green algae

By Lisa Rinaman

Posted May 18, 2019 at 2:01 AM

Earlier this month the Florida Legislature wrapped up its 2019 session without passing one bill to protect Florida waters from toxic blue green algae. What began as a promising year ended in bitter disappointment. Our elected officials put the polluters’ interests over those of Floridians.

Meanwhile, our St. Johns River is suffering from widespread harmful algal blooms — fueled by nutrient pollution — from Lake George to Racy Point north of Palatka.

Toxins produced by the blooms can affect your liver and nervous system; recreational contact can also cause rashes, nausea, diarrhea and respiratory stress.

State agency data indicates this is just the beginning of what could become a much larger toxic algae outbreak on the St. Johns River.

This type of algae can acquire unlimited nitrogen for growth from the atmosphere — and high levels of phosphorous are fueling its expansion. Unfortunately phosphorous levels are elevated in the St. Johns River from its headwaters all the way to Jacksonville. Why? It is partly due to the runoff of South Florida’s sewage sludge that is being disposed of in the St. Johns River’s upper basin.

Sadly this is no surprise: it is why we have been advocating for the last year for reasonable and responsible environmental protections from sewage sludge.

We thank state Sen. Debbie Mayfield and state Rep. Erin Grall for their efforts to pass urgently needed legislation to address this serious problem.

Unfortunately their proposed legislation was hijacked by the polluters’ lobbyists, and all of the potential relief and protections were lost. So the disposal of sewage sludge on farmlands adjacent to our river continues unabated while toxic blue green algae threatens our economy and our health.

Floridians deserve better.

Florida’s waters deserve better.

While the Legislature failed to act, Gov. Ron DeSantis deserves credit for creating a Blue Green Algae Task Force that will “support key funding and restoration initiatives and make recommendations to expedite nutrient reductions.”

However, it appears that the focus will primarily be on Lake Okeechobee and the downstream estuaries.

Nutrient pollution and toxic algae blooms are not a regional problem; they are affecting waterways throughout our state.

We urge DeSantis to make sure the task force addresses the needs of all of Florida’s waters — including the St. Johns — and focuses on stopping pollution at its source.

Lisa Rinaman is the St. Johns Riverkeeper.

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