The War for Clean Water!
The Lake Okeechobee Discharges
Negative effects have introduced themselves in many forms over the past few months since the Army Corps announced that SWFL would fall victim to yet another vicious round of “maximuim discharge.” The perfect storm of this ecological disaster in fact has now transpired to epic levels that none of us in SWFL has ever witnessed, or fallen victim to in the 80-year history since the man-made connection of our Caloosahatchee River to Lake Okeechobee.
The ripple effects from the discharges have just begun and will include: ecological genocide, local economical collapse, human health ramifications from a hacking cough, burning eyes, respiratory issues, to loss of limbs or loss of life itself from dangerously high bacterial levels, not to mention that Lake Okeechobee discharges chemical loads are now being linked to Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and ALS, and so many more it seems inconceivable.
Yet the real illness to overcome in SWFL pertaining to the age old Lake O. discharges is an age old dirty word of historical local mindset.
That cancer’s name is “COMPLACENCY!”
Throughout the 20 some years out of the 30 years I’ve resided on Fort Meyers Beach, I’ve been chopping away at the complacency tree. For each chop and swing I took, I received ten-fold the chop and swing back by a thought process that I would rather not ever speak locally about the Lake O. discharges and its negative effects.
I stood on bridges for 60 straight days to raise awareness about the harmful effects from the lake O. discharges and to ask our own mayor of FMB to create QR codes that would be placed by the town on every beach access sign. All could simply scan their smart phones upon the bar code and instantly all would be redirected via the web to the SCCF Lake O. Recon section of the website. Giving up-to-date, indisputable and factual evidence when it comes to the actual safety, or non safety of our waterways at that very moment. It could and very well would save someone’s life potentially, not to mention informing the same people whom our mayor presides over. The FMB mayor did not agree to the idea!
I went to D.C. just last week to lobby our congressional leaders about the harmful effects from the Lake O. discharges. Our own FMB community, along with many SWFL Clean Water Movement members raised funds through donations that reached into the thousands in less than five days.
This FMB and SWFL Clean Water Movement community had asked me to attend as their representative as a long-time clean water activist at the same time three local SWFL mayors would also be in D.C. to lobby for “a fix” to our water issues.
The mayor of Ft Meyers, during a press conference, was quoted as saying that everyone could and should go to D.C. with the mayors of SWFL.
I was the only one in that press conference crowd that day who decided to take that offer up.
Then the word got out that there was already a plan in action by our FMB and SWFL Clean Water Movement community to send me to D.C.
And they did.
So off to D.C. I went, via our FMB community. I had made all of my own scheduled appointments with our Congressional leaders prior to leaving FMB for D.C. and had a full two-day agenda at this point.
It turned out that my very first meeting was with the SWFL mayors early in the morning. The mayors began to yell at me.
The mayors began to tell me I wasn’t included, even though I had made my own agenda, and they
began to blame me for being in D.C., saying that it would be my fault if things went wrong there for them!
After a heated debate on the foundation of the first Amendment of the United States Constitution which clearly states that I have the right to freedom of speech, it was time to go to my scheduled meeting with United States Congressman Curt Clawson.
I ended up with 17 actual meetings with House and Senate members and the federal level of the EPA.
The SWFL mayors’ delegation did not want a free citizen, a clean water activist, a 2014 United States river champion award recipient, an FMB community member who happened to speak in D.C. twice since 2013 in front of Congress for our local waterways, and eight times at our state capitol building in three years about the lake O. discharges at the meetings in D.C. that was based on the ecological disaster that is the Lake O. discharges. Hmmm.
The SWFL mayors’ delegation on water quality has not even been formed for over five months now that
I’ve been speaking up for about 20 years.
The Lee County Health Department has not taken the initiative to erect even one sign informing people of possible tainted water, and still there is not one sign anywhere on FT MYERS beach to help educate, inform, and keep the general public in the loop regarding general public safety from the polluted waters sent from Lake O. down our river and into our coastal communities. The Lee County Health Department tested our waters last week, yet the problem is that they tested for bacterial levels in “bird droppings.”
The lack of local leadership shown here it seems to be par for course in the long history of complacency.
The point of this story is not “woe is me.” It is the idea that we, as a community, must fight through the years and years on end of complacent mentalities who would rather lead with fear rather then love.
I can assure you that anyone with any form of even blurred vision can clearly see something is very wrong with our local waterways due to the Lake O. discharges. I can assure you that I personally did not make the water brown. I will also strongly say that one of my main goals as a clean water activist was to make water quality as popular as football locally.
I do believe our entire FMB community has done that in fact by rising up against this history of complacency, while becoming the most aware and active people on this planet for clean water as a basic human right.
Why? Because, unlike the people in charge of our local and SWFL leadership, the people of FMB choose not to continue the sad history of complacency to stop the Lake O. discharges now.
If we choose to do nothing then we too are a part of the problem.
John G Heim
SWFL CLEAN WATER MOVEMENT.