Water sample at Fort Myers beach — Cheryl Cagle Jones
❝ Just in time for tourist season, both of Florida’s coasts are being flooded by dark, polluted water that’s killing ocean creatures and turning away would-be swimmers, fishermen, and other visitors.
❝ Last month was South Florida’s wettest January since 1932. Because of the heavy rain, the water levels in Lake Okeechobee in central Florida rose to about a foot above what’s normal for this season. On top of that, water managers began to pump dirty water from flooded farms into the lake, adding more pollution to a body of water that already contains fertilizers and other chemicals from the state’s cattle and sugar industries.
At the same time, officials began to worry that the rising lake waters would put stress on its aging dike, so they decided to drain the lake toward the east and west coasts. Some 70,000 gallons per second flowed into the St. Lucie River and the Caloosahatchee River all the way through to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. And as the toxic runoff spreads, it’s threatening sea grasses and oyster beds and is adding to harmful algae growth.
❝ Now the tourism industry and small businesses on the coasts are worried that they’re going to see their business slump as a result of the pollution. Local politicians are calling on Governor Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency, and mayors are traveling to Washington, D.C. to demand action from Congress and the Army Corps of Engineers…
According to David Guest, managing attorney of the Florida branch of the environmental law group Earthjustice, the pollution is not going to end any time soon…“The lake is basically a toilet,” Guest says. Florida’s powerful sugar industry has stood in the way of the state purchasing land south of the lake that could be used to build a waterway to direct dirty water to the Everglades, cleansing it along the way.
Enjoy your Spring Break, gang. Let us know how if the beaches in Florida smell as bad as the state politics.