Google+

Toxic Algae Harms Floridians’ Health & the $57 Billion Yearly Tourism Economy

Toxic Algae Harms Floridians’ Health & the $57 Billion Yearly Tourism Economy

Luckily, there is a ready and easy fix to this deadly algae problem.

Tallahassee, FL – (September 15) Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) first warned about the dangers of toxic algae outbreaks in a 2000 scientific report – eleven years ago. Life threatening algae blooms and fish kills from sewer, manure and fertilizer pollution still persist. The toxic algae problem in Chesapeake Bay was resolved with advanced wastewater treatment systems thatcut pollution at a cost of only $2.50 per household per month.

David Guest, Managing Attorney for Earthjustice’s Tallahassee office, has incourtrooms around Florida successfully tried environmental cases for the past 20 years which in one way or another were all about water.  Monica Reimer has been a staff attorney with the Tallahassee Office of Earthjustice since 2003. In 2002, her victory in an off-shore oil drilling case was reported as a landmark case in the National Law Journal. David or Monica is available for interviews September 19—October 7 to give up-to-date answers, discuss actions that residents can take and can discuss any aspect of this issue including the three questions below.

Why was the EPA forced to step in?

Since 1998, Earthjustice has been using legal action to get the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to apply pressure on Florida’s DEP to set limits on this toxic pollution. The EPA’s action to set new pollution limits for Florida came in the summer of 2009 — a year after Earthjustice filed its 2008 suit in the Northern District of Florida on behalf of the Florida Wildlife Federation, St. John’s Riverkeeper, and other Florida groups. The suit challenged the decade-long delay by the state and federal government in setting limits for nutrient pollution.

The EPA entered into a settlement agreement and established new water pollution limits that were the same as the Florida state limits set by DEP based on the samenumeric criteria mandated under the Bush administration that set limits for phosphorus and nitrogen compounds which triggered deadly growths of algae in waterways throughout Florida. These limits by the Bush Administration came about as a result of Florida’s failure to meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act. During the comment period, the agency received 22,000 comments, with 20,000 in support of the new standards but polluters continue to fight compliance.

Now, after lobbyist and polluters have fought these established regulations, the Florida DEP is, again, in the process of setting new statewide standards for phosphorus and nitrogen pollution. Unfortunately, the rules that state regulators have proposed so far are highly inadequate to protect public health and clean up the waters. It is critical that the state’s polluters do not end up writing the DEP’s water-pollution rules. It is critical that our state regulators protect the public, not the polluters.

What are the health impacts from toxic algae that Floridians and tourists have experienced?

In 2008, over 1,000 miles of Florida’s rivers and streams, 350,000 acres of Florida’s lakes, and 900 square miles of its estuaries were contaminated by sewage, fertilizer or manure pollution. Toxic algae has caused respiratory problems, neurological damage, nausea, diarrhea, rashes, and even death for Floridians, their pets, and tourists with hundreds of emergency room visits each year and has also contaminated drinking water for thousands. The toxic algae pollution has become so frequent and serious that the Florida Department of Health now hands out educational materials that ask people: “Have You Been Slimed?” Callers to the state’s Aquatic Toxins Hotline (1-888-232-8635) hear a recording which warns: “It is very important that pets, livestock and small children are kept out of water suspected of having a blue green algae bloom since there have been many reported cases of animals dying after drinking highly contaminated water.”Residents should report any toxic algae outbreak in waters immediately to their County Health Departments and should not touch the water.

What are the economic impacts of algae outbreaks throughout Florida’s waterways?

Florida’s economy is driven largely by real estate and tourism. Waters with toxic algae put both of these sectors in jeopardy. Visitors from around the globe come to Florida for its clear, sandy-bottomed rivers, streams, lakes, springs, bays, beaches and for the beauty and revitalization that they experience, bringing $58 billion in tourism yearly. When visitors come here and see dead fish and “No Swimming” signs, they won’t come back, and that affects our state budget and jobs. When algae outbreaks occur, workers at hotels, charter and commercial fishing boats, beachfront concessions, restaurants, bars, and waterfront rentals all pay the price.

In 2005, one of the worst toxic algae outbreaks ever recorded happened at Southeast Florida’s St. Lucie River and estuary. The entire river was covered with bright green slime. It wasn’t safe to touch the water. Waterfront property values in the area suffered a permanent decline of a whopping $500 million after the outbreak.

In June of this year an algae outbreak in the Caloosahatchee River near Fort Myers turned the river bright green, smelled like raw sewage, and killed hundreds of fish. In August a large algae outbreak slimed Old Tampa Bay.  In earlier years, there were nauseating algae outbreaks on popular Florida tourist beaches like Sanibel Island and at fishing meccas like the St. Johns River near Jacksonville.

FLORIDIANS CAN TAKE ACTION

The way to make Florida’s waters clean again is to limit this pollution at its source, by upgrading old sewer plants, using modern manure management on agricultural operations and being smarter about applying fertilizer but powerful interests who profit from free disposal of pollutants in public waterways continue to fight new standards and argue that regulations would cost millions to the phosphate, property and agriculture industries.  They fail to mention the sickness and death that has resulted and the billions that water pollution has posed to fishing, tourism, waterfront real estate, and health related expenses.

Residents should report any toxic algae outbreak immediately to their County Health Departments and should not touch the water. If exposed they can call the state’ Aquatic Toxins Hotline (1-888-232-8635).

At www.earthjustice.org, click on Take Action in the top heading, and find Let’s Keep Florida’s Waters Clean, to easily forward a letter to the EPA, your Senators, and your Representative.

David Guest is the Managing Attorney of Earthjustice’s Tallahassee office. In 1978, he graduated from the University of Chicago Law School where he was a member of the law review. He has a B.Sc. in Government and Economics from Florida State University. In courtrooms around Florida David has tried environmental cases for the past 20 years which were all about water. Before development, half of Florida was under water during the wet season and its 1,500 miles of coastline were teeming with life. But its beauty invited its consumption. Millions of acres were drained and converted into agricultural, industrial, and urban developments. As a result, rivers and lakes are being polluted and closed off to the public, groundwaters are being rapidly depleted by uncontrolled withdrawals from aquifers, and the lives that depend on water are threatened.

Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment.

David Guest or Monica Reimer is available for interviews from September 19—October 7.

Please call Antonette Badami, Caplan Communications, 303.997.4037 orAntonette16@aol.com.

Entertainment

Mark Wahlberg Vehicle Revisits BP Oil Spill

  Deepwater Horizon Blu-Ray Review by Kam Williams Mark Wahlberg Vehicle Revisits BP Oil Spill On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, located 41 miles off the coast of Louisiana, exploded when high-pressure methane gas blew out the drill pipe. 11 members of the crew perished in the ensuing fiery inferno which engulfed the platform. The accident also caused the worst oil spill in U.S. history, with over 200 million … [Read More its Good for You.....]

Books

Concerned Father Creates Children’s Book Series To Help Make Learning About Valuable Black History Information Fun Again

  Concerned Father Creates Children's Book Series To Help Make Learning About Valuable Black History Information Fun Again   Orlando, FL (January 16, 2017) – EOTO Books & Publishing announced today the immediate release of “The Christopher OluFela Series of Books for Kids” written by father and creative children’s picture book author Lee Chavous. The books take a unique approach to inform young readers of a rich African American … [Read More its Good for You...]

Art

The Day After the Day Of

  The Day After the Day Of by Paul Ilechko   The sky sheds its tears. This morning is the morning of the day after. The day of mourning, the day after the day of.  I beseech the sky to shed tears in order to wash away the tears on my face.   This is the first day of the time after. This is the beginning of a new time, the days of pain, the days of sorrow. We are in mourning. The sky looks down and sheds its tears for … [Read More its Good For You...]

Real Estate

History Being Sold to the Highest Bidder

  History Being Sold to the Highest Bidder by Amy Lignor   For the longest time, scientists and archaeologists have been confused and bemused by various discoveries they’ve unearthed that offer little or no explanation as to the who, what, and why of the people who created these things or left them behind. Even now, in 2017, there are discoveries being studied; stories that were once legends now have actual bits of proof being found that … [Read More its Good for You.....]

Lifestyle

Groundswell for Chazelle!

  Damien Chazelle The “La La Land” Interview with Kam Williams Groundswell for Chazelle! Damien Chazelle wrote and directed the Academy Award-winning Whiplash which landed five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay for Chazelle. The movie won a trio of Oscars in the Film Editing, Sound Mixing and Supporting Actor (J.K. Simmons) categories. In 2013, his short film of the same name won the Short Film … [Read More its Good for You...]

Outdoors

Carolina Skiff at Miami’s Favorite Boat Show

  Carolina Skiff at Miami's Favorite Boat Show By Craig Lamb You might say “new” is a reoccurring theme of Miami’s favorite boat show coming up soon. A new location with hundreds of new boats, including never-before-seen models being debuted by Carolina Skiff, is a great way to kick off the season. Few boat shows offer buyers the chance to see new boats where they ultimately belong—floating on the water in a real time setting. You can … [Read More its Good for You...]

Sports

Can Troy Aikman Win MVP?

  Can Troy Aikman Win MVP? by Amy Lignor   What a strange title for an article, aye? Of course the ‘old man’ of the Dallas Cowboys can’t win MVP. Troy Aikman was an elite QB, with three Super Bowl rings to prove that fact. However, Aikman hasn’t actually suited-up since leaving behind his Cowboys uniform in 2001. The number one overall draft pick in 1989, Aikman was the MVP of Super Bowl XXVII, and was elected to the Pro Football … [Read More its Good for You...]

Business

Spotlight on Africa

  Spotlight on Africa by Amy Lignor   As the year winds down and comes to a close, it is Africa that is receiving some headlines that call for many changes and improvements to be made in the coming years. It was Ambassador Amina Mohamed (Nairobi, Kenya) that spoke recently about the African Union Commission (AUC) and how the group must provide leadership in the coming years. After all, the nation of Africa is, in truth, the cradle … [Read More its Good for You...]

Travel

The Grandest New Year’s Celebrations Around the World

    The Grandest New Year’s Celebrations Around the World by Amy Lignor   Oh, yes…there are many, many places to travel in order to ring in that New Year in style. Some people have already stated that they see 2017 becoming one of the ‘best of the best’ years the world has ever seen – from technology to business to education to even “going greener” – heck, green has even been chosen as the top color of 2017. But where should you … [Read More its Good for You...]

Green Living

2017 Will Be Green!

    2017 Will Be Green! by Amy Lignor   This statement is not a “hopeful” imagination talking; it is actually quite true. Very recently the Pantone Color Institute declared that green will most definitely be THE color for 2017. This is a company that calls themselves the “global color authority,” and states that everything from high fashion to trends will be on the green path throughout next year. So…when we look at a “green” … [Read More its Good for You...]