Florida's coastal fisheries are being destroyed, as the Everglades and Florida Bay are starving for water.
Fed by polluted discharges from Lake Okeechobee, toxic blue-green algae are coating Florida’s east and west coasts, causing fish kills and closing businesses.
This most recent crisis in South Florida reinforces the need to clean and send the water south, as it would naturally flow, to Everglades National Park and Florida Bay that are starving for freshwater.
The State of Florida and the Army Corps of Engineers need to initiate planning this year for water storage, treatment, and flow south of the lake, through the Everglades Agricultural Area.
Edit and send this message to Florida's Governor Scott for a comprehensive evaluation of water storage needs that could benefit the Everglades.
Ten things to know about Florida's harmful algae blooms
1. What It Is and Where It Came From
The algae is a cyanobacteria found in Lake Okeechobee, which comes from the runoff containing human waste and fertilizers from nearby farms and ordinary neighborhoods, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as other nutrients in the polluted runoff, can act like fertilizer for the algae, creating large and extensive blooms.
2. Eager Developers Changed Florida's Waterways
In an attempt to spur the economy years ago, Florida land developers and government officials broke up the natural flow of the state's rivers, Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades to redirect water south from central Florida, according to the Associated Press. The economy did grow as the land was reclaimed from the Everglades for development, but now the unnatural water flow has periodically left rivers and lagoons so toxic with HAB that fish die off, residents become ill and tourists are turned off.
3. The Risks to Humans
If ingested, water contaminated with toxic cyanobacteria can cause nausea, vomiting and, in severe cases, acute liver failure, according to Florida's FWCC. While there have been no documented cases of anyone becoming ill from drinking water containing these toxins, it remains a concern. The Centers for Disease Control says coming in direct contact with the algae can cause a rash and some research indicates a link between long-term inhalation of toxic algae fumes and neurological disorders like Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease.
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"It's time the federal and state government understand how God-awful the problem is here," said Martin County Commissioner Doug Smith, referencing the 2010 oil spill that devastated wildlife along the Gulf of Mexico.
When the algae blooms die, they release toxins that cause rashes and could endanger wildlife.
The foul-smelling problem - which has closed beaches along the Treasure Coast - stems in part from stopgap measures put in place by the feds.
To preserve the aging earthen dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers routinely releases water to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers.
After floods devastated the area around the lake in the wake of a massive 1928 hurricane that killed 2,500 people, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began regulating lake water levels to minimise the risk of a dike breach.
Now, local officials are citing the lake discharges as the cause of the spreading blooms - although the South Florida Water Management District said that septic tanks and storm water runoff can also play a role
This season's high temperatures and heavy rainfall have only exacerbated the problem.
Florida algae and politics stink like sh . . . ugar
With a state of emergency covering four Florida counties, the stench and slime from toxic blue-green algae blooms in the state are covering the international media. It’s not a sweet sight, but it smells conspicuously like sugar. Big Sugar, to be exact.
Environmental scientists and experts tirelessly point to agricultural pollution and climate change as major contributors to the monster algae epidemic, but, incredulously, Florida’s political leaders just haven’t figured it out.
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Eight manatee deaths reported in Florida lagoon plagued by algae