Fight The Slime, Florida – And Begin With Rick Scott
As Floridians begin seeing nitrate-generated slime on the waterways again this year, the slime in the Governor’s office continues to grow unabated. Despite throwing a crumb to environmentalists recently on Everglades protection, Governor Rick Scott and Florida’s Tea Party conspiracy theorists in Tallahassee continue to do nothing for the health and quality of Florida’s water – and their inaction is making it worse.
Florida is home to some of the most unique ecosystems in the nation. For decades, every Floridian was an environmentalist – knowing that the environment is essential to the quality of life of residents and to the state’s economy. But facts-be-damned for Rick Scott and his big business libertarian buddies who are enabled by the legislature. The people who are charged with protecting Florida would fillet and sell manatee meat if they thought they could make a dime off of it.
For years, Florida’s waterways have seen outbreaks of noxious slime that is caused by agriculture manure runoff, fertilizer runoff, and untreated sewage in the water. This year, the algae began happening earlier than normal – in late December and early January on Sanibel Island where dead fish covered the beaches.
The St. Johns River has experienced slime outbreaks every year for nearly a decade with the slime outbreak stretching 100 miles on the waterway at times. Again, manure runoff from farms, fertilizers used to keep water hogging St Augustine grass alive, under-treated sewage, and untreated sewage is the problem.
At the same time this is happening, the state has approved a pollution spewing pipeline for Koch Industries owned Georgia Pacific. The pipeline at the Palatka Georgia Pacific plant will be dumping 23 million gallons of polluted wastewater every day into the St Johns River.
To top it off, the St Johns River Water Management District plans to allow Central Florida to take 262 million gallons of water out of the river every day to feed their water habit. That’s right, remove 262 million gallons of clean water for lawns and replace it with 23 million gallons of wastewater from Koch Industries – every day. What could possible go wrong?
In June of this year a slime outbreak happened on the Santa Fe River in North Central Florida – home to 75 iconic springs. The river was blanketed with an unprecedented layer of the slime. Recent flooding on the Santa Fe, the Suwannee, and other rivers have flooded septic tanks and released unknown amounts of human waste into the water.
Also in June of this year a drinking water plant for 30,000 people on the Caloosahatchee River was shut down because of the nauseating slime. The historic Silver River, known for its crystal clear water and sandy, limestone bottom is now infested with weeds that are out of control – weeds that are fed by manure, fertilizer, and untreated sewage. The Silver River is home to the world famous Silver Springs.
The state wants to allow Adena Springs Ranch, which is in close proximity to Silver Springs, to take 13 million gallons of water a day from the aquifer – the very source of water for the springs. Among other things, Adena will spray the water onto fields to grow grazing plants and grasses for cattle. The resulting manure-polluted water will wash back into the waters nearby.
Then there are the lawn companies who blow grass clippings into storm drains. Untold numbers of gallons of petroleum produced fertilizers are sprayed on lawns annually in the state. Not only does watering and rain wash the fertilizer into the waterways, lawn companies rarely, if ever, bag the grass clippings for proper handling. The grass clippings are coated with fertilizers and, when blown into storm drains, go into nearest waterway at the next rainfall. Many municipalities do not have waste-water treatment adequate for cleaning the nitrates from fertilizer. Some do not have treatment at all.
The state is allowing an unprecedented draw of clean water by corporate interests and is allowing untreated wastewater in to replace it, thus creating a virtual “slime loop.” At the rate that water is currently being drawn from the aquifer near Silver Springs, the spring will stop flowing in 12 years by conservative estimates. In a worst case scenario, the spring will stop flowing in 20 months.
We aren’t getting any help from our elected “leaders” in Tallahassee. These people are so wrapped up in their debunked conspiracy theory of a United Nations take-over of the country via Agenda 21 that they cannot see the water for the manure coming our of their mouths. They are too busy complaining about the conspiracy theory of the EPA stopping oil and gas development because of an endangered lizard to think about the health of Florida’s water. Instead, they are giving away Florida’s fresh water to corporate interests while districts levy fines on grandma for watering her flowers on the wrong day.
Drew Bartlett, director of the Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration, can’t see the slime from his ivory towers in Tallahassee and would have us all believe that the problem does not exist. To see it for yourself, visit the Florida Slime Crime Tracker Map which is a good resource for finding out where slime has been reported. The tool also allows residents to report new areas where slime is discovered and upload photos of it.
All of this can be stopped if we could end the manure-produced slime coming out of the office of Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature. We need concrete and permanent steps to conserve water and to ensure that wastewater is properly treated before it enters the waterways.
Libertarians point to nature as an example of the self-directing and self-correcting system they want to apply to all aspects of the economy and to the environment. Yes, nature does a pretty good job of regulating, directing, and correcting itself – that is until humans dump fertilizer, manure, and Koch pollution all over it. Nature does a pretty good job until humans begin to muck it up.
We should start to regulate the use of fertilizers, we should start to move away from water-hogging St. Augustine grass that won’t grow without gallons of chemicals dumped on it, we should use smart technology to clean waste-water before it is released back into the environment, we should implement modern manure management for agriculture, and we should conserve water more effectively.
This is important to every Floridian. Fishermen need clean water to fish, hunters need clean water for game to drink from. Realtors and developers need clean water so that prime property isn’t fouled with dead fish and algae. The tourist industry needs clean water. Recreational boaters need clean water. The list goes on and on – clean water is important to Florida’s economy.
It is abundantly clear that the only way to protect Florida’s precious water requires a change in thinking by politicians, developers, and other corporate interests. It is also clear that this can only be done with a change in Tallahassee by electing leaders who will force destructive interests to do the right thing. – they will not do it voluntarily. Please don’t feed the algae – or the Florida Legislature. Fight the slime – stop Rick Scott. I am not going to shut-up about this.
By Jim Weeks
Sources, reference, and additional information:
Florida Water Coalition: Toxic Algae In Florida
St. Johns Riverkeeper: Fertilize Your Yard, Not The River
Naples News guest opinion: Slime Is A Statewide Problem – We Need To Act
Gainesville Sun: David Guest: The DEP is blind to state’s ‘green slime’
Florida Times-Union: Environmental protection statement ‘asinine’