Saturday, September 15, 2018

Talk Is Cheap, Pollution Is Cheaper

Let's see. Several months have passed. Where do things stand with our algae problem?

Red tide is still with us, emptying beaches to the north.

Dead fish and other assorted marine life have been cleared, the cleanup funded with state, not federal, money.

The St. Lucie emptying to the east and the Caloosahatchee emptying to the west, like conveyor belts from hell, continue to deposit toxic algal blooms to estuaries along each coast.

Talk of reducing, then increasing flows from the cesspool called Lake Okeechobee are dutifully reported with appropriate indignation.

U.S. Sugar is on the offensive to convince people it is not the villain. Full-page ads proclaim the cane farmers are responsible for only 1% of the polluted water entering Lake O. Most of the bad stuff
comes from the Kissimmee Basin to the north. And the major problem with the Caloosahatchee is not discharges from Lake O, say the sugar barons, but agricultural and residential runoff into the river on its way to the Gulf. Ah, now that's a relief.

How is Congress tackling the crisis? Some senators are calling for early-warning monitoring systems so we know when things are about to get really bad. A Florida congressman is filing a bill that would  redefine "public health and safety" and require a study of lake pollution and nutrient loading. That's how government works: Redefine and study.

The climate-change folks are jumping aboard. I just read a commentary that blamed global warming for red tide because it increased ocean temperatures. That's good to know. Perhaps we can solve the problem by covering the state with windmills and solar farms.

What has been done to reduce nutrient runoff, one of the main causes of algae growth and spread?  Not a single thing.

  • Smart-use fertilizer ordinances go unenforced.
  • Local governments churn out irrigation water that's loaded with nutrients.
  • Uncontained septic tanks are proliferating.
  • Tough standards for phosphorus in Florida's waterways are nowhere to be seen.
And real commitments to contain and clean up the water once polluted -- multiple reservoirs and filter marshes -- are embarrassingly absent, even in an election year.

So algae choking our waterways and red tide choking our beachgoers will be with us for some time.

How do we keep the tourists coming? A marketing head fake? Diverting attention from our beaches? Maybe marijuana is the answer. "Come to Florida for a high time in the sun." Pot smoke may crowd out the fumes from red tide.

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