Toxic Algae at My House – Again

 

 

 

Here is what we are seeing around the Greater Stuart, Florida area this week. Yes, it’s back – the Toxic Bluegreen Algae.

The last time I wrote about toxic algae was the Summer of 2016. Our beaches were closed over the Fourth of July weekend because the water was polluted by blooming bluegreen algae – cyanobacteria that spawns toxic Microcystin if it blooms. I am not certain the toxic part is well understood, the toxins (among them microcystin) can cause rashes, upset stomach, breathing difficulties and are implicated in causing ALS (Lou Gehrigs disease) and non alcohol related liver disease. Oh, by the way, the area I live in has the largest unexplained cluster of liver disease in the country. Many people drink and bathe in well water. Follow link below for more information.

Liver Disease info

Florida Sows Sewage

How does the algae get to my house, you may wonder.  It comes down the St. Lucie River from Lake Okeechobee where the State of Florida brews a toxic stew in the Lake and the Federal Government’s Corps of Engineers open the floodgates to prevent flooding downstream. Who is responsible – no one entity. The toxic stew is caused partially by poor land development management and storm runoff measures and the continuation by the state of Florida allowing large Agricultural entities to sow partially treated human sewage (Class B Biosolids) as fertilizer on enormous swaths of land. Then the state doesn’t inspect, regulate or oversee any of it. Best Management Practices BMPs, (practices that are developed to prevent nutrient runoff from fertilizers -nutrients feed algae) – Agricultural BMPs are in place in Florida but were rolled back to voluntary by the current gang in power.

Would you get a driver’s license if there were no requirements, meaning voluntary? Think about it.

Class B Biosolids are currently under consideration as the culprit in the impending ruination one of the last pristine lakes in Florida, Blue Cypress Lake. Toxic Bluegreen Algae is keeping everyone out of the water there this summer.  Interestingly, the practice of spreading biosolids was outlawed in two out of three of the nearby watersheds due to problems with phosphorous (nutrient) pollution. Ironically, the sewage polluting Blue Cypress Lake originates in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale and is used as fertilizer to grow Bahiagrass to feed cattle 200 miles north.

Blue Cypress Lake

Cattle Produce Manure, a lot of Manure

About one quarter of the land area in Florida is agricultural. In addition to all the fertilizer used to grow grass for grazing and crops, there are 1.6 million head of cattle in the state, producing 67 pounds of manure each daily on average. We are drowning our water resources in sewage. To what end.

The end of tourism – a 67 Billion Dollar Industry?  Tourists really like clean water.

The end of land development – 6 million additional residents are projected by 2030! They are going to have to poop somewhere  and they like clean water, too.

The end of Agriculture – how much sewage can you sow before your nest is fouled? Plants and animals like clean water, too.

As for me, I like clean water and can only opine that something needs to change, soon and drastically. Our experience this year with our government and leaders thus far has been nothing short of tragic.

An email to my County Commissioner (from last week) – unanswered. Really kind of strange, if I had to name the most hated person in Martin County, he would be at the top of nearly everyone’s list I have encountered locally. I have never met the guy.

The State Department of Environmental Protection – answered but is not testing all algae sites reported. Our community has a toxic algae Facebook page. That the DEP admitted to reading. More than strange, they read our social media yet don’t follow upon algae sightings.

The State said the County Commissioners should issue health warnings about the algae, the County said the State Health Department should issue health warnings about the algae. Our Facebook community started a change.org petition to get our county to post signs about the algae.

The scuttlebutt from Martin County was the algae wasn’t toxic enough to issue warnings. It is toxic but not toxic enough.

I would never have imagined the entire chain of command for the State of Florida, charged with protecting our life safety cannot even be bothered to post warning signs near swimming areas.

When Florida sows sewage, algae blooms in our estuary.

Toxic Government?

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Toxic Algae at My House

I feel as if I have been ranting about the Toxic Bluegreen Algae we have been inundated with here on the Treasure Coast of South Florida, but I think most of my ranting has been on Facebook. I like to keep the pretty things on my blog. I apologize in advance as this is about as not pretty as you can get.

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I live near the end of the St. Lucie River on the east coast of South Florida. It is entirely possible you have seen this on the news. For the first time, I am happy to not have a riverfront home. We have been overrun by a toxic, festering stew of algae from the center of our state. Our shores are fouled, wildlife is dying and for what reason?

Here is an oversimplification of the story:

About 90 years ago, in the name of flood control and agricultural interests two canals were dug to prevent overflow from Lake Okeechobee, the big hole seen in all maps in the center of Florida. A dike was added a few years later to hold the water back and named for Herbert Hoover. The dike is currently in questionable condition and thousands of people live below it. For drainage purposes the lake was connected by these canals to two rivers, the St Lucie (to the Atlantic) and the Caloosahatchee (to the Gulf of Mexico) Agricultural interests surround and (much of it cattle) drain surface water into Lake O. In the past year or so the state of Florida relaxed all of its formerly mandatory pollution surface water rules on agriculture and viola! We are now in the midst of a historic outbreak of Toxic Bluegreen Algae. This particular type of algae thrives on phosphorous and nutrient laden water from, yes, agriculture. The algae bloom in Lake O is currently 30 square miles.

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The toxic aspect of this algae is released into the air as it turns blue. It can contain neurotoxins and heptatoxins causing anything from sinus problems and rashes to liver failure if ingested. ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) has been associated with these toxins.

Local blogger/ River Warrior Cyndi Lenz famously said ‘it smells like death on a cracker’

Local firebrand /River Warrior Marjorie Shropshire famously said, I am paraphrasing ‘our river has been turned into the anus of Lake Okeechobee’. Marjorie braved the toxic stew to take all of these photos and graciously shared them.

In addition to all the excess nutrients in the lake, we have also had an extremely wet dry season, causing excess water in the lake and necessitating more nutrient/algae polluted water to be flushed down our estuaries. The old Herbert Hoover dike ain’t what it used to be and no one will own up to taking care of it. It should be noted the estuaries of both rivers are somewhat salty naturally, but by virtue of the vast quantities of water added the rivers are now fresh water. Decimating much of the plant and animal life that thrives in salty waters.

A state of emergency was declared in the county I live in, Martin. Nothing has happened that I have observed. This toxic algae event was featured in the media over the Fourth of July holiday weekend as most of the beaches were closed in the area due to the algae. I am personally not going in the water anytime soon.

The US has a governmental agency called the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA is designed to protect, yes, our environment. So, I contacted them and was told this was not in their jurisdiction! Non point source pollution is a state issue and the state relaxed their rules. Oversimplified explanation:

EPA only has jurisdiction over point source polluters: Point pollution comes from one place. For example, if  Billy Bob’s sausage factory throws 10,000 dead pigs in the river the EPA busts them.
Florida has non point jurisdiction. Hypothetically, if, 10,000 people threw dead pigs in the river, it is OK because Florida really doesn’t care. This evidenced by no rules governing the tossage of dead pigs/toxic pollution/fertilizer into the water. Result we have 10,000 dead pigs in the river and the EPA won’t touch it.
Ironically, because all this polluted water comes out at one spot it is technically point source pollution. When I brought this up with Mr. EPA I was told they wouldn’t enforce water quality standards (even though they have them) because this was an emergency to save the dike.
I was left with the strong feeling the EPA hasn’t stumbled into our waters for quite a while and they won’t be here anytime soon. To say the least this is extremely disappointing as I believe these are the only people who could possibly help the overtaxed estuaries and the people and the wildlife overcome the algae.
Another point brought up by Mr. EPA was the plan for fixing this gigantic problem, called CERP.  CERP is a massive 16 Billion dollar public works project to de engineer what is causing this problem. CERP is a 35 year /16 Billion dollar project unlikely to be funded, in my opinion. Begun in 2000 and designed by several hulking bureaucracies and overseen by the ‘concrete it and paint it green’ generation of engineers. I think we can do better. In the past 10 years the practice of civil engineering has become much greener and I think a better, cheaper and greener solution can be found. We need new leadership or a leader. I would like to see this solved in my lifetime as I am really not sure how much more of this our estuaries can take.
In all fairness, I should mention I contacted the state of Florida and the sounds of crickets in the distance was all I heard from them.
Does the life safety of the people below the potentially/perpetually failing Herbert Hoover dike outweigh the life safety of all the people, fish and anything in the way of the 10,000 dead pigs Florida and the Federal Government just flushed down the river, potentially killing every living thing in two estuaries?
 I don’t have any qualms about safely managing a dike – but what about all those dead pigs in the water, Governmental Entities? And what about those of us breathing the toxic air?
More crickets.
I rashly wrote a letter to Barack Obama, still waiting and hoping the White House might help.
The governor of Florida came out swinging when he asked the Federal Government to declare a Federal state of emergency here, saying it was the personal fault of the President that this happened. The Herbert Hoover dike was feeling queasy again.
We’re just down here looking at a poisonous, festering pool of dead pigs. Unfortunately, none of them politicians.
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