Algae bloom engulfs Florida’s Lake Okeechobee as agricultural operations dump nitrogen and phosphates – ‘Enjoy your vacation on Playa Guacamole’Posted by Jim at Friday, July 15, 2016
By Carl Hiaasen
8 July 2016
(Miami Herald) – They say a picture tells a thousand words.
If it’s a picture of an algae-covered beach, it can also cancel thousands of hotel reservations.
That’s the new dread in Florida, as photos and news videos of gunk-covered shorelines are making headlines all over the world. Why would anyone bring their families to vacation on Playa Guacamole?
And do they even make haz-mat suits in children’s sizes?
The likely cause of the algae outbreak that has slimed beaches on both Florida coastlines is fouled fresh water from Lake Okeechobee, which the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began discharging after heavy rains in January. Nitrogen and phosphates from massive agricultural dumping into the lake fuel algal blooms, which worsen in the summer heat.
This latest outbreak is spectacularly ugly, toxic to health and devastating to local marine and tourist-based businesses. Hardest hit is Martin County, on the Treasure Coast, where scummy Lake O water has poured into the saltwater estuary from the St. Lucie River.
Gov. Rick Scott has reacted with unwavering impotence, declaring one state of emergency after another while blaming the federal government for failing to upgrade the dike surrounding the lake so that more dirty water can be retained.
Cleaning up that dirty water is not a priority for this Republican governor or this Republican-led Legislature. In exchange for a deluge of campaign donations, they have worked steadfastly to gut pollution regulations and put the biggest polluters in control of state water policy.
This year their shameless sellout was complete. One of the worst water management bills in Florida history was passed and quickly signed by Scott, basically allowing big agricultural operations to police their own chemical discharges with little or no enforcement by the state.
Meanwhile, most of the millions of dollars earmarked by voters for the purchase of conservation lands continues to be diverted by lawmakers for other expenses. The constitutional amendment overwhelmingly approved almost two years ago by Floridians is now toilet paper in the governor’s mansion. [more]