By Ron Patrick
September 18, 2016
Florida elected leaders have embarked on a path to allow even more pollution in our waterways. At a time when the governor of Florida failed to appoint the environmental seat and the local government seat to the Florida Environmental Regulatory Commission, the commission voted on July 26 to adopt weakened water quality standards.
While 4-foot deep algae blooms 10 miles long smother manatees, frackers are pounding at the gate with a green light to release ever higher levels of benzene and other carcinogenic fracking wastewater chemicals into Florida waterways.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) documented in 2010 that practically all Florida’s surface waters, including coastlines, were impaired at the maximum measurement of water quality at that time. This means Florida waters are unfit for one or more intended purposes, including maintaining sufficient oxygen levels to support aquatic life.
Today, after years, decades actually, spent working on chronic pollution, one would expect to see improved water quality, not collapsing coastline ecosystems.
Whether we talk about regulations, developed encroachment, upstream diversion, algae blooms, brown water or rain, our elected officials are responsible for protecting Florida’s surface waters and coastlines. Sadly, DEP is so downsized, underfunded and diminished that now we have a collapsing coastline which even six years ago was documented to be 100 percent impaired.
It is unacceptable for the governor of Florida to say, “What is important is how much money we give back (to the taxpayers).” His stated priority obviously stops at dollars.
And his environmental priority awareness obviously excludes aquatic life support, taxpayers who expect to be able to take their kids to the beach safely, eat safe seafood, swim in safe rivers and continue to drink safe water.
All waters need to be clean and maintained for reasons that should be obvious: sustenance, recreation and public safety, to name some. Florida’s waters especially.
Florida’s waters once cleaned and filtered dirty and swollen overflow from areas upstream to Florida and provided clean water for coastline estuaries. But polluted waters don’t filter. Polluted waters become more polluted. And after an extended period of neglect, life sustaining ecosystems begin to collapse as we are now experiencing.
That is where we are now, as laid out by the disturbing article from Kevin Spear of the Orlando Sentinel, and printed in the Tallahassee Democrat: “Florida coastal environments collapsing.”
This is not what democracy looks like. This is a swelling public safety crisis.
The question is: What will the general public do now? Step away, or step up?
Ron Patrick is a certified government financial manager and a retired senior legislative policy analyst for the Florida Legislature.