Dead marine life in Florida – 08/21/2005

  • November 1, 2013 at 8:12 pm #913

    Dead marine life is the consequence of lax regulation

    The sea turtles now washing up on Florida’s southwest shores are a
    sad reminder of the assault that’s been going on for years against
    the Gulf of Mexico, courtesy of polluters and lax regulators in
    Tallahassee and Washington.

    The scientific warnings about the Gulf’s ill health are coming true.
    This year’s spectacle is dead turtles, more than 77 of them off the
    southwest coast since July. But it isn’t just turtles: About 58 dead
    manatees have also been hauled in since March, and the U.S. Fish and
    Wildlife Service says they died from red tide, just like the turtles.
    Last year’s national TV news showed dead dolphins, washing up all
    over the Panhandle in March while tourists walked gingerly by,
    holding their noses.

    Fishermen and divers say that there is a 2,000-square-mile Gulf “dead
    zone” stretching from Pasco County to Sarasota. The dead zone – the
    worst most can remember – is littered with dead fish, crabs, corals
    and shellfish.

    The red tide that is killing these sea creatures is fed by extra
    nutrients that wash into the water from polluted rivers, factory-
    sized dairies, industrial pipes, poorly planned development and
    outdated sewage treatment plants. This pollution is tipping the
    biological apple cart we all depend on for fishing, swimming and

    Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection isn’t helping
    matters. In office buildings far from the beaches where dead sea
    creatures are washing in, Gov. Jeb Bush’s bureaucrats are making
    changes on paper that reverberate to our coastline.

    The trouble started in 1999 and continues through today. The DEP
    decided to remove hundreds of waterways from the state’s official
    cleanup list. The state worked closely with polluting industries to
    craft the list, which included such notoriously polluted waterways as
    Taylor County’s black and smelly Fenholloway, the only Florida river
    ever officially set aside as an “industrial” waterway. The DEP had no
    business taking the Fenholloway off the cleanup list! DEP also wiped
    many waterways off the list that are clearly in need of help,
    including parts of Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades, Tampa Bay,
    Charlotte Harbor, Pensacola Bay, the Suwannee and St. Johns rivers,
    as well as polluted waters off the crowded southeastern coast.

    Even though Florida’s actions violated one of America’s premier
    environmental laws – the federal Clean Water Act – the U.S.
    Environmental Protection Agency refused to step in and correct
    Florida’s mistakes. It took a lawsuit filed by the Clean Water
    Network, Sierra Club and others to finally get EPA’s attention.

    Now, in a victory for the public, the EPA is admitting for the first
    time in court documents that Florida illegally changed its water
    quality standards and violated the Clean Water Act.

    Incredibly, Florida’s DEP has released a new list of polluted waters
    to come off the state cleanup plan – an action that defies the Clean
    Water Act, a federal court order, and now the EPA’s own findings. The
    newest list has 151 waters that are to be deleted. That brings the
    statewide total to 487 polluted waters that DEP refuses to recognize
    as needing better protection.

    It’s a sad fact that more than 30 years after the Clean Water Act
    promised clean water, an overwhelming majority of Americans live
    within 10 miles of a polluted river, lake or coastal water.

    All this legal maneuvering over Florida’s cleanup list is dry stuff
    carried out in sterile courtrooms, but it has a dramatic impact on
    the waters we use for fishing, drinking and swimming. It also affects
    our property values and Florida’s economy. Bureaucrats in Tallahassee
    shouldn’t be allowed to erase waterways off a paper list, leaving
    real pollution to kill turtles, dolphins, fish and manatees – as well
    as making swimmers sick. Even the bureaucrats in Washington are
    beginning to admit it.

    How many more dead turtles, manatees, dolphins and fish will it take
    before Florida cracks down on polluters?

    Linda Young is director of the Southeast Clean Water Network, a
    Tallahassee-based coalition of 155 grassroots organizations working
    to protect Florida’s waters. She can be reached at

    Linda Young

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