November 1, 2013 at 8:12 pm #913MikeKeymaster
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
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outdated sewage treatment plants.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
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