Legislation would prioritize human health and safety in water management.

Congressman Brian Mast (R-FL 18th District) is preparing legislation that would force the US Army Corps of Engineers to directly take into account the impacts of toxic releases on health and human safety when operating the overall Everglades/Lake O water management system.

According to Bullsugar.org Co-Founder Chris Maroney, “The legislation being drafted by Congressman Mast is the gold standard. It will do exactly what it says it does: reduce the toxic releases that annually create dangerous algae blooms across South Florida. We encourage all other members of the South Florida delegation to follow Congressman Mast’s lead and work with us towards legislation that actually protects the health and safety of South Floridians.”

As a result of discharges, our water has tested positive for microcystin 15 times more toxic than is safe for human contact

Toxic algae clots the St. Lucie River, one of many consequences of manmade Lake Okeechobee drainage.

Congressman Mast added, “As a result of discharges, our water has tested positive for microcystin 15 times more toxic than is safe for human contact, but in late July, water management officials looked me in the eye and tried to justify these discharges as being in the best interest of human health and safety. They seem to have forgotten, again, about the millions of people east and west of Lake O whose lives are being put at risk exactly because of their decisions. We will not let them ignore us any longer. Their backwards priorities must change, and working together, we will put an end to this destructive cycle of abuse.

This legislation offers a chance that the dynamics of the destructive Lake O releases will change permanently—exactly what the residents, businesses and ecosystems of South Florida need now.

Aerial view of discharges at the St. Lucie Lock

“Let’s make sure that regardless of the state of the existing water management system,” said Maroney of Bullsugar, “the priorities are set by and for the people of South Florida, not by and for a handful of billionaires in the EAA.

“To be clear, we are strong supporters of CERP, and of the EAA reservoir. We just think a little something extra like this legislation is needed to make sure everyone’s incentives are aligned. We are talking about legislation that will force the USACE to operate the entire system in a way that doesn’t hurt or kill people.

“Mast’s legislation can change things now, and Congress can make it happen. We need Florida’s congressional delegation of 27 house representatives and two senators to lead the charge.”

The legislation which Mast is preparing doesn’t have a big price tag: There are no construction or land costs, just rewriting of operating manuals and rules. It doesn’t have big delays, with endless toxic summers—the EAA reservoir won’t be ready for 10+ years, if everything goes perfectly, says Maroney.

Discharge pollution photo taken by concerned citizen Bill Yates

Even when the EAA reservoir is completed, experts agree that it won’t have enough storage and cleaning capacity to alleviate the need for discharges to the coasts. Even now, the sugar farmers south of Lake O, Maroney says, should be pushing for more storage and treatment too, because when adversity hits, as it always does in a system that’s under-designed for Florida’s extreme climate, sugar should feel that adversity as much as other stakeholders and above all,

“Public health and safety should be everyone’s top priority.

“When the sugar industry is experiencing crop loss on a par and frequency no less than that of toxic discharges and ecosystem collapse in our national parks, we’ll know we are starting to get the balance right — and everyone will have skin in the game to fix it for real,” Maroney said.

Congressman Mast’s upcoming legislation is good news, and everyone concerned about Florida’s water quality will be watching their representatives in the House and Senate to see who supports this important legislation in coming weeks.

About Bullsugar.org:

Bullsugar is dedicated to stopping the damaging discharges into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries and restoring the flow of clean freshwater to Florida Bay. Its voter guide is available at bullsugar.org/vote. Its social media following includes more than 320K followers on Facebook.

For more information on Bullsugar or to learn how you can help, please visit www.bullsugar.org or contact apreston@bullsugar.org

Load Comments ( )

Don’t forget to sign up!

Get the Top Stories from Florida Sportsman Delivered to Your Inbox Every Week