June 02, 2015
By Karl Wickstrom
Trey Wheeler of Florida Sportsman spotted this year's first large bloom of blue-green algae and Mike Conner recorded the evidence, on the lakeside of the Port Mayaca locks, headed for the St. Lucie Canal and estuary.
Over and over, we swallow the same old line. “Our Everglades water is cleaner than rain water.”
That's the claim not only from the sugar cane industry but from the government water managers who are Big Sugar's best buddies.
The cleaner-than-rain refrain sounds good. People tend not to question it.
After all, the chemistry of pollution is very tough science.
So, I ran the idea past four different experts who are not on sugar's pad. They all said the same thing. The claim is pure nonsense.
We're referring to the water coming and going in the Everglades Agricultural Area.
That's the 700,000-acre dirty behemoth just south of Lake Okeechobee.
Firstly, good old rain water contains some 30 parts per billion of phosphorus when it visits sugar land. Plants, mostly sugar cane, use that P greedily. And growers happily add trainloads more.
The end result is that water pumped south from the EAA into storm water treatment areas has been measured for many years at 140 ppb. Compare that to rainwater's 30 ppb.
“Bottom line is that sugar's runoff is four and five times dirtier than rain water,” said one of the experts, Dr. Paul Gray, an Audubon biologist highly regarded by virtually everyone.
It's the same situation with nitrogen, the twin culprit with phosphorus, causing eutrophication of the waters.
All of which begs the question as to why politicians and staff professionals don't sound the alarm better about toxic pollution. One reason is as simple as losing your
A newly retired Martin County health department official pulled no punches in an Internet posting the other day. He said he had felt intimidated for years by subtle warnings that he must downplay pollution problems.
To his credit, the official, Bob Washam, did indeed show courage in speaking up quietly against many abuses.
And he never tried to sell the fiction that EAA water is cleaner than rain water.