DeSantis as “green governor”? More like ‘blue-green governor (algae)’

After the year we’ve had, many of us wish we could turn back time. But no one in Florida wants to go back to the devastating blue-green algae and red tide of the summer of 2018. Sadly, with recent reports of mass fish kills, guacamole-like water, record manatee kills and warnings for human health, we are already experiencing another slimy and smelly summer.

Jonathan Scott Webber [ Provided ]

Water and tourism are the backbone of our economy, but despite lofty election promises and hundreds of pages of water legislation aimed at cleaning up our water, we are not much better off than there was. a few years. How can we find ourselves, once again, in this situation with hundreds of tons of marine life dead from the red tide – this time in Tampa Bay – and residents sick after drinking contaminated tap water in West Palm Beach?

The fault lies squarely in Tallahassee, where leaders have failed to enact meaningful changes that will protect the health and beauty of our state.

Blue-green algae and red tide are harmful algal blooms that are dangerous to human health, wildlife and pets, and our economy. The severity of these epidemics is the byproduct of too many pollutants entering Florida’s oceans and waterways from sources such as fertilizers, sewage, and agriculture. Although blue-green algae and red tide are naturally occurring, they intensify rapidly and persist with the influx of pollutants. Additionally, rising water temperatures and erratic weather patterns caused by man-made climate change are fueling these water quality issues.

In 2019, Governor Ron DeSantis’ Blue-Green Algae Task Force produced a 10-page report on smart solutions to solve our water problems. The recommendations included more rigorous testing and monitoring of our waters and requiring farms to meet pollution reduction targets (currently voluntary). Experts on the task force have called on the state to prioritize pollution prevention rather than pouring taxpayer dollars into expensive and untested cleanup methods. And they looked for defensible human health criteria for the cyanotoxin that has killed pets and made people sick.

In 2020, the enormous and dubiously named “Clean Waterways Act” had ample opportunity in its 111 pages to fit into the recommendations of the task force. This is not the case. That’s why reputable scientific organizations like the Waterkeepers and the Florida Springs Council opposed it.

During the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers introduced a bill to require the governor and his agencies to implement the task force’s science-based solutions. This bill died without even a single hearing at Florida House. Water advocates have also backed other bills that would strengthen pollution reduction targets, add fees to bottled water companies that suck our springs dry, set drinking water standards to protect human health and protect the wetlands that clean our drinking water. But without the leadership of Governor DeSantis or the legislature, these bills are also dead.

Fast forward to our summer 2021, rich in algae. At the last meeting of the Blue Algae Working Group in June – their first meeting in eight months – scientists were dismayed that our leaders had failed to follow the necessary prevention recommendations first outlined almost there. two years ago. The scientific recommendations of the task force to protect our water are indisputable. The only question that remains is whether or not our leaders have the political courage to do the job. The answer so far is: no, not even close.

Keeping Florida beautiful isn’t just an aesthetic. It is a plan for jobs, an economic plan and a statement of our values. At the end of another day plagued by dead fish and manatees, our legislators, led by the governor, are failing to meet the needs of Floridians. By flatly ignoring the task force’s recommendations and letting another legislative session go by without implementation, they have repeatedly failed hard-working Floridians who depend on clean water for a living in the tourism industry. dynamic Florida.

Tallahassee politicians, led by the self-proclaimed “Green Governor”, want you to think they care. But Florida’s increasingly polluted waters tell the real story. The proof is the pudding, or in our case, the guacamole. And if we can’t keep our waters clean, maybe it’s time to start calling DeSantis the “blue-green” governor.

Jonathan Scott Webber is the deputy director of Florida Conservation Voters, a statewide environmental advocacy group based in Tallahassee.

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