Green Warning Signs Are on Our Rivers and Streams

Article excerpt

Byline: David Guest

A few miles from Florida's state capital, a lake has broken out with toxic algae that causes skin rashes and liver damage in humans and kills wildlife.

I wish I could tell you this was an isolated case.

The fact is hundreds of manatees, dolphins, birds and fish have been washing up dead on both the east and west coasts. Those waters are fouled by sewage, manure, fertilizer and sewage - pollution that fuels algae outbreaks.

How bad is it? Take a look:

- In Southeast Florida's Indian River Lagoon, algae outbreaks are causing what Discovery News calls a "mass murder mystery" - a dead manatee floats up about every two weeks. The tally there since last summer is more than 111 manatees along with more than 46 dead dolphins and 300 pelicans.

- In Orlando, the spring-fed Wekiva River is covered by slimy algae, and residents are warned to stay away from Lake Harris and Little Lake Harris, which have turned murky brown from another algae outbreak.

- There's a persistent algae outbreak off the popular tourist mecca of Sanibel Island, and a water treatment plant on Southwest Florida's Caloosahatchee River that's supposed to serve 30,000 people shut down; the algae makes the water unusable - even dangerous - for drinking.

- In Jacksonville, residents are seeing signs that the "Green Monster" massive algae outbreak is coming back on the St. Johns River. The Green Monster covered almost 100 miles of the St. Johns with slime in 2005 and 2009, causing public health warnings, fish kills and turning water pea-soup green.

A scientist doing an aerial survey for manatees along the river recently told The Florida Times-Union that he and his pilot suffered "respiratory distress" just flying 500 feet over the algae outbreak.

We are in this predicament because to put it plainly Florida's government is gutting common-sense rules that would help stop algae outbreaks.

Outdated septic tanks cause algae outbreaks, but the Legislature gutted septic tank regulations. …