Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Point of View; St. Johns River Is Facing Major Threats

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Point of View; St. Johns River Is Facing Major Threats

Article excerpt

Byline: Lisa Rinaman

You've probably heard a lot about Florida's water future in the news lately, especially since the Florida Legislature is considering a major water policy bill for the legislative session that starts next week.

It's easy for ordinary citizens to feel powerless around this issue with so many people moving into Florida, so many users competing for a limited water supply and so many problems with pollution. But the truth is that we citizens do have power.

Over the decades, we've come together to help rein in big polluters, enact more protective water policies and stop ill-advised projects. We can raise our voices to do the same now.

I live in Jacksonville and work as the St. Johns Riverkeeper.

We're a private citizens advocacy organization - one of many similar groups around the nation - that keeps tabs on the health of the St. Johns River and advocates for its protection.

The St. Johns provides one example of how Florida citizens can join together to insist that an environmental wrong be fixed.

PROBLEMS AND PROGRESS

By the turn of the century, huge swaths of the St. Johns River floodplain were drained and filled, part of that generation's idea of "progress."

By 1970, the river was so polluted that Gov. Claude Kirk said, "If you fall in, you will die of pollution before you drown."

A year later, the Duval County Health Department issued a warning that one could contract 27 different communicable diseases by swimming in the St. Johns River.

Since then, much work has gone into restoring wetlands in the river's headwaters and removing the 15 million gallons of raw sewage that once flowed unabated into the St. Johns.

Citizens demanded that the wrong be made right, and with many years of hard work, progress has been made.

However, the St. Johns River continues to face disturbing threats. …

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