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Urge EPA to protect river and estuaries

Written by: David Guest, EarthJustice
Publicized in: Fort Myers News-Press
Publication Date: May 24, 2007

Guest Opinion: David Guest
Urge EPA to protect river and estuaries
Originally posted on May 24, 2007
Enough is enough!

That's what citizens told U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials at
a public hearing in Fort Myers earlier this month.

Enough polluted water flowing out of Lake Okeechobee into the Caloosahatchee
River, poisoning our estuary. Enough dead manatees and dolphins floating
belly-up on our shores. Enough red tide causing nasty fish kills and chasing
people off our beaches.
Thankfully, the Florida Legislature passed The Northern Everglades
restoration bill, which designates $200 million in the first year and at
least $100 million for the next 12 years to improve water quality in Lake
Okeechobee and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. Five million
dollars a year will go to projects within the Caloosahatchee watershed. It
will take political will, not just money, to help stop this pollution.

Thirty-five years ago, you could see a white, sandy bottom in large parts of
Lake Okeechobee. People used to swim in the lake. Now, the bottom looks like
mud and people don't want to swim there. The pollution has gotten so bad
that Lake Okeechobee recently had the worst toxic algae outbreak ever
recorded last year. Lake Okeechobee's dirty discharge is killing the
Caloosahatchee estuary, one of the most beautiful and biologically rich
parts of the Florida coast.
Why is the pollution so out of control? Because state and federal standards
haven't been enforced. The Florida Department of Agriculture has coddled the
industrial farms around the lake, allowing them to voluntarily comply with
pollution standards, instead of requiring real, measurable enforcement. The
politically powerful agriculture industry has been able to essentially
exempt itself from real regulation.

The Florida Department of Agriculture seems to care more about the profits
of industrial agricultural corporations than it does about the people who
live, work, and play along the Caloosahatchee and the coast.

Enough!
Citizens need to keep the pressure on to stop this pollution. The EPA is
accepting comments about the proposed water quality standards for Lake
Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee through May 31. Let's protect the
investment of money, brain power and political will being directed at
Southwest Florida's pollution problems by telling the EPA that we, the
citizens, want ironclad insurance that they will stick to their guns, use
good science, and enforce meaningful water quality standards for Lake
Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee.

The EPA's technical name for pollution standards is TMDLs, which stands for
'Total Maximum Daily Load.' It boils down to figuring out how much more
pollution a particular waterway can stand before it collapses. The EPA's
comment period ends May 31. Written comments should be sent to the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency, Region 4, Water Management Division, 61
Forsyth St., S.W., Atlanta, Georgia 30303-8960, ATTENTION: Ms. Sibyl Cole,
Standards, Monitoring and TMDL Branch. A copy of each of the proposed TMDLs
can be obtained through the Internet or by contacting Ms. Cole at (404)
562-9437 or via electronic mail at cole.sibyl@epa.gov. Or go to:
http://www.epa.gov/region4/water/tmdl/florida/index.htm/.
- David Guest is an attorney for Earthjustice.

think about this...

"We must build a peace in South Florida - a peace between the people and their place, between the natural environment and man-made settlement, between the works of man and the life of mankind itself. "
~ Florida Gov. Reubin Askew ~