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Stop using Lake O as an irrigation pond

August 8, 2018
Pine Island Eagle

To the editor:

Unless you've been living under a rock, you know about the eco disasters in Southwest Florida. First it was the massive red tide that killed all types of marine life. National news showed rotting fish covering the beaches of the Gulf. Then came the blue green algae bloom flushing down the Caloosahatchee River from the Lake Okeechobee cesspool. We've been flooded with news images of green slime and white floating dead fish in the river, bays and canals.

I thought Pine Island would be spared from those pandemics. I didn't think the pollutants would travel this far north into Matlacha Pass. I was shocked when I biked down to the little beach at Tropical Point on Thursday. There was green algae and dead fish on the shore. A couple was cleaning the beach and had filled two garbage bags. There were also white floaters out in the water as far as I could see. They told me that it was worse down in St. James City.

I drove down to my friend's boat dock, and was astounded at the sight of stinking, floating fish in a mass of green slime. Folks, this is a Florida political problem. Do not believe politicians that say it is from lack of action by the federal Army Corps of Engineers. When the dikes are reinforced around the lake; it will only store more polluted water.

The type of pollutants we're talking about are things that drain from the land into the water.

They are organic food for red tide, green algae and noxious seaweed. The massive quantities that are allowed in the state of Florida are like steroids for these biohazard marine killers.

A lot of people are focusing on the agricultural runoff from fertilizers and animal waste. The ag-industry has a huge footprint in the state of Florida and they're an easy target, but anyone who lives on the water that drains into Lake Okeechobee and then the Gulf is a contributor.

Septic systems should be inspected. Lawn fertilizes should be limited. Lawn clippings should not be shot into canals, and pet waste should be picked up.

All those pollutants drain into Lake O. The problem is that a huge quantity of storm water is held in the lake by the dike and locks that surround the lake. It is retained for irrigation use in the dry winter season. The seasonal cycle of drain down into the fields, and pump or flow back up into the lake has concentrated the pollutants. The super high level of nutrients created a thick mass of algae in the lake. This has caused the problem we now face, and it may continue for years to come. Another system has to be developed, and the old model abandoned.

Knowledgeable activists have been warning about this for years. Large amounts of money was spent to silence them and elect more complacent politicians. Over the last decade the regulation of our environment was transferred from the Federal Environmental Protection Agency to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. They were charged with enforcing the Federal Clean Water Act. The Florida DEP was then de-staffed and de-funded by the Florida politicians. Enforcement of violations of clean water standards have been almost nonexistent.

Florida politicians wrote legislation identifying good water management practices, and made compliance voluntary. It's like having voluntary speed limits. How would that work out?

The Agricultural Department weakened the enforcement of nutrient standards.

The state politicians also reduced the septic system inspection regulations. That is not only good for the environment, it also extends the life of the system. That would ultimately save money for the homeowner.

As I said, this is a Florida political problem. I'm not here to tell you to vote for one party or the other. Do a little research as to which candidate will enact clean water regulations and fund the enforcement. When in doubt, do not vote to elect or re-elect the Florida candidate that was in office for the last eight years.

Roger Wood

St. James City



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