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Statement: Florida Waterkeepers Unite in Tallahassee to Protect Florida’s Waters

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — On July 31, Florida Waterkeepers joined forces in Tallahassee to stand up for Florida waters. Waterkeepers united from across the state representing urban and rural communities and waterways in and around the watersheds of the Indian River Lagoon, Tampa Bay, Matanzas River, St. Johns River, St. Marys River, Suwannee River, and Apalachicola River.

At a time when waters and communities throughout Florida are plagued with harmful algal blooms and threatened by rising waters, Waterkeepers across the state met with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to express serious concern and a sense of urgency to protect and restore Florida’s rivers, coast, bays, estuaries, lakes, springs, and aquifer.

As demonstrated by Hurricane Irma, major storms deteriorate water quality, threaten human health, and undermine Florida’s economy. Absent more proactive action and investment in becoming more resilient, water quality protection, and adaptation efforts, Florida’s economy, environment, and public health will suffer.

Florida Waterkeepers submitted a joint request strongly urging FDEP to fully protect our waterways and our community by increasing Florida’s ability to withstand future storms. Recommendations include a comprehensive audit of infrastructure vulnerability and storm risk to accurately price the cost of inaction, prioritization of green infrastructure, and enhanced protection of wetlands and mangroves. Read the details.

Another ongoing threat is excess nutrient pollution from sewage sludge, failing septic tanks, aging infrastructure, stormwater runoff, and agricultural runoff. This pollution fuels toxic green algae, brown slime, and red tide. Inadequate monitoring and lack of timely health advisories puts Floridians in harm’s way. Absent a comprehensive strategy to target the root causes and to stop this pollution at its source is a recipe for environmental, human health, and economic disaster.

On July 25, 2018, samples of cyanobacteria in the Cape Coral tidal canals on the Caloosahatchee River revealed an alarmingly high level of the toxin microcystin nearing 40,000 ug/l (parts per billion.) These levels are dramatically higher than EPA’s recommended safe recreational standard, 4 ug/l, and is consistent with risks to human health and animal mortality.

Urgent action is long overdue. Waterkeepers requested the activation of the Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force; prioritize testing the actual algal bloom and publicize health advisories of toxic outbreaks quickly, a statewide moratorium against sewage sludge disposal near waterways; septic tank phase-out strategies and the development and enforcement of truly restorative Basin Management Action Plans. The entire group presented a resolution against phosphate mining. In addition, the water advocates further voiced their joint opposition to FDEP’s efforts to assume the dredge and fill permits regulated by Section 404 of the Clean Water Act.

Florida’s waterways are uniquely connected and thus should be comprehensively and collectively protected under the Clean Water Act. Florida’s Waterkeepers are united in our goals to protect Florida’s water.

The Florida Waterkeepers share an unwavering commitment to protect the environmental integrity of Florida’s rivers, coast, bays, estuaries, lakes, springs and aquifer through science-based advocacy and a unified voice.  There are currently 14 Waterkeepers in the State of Florida and each independent organization is a member of Waterkeeper Alliance, a global movement of on-the-water advocates who patrol and protect thousands of rivers, streams and coastlines in North and South America, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa.

Part scientist, teacher, and legal advocate, Waterkeepers combine firsthand knowledge of their waterways with an unwavering commitment to the rights of their communities and to the rule of law. Whether on the water, in a classroom, or in a courtroom, Waterkeepers speak for the waters they defend – with the backing of their local community and the collective strength of Waterkeeper Alliance.

CONTACTS
Georgia Ackerman, Apalachicola Riverkeeper (850) 321-6262, georgia@apalachicolariverkeeper.org
Marty Baum, Indian Riverkeeper (772)631-5827, indianrivguy@yahoo.com
Rick Frey, St. Marys Riverkeeper (404)909-0667, stmarysriverkeeper@gmail.com
Andy Hayslip, Tampa Bay Waterkeeper (727) 537-0484, andy@tampawaterkeeper.org
Jen Lomberk, Matanzas Riverkeeper (904) 471-9878, jen@matanzasriverkeeper.org
John S. Quarterman, Suwannee Riverkeeper (850) 290-2350, contact@suwanneeriverkeeper.org
Lisa Rinaman, St. Johns Riverkeeper (904) 509-3260, lisa@stjohnsriverkeeper.org