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Thursday, 28 July 2016 15:44

Water Quality Rally Featured

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Saturday afternoon, a rally
took place on Fort Myers Beach
with activists and local citizens
lined up and down on both sides of
the pier chanting "What do we
want?" "Clean water" than a response
back "When do we want
it?, "Now."
Thronging the pier were
about 100 protesters all uniting
against the current discharge problems
from Lake "O" in our community.
Leading the way was John
Heim, an environmental activist
Representative for the SouthWest
Florida Clean Water Movement.
Heim, bullhorn in hand, marched
up and down the pier and Times
Square with residents getting the
word out to the public about the
discharge problem and its contamination
of our waterways. "We're
here to protest with a group of residents
so we can enjoy our little
Beach community. As concerned
citizens we are speaking out
against the discharge of Lake "O"
into our waterways; and the over
development of our quaint little island."
Even with some signs saying
"4 Storey Max." (referring to
the potential resort construction on
the beach) The South West Florida
Clean Water Movement has been
around for 20 years yet has really
exploded the last 3 due to the Lake
"O" problem.
Since 2013 the state of
Florida has been releasing pollutedlake water into our waterways that
in turn lead to the Gulf. Local sea
lovers, oceanographers,
and activists in the community
helped organize this hopeful,
peacefull protest in an effort to
make the public aware of the proliferation
of algae in the waterways.
"Demonstrate to educate."
Algae reproduces quickly
filling in the waterways and destroying
native plants and thereby
impacting marine life. The proposed
sea wall is another aspect of
the protest. Heim was explaining
how it will disrupt the natural flow
of the water. He said firmly, "We
are against anything that disrupts
the natural flow of the water." We
all have recently been watching as
our local beach waters turn from an
aquatic blue into a dark muck following
releases from Lake “O”.
This also affects the local business
and shop owners, that resonates in
the heart of our small town. "I'm a
32 year resident of the community
and as we all know this has many
negative impacts specifically on
tourism which affects everyone
here," Heim exclaims.
As you walk through the
tunnel of people you hear activists
relentlessly chanting and screaming,
"Save our waters," as visitors
and locals look out over the rail at
the dark murky water. People of
all ages from kids to the elderly,
carrying signs that read "Stop Lake
“O” water release," or "All creatures
need clean water." The sign
that hit home most was "Do not
swim, toxic water" considering I
swim in it almost every other day.
The large inland Lake
Okeechobee is experiencing its
highest water levels in a century
due to heavy rains. According to
the Sanibel Natural Resources, this
summer alone has had 150 percent
more rainfall than normal. The
problem is that Lake “O” is toxic
with fertilizers, chemicals, runoff,
and cattle manure, while all of this
was once contained in the lake it's
now flowing towards Florida's
coastal communities via local
rivers. In a hope to relieve stress
from the lakes aging dikes its flowing
out at a rate of 70,000 gallons
per second. This will not only pollute
the Gulf of Mexico but also
the Atlantic Ocean as well.
Not realizing all the consequences,
I decided to research
the problem. This pollution has
horrible repercussions for Southern
Florida's environment not to mention
the economy. The waters,
which are untreated, contain chemicals
that are harmful to local Flora
and Fauna, also known to cause
algae blooms that have and continue
to poison Shellfish ergo affecting
the Marine life and the
natural food chain.
Tourism and local beach
goers have taken a downturn since
locals dubbed the summer of 2013
"the lost summer" due to the polluted
Coastal waters. Local economy
is driven mostly by tourism
which has been affected negatively
for the past three years due to the
construction of the new drain lines.
. At this time aggregate real
estate value
fell half a billion
dollars as
potential buyers
were reluctant
to buy or
invest in
homes by waters
that are
toxic. Immediate
have been difficult
to find,
the army corps
of engineers
say "The waters
could not
be diverted
south of the
Everglades because the lake water
level is too high." Heim said following
up with "The only solution
is to buy the land south of the lake
and only discharge clean water."
In the meantime, people
affected by the lake discharge are
taking action. Mayors and local
officials have called on Governor
Rick Scott to issue a state of emergency,
also traveling to Capitol
Hill to ask federal lawmakers for
help. Heim has already visited
Washington D.C. eight times in
three years bringing awareness and
working on solutions to our state's
water quality issues.
Florida senator Bill Nelson
toured the Okeechobee waters
along with Lt Colonel of the Army
Corps of Engineers, they stated the
discharge was "Idiotic." Gov. Rick
Scott announced on Wednesday
that the Corps will be reducing the
release flow by as much as 57 percent.
They are currently working
on Bipartisan for funding to remedy
the situation. He also committed
$40 million towards the
completion of the C-44 StormWater
Treatment Area, a reservoir and
treatment zone designed to reduce
nutrients, pesticides, and suspended
materials from runoff. Organized
activist groups along with
locals are holding protests on both
the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

Read 2565 times Last modified on Thursday, 28 July 2016 15:51

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