Florida needs water quality testing and sign posting

Florida needs to test our rivers all the way to the Gulf, several times every week, instead of depending on Madison County and the city of Valdosta and WWALS.

Jim Tatum caught me and Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson collaborating, probably about getting FDEP to do the DNA marker and chemical tracer tests that have been instrumental in showing most of the recent Withlacoochee River contamination has come from ruminants, of which the most numerous are cattle.

Photo: Jim Tatum, Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman and OSFR Founder Merillee Malwitz-Jipson
Photo: Jim Tatum

Calusa Riverkeeper John Cassani knows I bring up the need for statewide Florida testing at almost every weekly Waterkeepers Florida meeting, after he mentions testing where he is.

Jim Tatum, Our Santa Fe River, Guest opinion: Floridians have the right to know if our waters are safe,

This problem is not limited to Florida south of I-4, it is here in North Florida as well. Thanks to OSFR’s Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson and Suwannee RiverKeeper John Quarterman, more monitoring of the the Suwannee River, into which the Santa Fe flows, has shown the frequent toxic episodes which occur.

There’s actually very little monitoring of the Suwannee River: that is part of what is needed. Monitoring of the Withlacoochee River is mostly what has happened so far, plus FDEP’s more or less monthly DNA marker and chemical tracer tests on one location each on the Withlacoochee, Alapaha, and Suwannee.

The fecal matter that Cassani points out below is but one toxic element; we also have to contend with poisonous algae which can cause death to dogs and ill effects on humans. This algae is caused mainly by excess fertilizer, nitrates from septic tanks and decreased flow in our springs and rivers from the over-pumping allowed by our DEP and water managers.

Fixes for all this are possible but will cost lots of money and the State of Florida has decided pollution is better than losing money so they let our springs and rivers die.

And they are dying.

And the DEP and the water managers are puppets of the State so they allow the death of the rivers by making up numbers to lower the bar on the Minimum Flows and continue to issue water pumping permits.

Enjoy your springs and rivers now while you can because they are not going to get better.

Read the original article here in the News Press.

John Cassani, News-Press (Fort Myers, FL), March 10, 2021, Guest opinion: Floridians have the right to know if our waters are safe,

Recreational value inherent to Florida’s waters cannot be underestimated. In recognition of recreation as an essential and long-standing value to residents, Florida has codified the term by statute and rule as an official designated use for most waterbodies. Jalen Pledger,16, A student at Riverdale High School enjoys a rope swing on the Caloosahatchee River in Olga in August of this year. The river has long been a source of recreation.

Unfortunately, something has gone terribly wrong over recent years. Fecal bacteria contamination of Florida waters has become widespread. Swimming or recreating in water where levels of bacteria and other pathogens are high can make you sick. The most common outcomes are gastrointestinal illness, eye ailments, skin rashes, earache and infected cut.

According to information in the state’s water quality database, fecal bacteria are the most frequently occurring parameter causing verified impairment in many, if not most of Florida’s waters including some of the most popular waters for recreation. As southwest Florida examples, fecal bacteria represented 80 percent of all verified impairments in Manatee County, 69 percent in Hillsborough, 62 percent in Sarasota and 49 percent in Lee.

When was the last time you saw a sign posted near a public access point warning the public of fecal bacteria contamination at a waterway other than at a coastal beach? Florida officials especially those at the Florida Department of Health (FDOH), have kept this issue under the radar for too long and the likely reason, in a tourist driven economy, is not hard to figure out. Is tourism more important than your health? Ironically, most Floridians agree that clean water is vital to the state’s economy.

FDOH representatives have claimed that they are not required to monitor or post signs about bacteria contamination other than at coastal beaches even though their mission states that they are to protect all people in Florida. If monitoring data for fecal bacteria is already being compiled by FDEP, then why wouldn’t FDOH respond to those data with signs on-site to protect the public when bacteria levels are too high?

We can work together to restore Florida’s waters and their recreational legacy but until then warning signs could protect the public from risky conditions.

Call your state representatives and local officials today and tell them that the public has the right to know if Florida waters are safe for recreation.

There’s much more in that article.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

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