Grab your poop…er…hazmat suit if you’re a Martin County environmental activist, enviro-activist newspaper reporter, or a member of any of the front groups that are financially supported by money funneled through the Everglades Foundation, because it’s that time of year again.

A Martin County protester in her poop suit

What time is it, you ask?  Why, it’s time to join in the annual parade of “concerned citizens” who put on hazmat poop suits and oppose the freshwater discharges from Lake Okeechobee.  It’s all part of a crappy plan hatched in the bowels of Bullsugar.org’s headquarters, designed to shift the blame away from their own septic tank leakage and lawn fertilizer runoff and toward someone else.

For the last several summers, the Army Corps of Engineers has made the prudent decision to release water from Lake Okeechobee so that heavy rains don’t end up blowing out key swaths of the Herbert Hoover Dike and killing off tens of thousands of people. The Bradenton Herald laid out a stark scenario back in 2013:

In an extreme worst-case failure, the simulation extended flood waters more than 20 miles, spreading south and east across an expanse dominated by sugar farms. The deepest pools would collect in areas that have subsided by several feet after decades of farming on eroding peat soils that were once Everglades marsh. Much of the area is still farmed but homes and apartments also have been built in some of the lowest-lying areas near the lake.

As they do most years, the heavy rains have returned, and as of June 1st, the Lake O discharges have started again.

That’s typically the cue for the protesters to dust off their biohazard protest poop suits, print out signs with clever slogans and call the local paper and TV stations to pretend the algae blooms in their river are entirely the fault of discharging water from the “polluted” Lake Okeechobee.

There’s only one problem with that scheme: Lake Okeechobee isn’t the real culprit. The real culprits are fertilizers and fecal bacteria in waterways east of the lake.

Fecal bacteria? Ewww. Fecal as in feces?  As in poo poo? As in the infamous poop emoji?

Correct. The kind of nasty stuff that comes from leaky, overflowing septic tanks seeping into the groundwater, blending with the local runoff and lawn fertilizers after it rains, and working its way into the canals and waterways to the east of the Lake.

After the region experienced between 15 to 17 inches of rainfall this May, local health departments were forced to issue beach closure warnings, often because “fecal bacteria” was found in the water. This is a pretty strong indicator suggesting human pollution is fouling the local waterways, not Lake Okeechobee discharge.

Don’t take my word for it, though, take the word of the local environmental activist newspaper, the TC Palm on June 1:

Sandsprit Park, Leighton Park and the Stuart Sandbar have shown higher than normal levels of enteric bacteria — an indicator of fecal pollution — in routine water quality tests taken this week.

BUT, BUT, BUT that fecal warning came on June 1, when the lake discharges began!

Indeed. Water doesn’t flow that fast, though. And if you’re still not convinced, here’s a similar fecal bacteria warning in the TC Palm on May 25th, five days before the discharges started:

The Florida Department of Health at Martin County issued a warning Friday stating river water near the bridge has high levels of enteric bacteria, an indication of fecal pollution.

Still not enough evidence for you?  Here’s another TC Palm slap to your disbelieving face, this one from May 18th:

Elevated levels of enteric bacteria, a sign of fecal pollution, are being reported at several sites along the Treasure Coast.

None of this poo poo came from Lake Okeechobee, and none of it came from sugar farmers south of the lake, either. So where did it come from? Let’s take a look at a map of the Saint Lucie Estuary, where all the algae blooms have been happening:

Notice those nasty brown splotches? Yeah. They mark the location of permitted septic systems around the estuary. I wonder how many of those are leaking or overflowing?  Public Service Announcement for Martin County residents: Empty your septic tank every few years. Have it checked for leaks. Repair or replace it if it’s damaged.

Of course calling a service to empty your septic tank, repairing it or replacing it, could be expensive. And it’s a lot cheaper to buy a poop suit and make a protest sign.

Bottom line here is that when there is a lot of rain, there’s also a lot of runoff. Algae is as prevalent in Florida as Mickey Mouse, spring baseball, and drivers who leave their blinkers on while driving near I-75 and The Villages. When it arrives during the hot summer months, algae feeds off of nutrients, especially in areas like Stuart (check the map above), which have some of the highest concentration of septic tanks near waterways in the state of Florida.

It’s also important to note that there is a difference between algae and an algae bloom. There’s algae all over Florida, but only places like Martin County seem to have high levels of nutrients from urban runoff, which causes the toxic variety of guacamole-thick blue green algae that only seems to form on their side of the state, even though discharges from Lake Okeechobee flow west, too.

In 2016, for example, Ft. Myers received the same water from Lake Okeechobee as Stuart did, and yet they didn’t experience the dramatic, lime green algae blooms as the east coast. Additionally, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sent billions of gallons of water south toward the Everglades, and there were no algae blooms to the south, either.

But rather than accept the truth, the professional protesters of Martin County will once again don their poop suits for the cameras and complain to anyone who will listen that it’s not their “sewer souffle” that stinks, it’s got to be somebody else’s fault.

 

LLW Masthead 1000 x 100