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Three Signs Environmentalists Are Overplaying Last Year’s Algae Crisis

by | Jan 6, 2017

Environmental groups are starting to wear out their welcome in local communities affected by last summer’s algae bloom. Activists wearing protective masks, gloves and a few in full-blown hazmat suits, are still trying to point the finger of blame in a desperate bid to raise more money for their cause. Playing it up for the camera – any camera they can find, as it turns out – Florida environmentalists have embraced last summer’s algae bloom as if it was manna from heaven. And indeed, it’s apparently been a boon to fundraising, judging from the content of fundraising letters and emails they send to their donors. 

Admittedly, last summer’s algae blooms hurt a number of local companies, especially fishing charter boats and other businesses dependent on the area’s reputation for world-class beaches and pristine views. But not everyone was hit all that hard. It turns out a number of hoteliers and other hospitality businesses in the area saw record tourism numbers. And no matter whether a business was in the black or the red after last summer, no business owner wants this season’s tourists to associate algae blooms with their slice of the coastline. 

Yet that’s exactly what’s starting to happen, and many of the locals are starting to suggest that its time for the environmental activists to give it a rest. Here are three signs environmentalists are overplaying their hands on the algae bloom angle: 

1. Wearing protective clothing for dramatic effect, when it’s not really necessary. As evidenced in the main photo accompanying this story, and in photos below, environmental activists (with heavy emphasis on the “act”) are more than willing to cry wolf even when there’s no actual health threat. If scientists from Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection aren’t wearing masks when they are taking samples of the algae, why do these activists need to wear masks at press conferences? Need more proof? How about photos of Senator Marco Rubio and well known political leaders walking in the middle of the algae with no masks? The bottom line here is that, as usual, the environmental activist lobby has abandoned their credibility in exchange for sensationalism and dramatic flair.

FDEP scientist collects an algae sample without any protective clothing.

FDEP scientist collects an algae sample without any protective clothing.

 

 

2. Local leaders are starting to suggest that the protests are more harmful to the local economy than the aglae bloom itself. In a recent column in the Treasure Coast Palm, Gil Smart points out that despite the algae bloom, it was still a big year for tourism. But things may not stay that way if environmentalists keep holding dramatic press conferences pretending there is a health crisis when none exists.

“There’s no question that blue green algae has an unwelcome impact on our community,” said Ted Astolfi, CEO of the Martin County Economic Council. “It’s important for people to have the facts, which is why as soon as the algae cleared, we worked hard to highlight the many other opportunities that visitors and residents could take advantage of.  We wanted to limit the economic impacts by making sure people knew that they could still visit here and enjoy our restaurants, arts venues, parks, events and many other amenities that Martin County has to offer.”

In other words: Algae was the problem. But now, environmentalist scare tactics are the problem.

3. Waters NOT connected in any way to Florida agriculture can get algae blooms. Just today an algae bloom caused Port Saint Lucie officials to close a small lake that isn’t connected in any way whatsoever to drainage ditches or other waterways that environmentalists can blame on Florida farmers. Sometimes algae blooms just happen. They occur in north Florida, they bloom in the Great Lakes far to the north, and they even bloom right in South Florida for reasons that defy environmentalist “logic.”  NOAA says they occur when wind and water conditions are just right, generally by unseasonably warm temperatures and slow moving water. A 2015 study cited by POLITICO also found that septic tanks in Orlando contributed significantly to the size of algae blooms:

Brian Lapointe, a research scientist at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, said a study he conducted in 2015 found that wastewater from septic tanks causes algae blooms to grow significantly on their way from Lake Okeechobee to the east and west coasts.  –Source: POLITICO, July 16, 2016

Yet despite overwhelming evidence that directly contradicts such claims, these South Florida activist groups repeatedly blame Florida farmers and agriculture for causing algae blooms, when those blooms often first occur north of the Everglades Agricultural Area and then flow south into Lake Okeechobee before being discharged into the Indian River Lagoon. Clearly, the environmentalists are so fixated on farmers being the bad guys that they’ve lost sight of how ridiculous and even toxic their own brand of activism has become. Maybe they should keep wearing those masks after all.

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33 Comments

  1. Jonathan Carl

    Brian,

    1. Have you ever been to one of these blooms in person? I have and my summer was ruined by it last year. You can’t go in the water and if you go near it you would know that it smells like death. What is the natural reaction for smelling something bad? Cover your nose or hold your breath, hence the masks. Also blue green algae is known to contain BMAA, chemical linked to early onset alzheimer’s disease and other health problems. I would take precaution too, I invite you to take a swim during the next bloom.

    2. Good point but this is irrelevant to the point of stopping discharges from the lake to the estuaries. distraction from the real issue.

    3. Yes algae is naturally occurring and blooms happen all over without connection to the lake. This does not change the fact that the water that is coming from the lake causes the naturally occurring blooms to explode to sizes that are unheard of when no discharges are occurring. I agree that septic tanks that leech can help the issue but septic tanks aren’t causing problems when there are no discharges, explain that.

    Reply
    • BrianJBurgess

      1. Fair enough, Jonathan. But that doesn’t explain the FDEP scientists and elected officials literally standing on docks surrounded by the stuff who don’t seem to be concerned or affected by the smell or health hazards.

      2. The point I’m making is that environmentalists are pursuing a political agenda by singling out one industry and attempting to affix blame on farmers, claiming (erroneously) that they are the primary cause of algae-causing nutrients in the water. And in pursuing their agenda, they are actually doing more economic harm. That is the “real” issue I chose to write about. Stopping discharges from Lake Okeechobee wasn’t the focus of this particular piece.

      3. Right. And in the POLITICO story I cited, a research scientest from FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute found that one of the primary causes of the “exploding” algae bloom (your words) is precisely because of septic tank leaks.

      Bottom line here is that I don’t disagree that aglae blooms are nasty, smell foul, and that we need to find a way to reduce the size and frequency of them whereever possible. I think the disagreement is on whether or not environmental activists such as Bull Sugar, Everglades Foundation, Tropical Audubon Society and Captains for Cleanwater have traded their credibility for media attention and donor funding. And I think over the past few months I’ve presented clear evidence supporting that premise.

      Reply
      • Jonathan Carl

        You sound like the SFWMD board, none of which are qualified to make the decisions about our water problems.

        I’m confused, you said septic tanks are the cause of the algae blooms but, in my words, the blooms don’t ‘explode’ to the extent they do with discharges from the lake. Yes they can be a problem but septic tanks are a drip in an ocean when comparing to lake o discharges. The fact is that these estuaries shouldn’t get any water from the lake, clean or not.

        What environmental groups are sharing your message?

        Please share a link to the FAU paper you refer to.

        Reply
        • BrianJBurgess

          POLITICO wrote the intitial story, they quote the FAU scientist, which I excerpted. Let me know if you still can’t find anything on it and I’ll dig around.

          Reply
          • cyndilenz

            It was old story. During the bloom Brian Lapointe admitted it was from the Lake. We have no discharges and our river and lagoon is slowly recovering but will never what it was. I have to go look at the e coli numbers but the last time I checked they were very very low and only in certain spots that are being worked on. Who gave you money to write this piece of swill. You can google me Cyndi Lenz on wordpress and treasurecoast.com. I have writing and documenting about this for years. We are trying to find a bottle if anyone has one. Patrick Murphy may have some in his garage. But if not we’ll be sure to send you next time it happens. Our entire towns were closed down over July 4th. People lost thousands of dollars. I was home on call. It was awful. There is not enough money in the world for some hack to write stuff like and hurt us further.

          • BrianJBurgess

            So much emotion, so much vitriol against sugar farmers, you can’t stop talking about them. Your comments prove my point, and do nothing to address the fact that Port Saint Lucie just had an algae bloom even though the lake involved is 100% landlocked.

            I’m sure you’ll find a way to blame farmers for that too.

          • cyndilenz

            paid for by the sugar industry. don’t be lazy do your homework

          • Jonathan Carl

            Hi Brian,

            Please read the document that you refer to that POLITICO used as a reference, link below. The location that is referred to in this study is the central Indian river lagoon, you are covering the St. Lucie river. They are connected waterways but I find it close to impossible that water in the IRL is making its way upriver in the ST. Lucie river.

            https://www.researchgate.net/publication/279313345_Comparative_ecophysiology_of_bloom-forming_macroalgae_in_the_Indian_River_Lagoon_Florida_Ulva_lactuca_Hypnea_musciformis_and_Gracilaria_tikvahiae

      • cyndilenz

        I’m a nurse and I was there. I have seen FDEP gather samples with out gloves or masks. I’m not sure what their training is. but it was a really stupid thing to do. The spores were airbourne. I lived here. I spent 200 hundred dollars buying respirator masks so I could breath and I could bring to my patients that live close to water. Many have respiratory issues and are on oxygen. No one could breath. I consider this article slanderous towards all of that had to live through this. Call up Jane Esback from cbs. she covered this. I covered it at Treasurecoast.com. I could no go to the protest because the smell was so bad so close that I vomited every time i got close to it. we knew it airbourne. the county had it tested and it came back positive. Having lived thru the anthrax thing in Boca I am never ever ever taking a chance again with anything that could be airbourne. Your not a medical professional. There were thousand of witnesses to how bad it was. I have license which means I have be fingerprinted and drug tested to do my job. What do you have to to do yours. My friend whose photo you took down is a local beloved veterinarian. I’m putting you on my list of fake news people. or lazy. I don’t know which. but bad news.

        Reply
        • cyndilenz

          also marco rubio came in an air conditioned million dollar yacht. for some reason the politicians would wear masks the men we;re men. If they got sick it was on them. Just like when I am work I am required to follow OSHA to the T- whcih gloves and masks and whatever due to the circumstances. I’m also trained in FEMA emergency stuff out in the field and what the people were wearing during the protest was appropriate. If I could have gotten near I would have worn the same thing because I’m trained and I understand airbourne spores. I’m sure the from FDEP has requirements they are ignoring, Stupidity. Like I said called Jane Esbach our loca cbs. She got laryngitis really bad as did a lt of people who spent too much time down. I’m not ok with being posiened. I am should would be either. This is america. I shouldn’t have to walk around my back yard with a freakin mask on. Shame on you!

          Reply
          • Julie Williams

            I live more than 2 miles from the water and I couldn’t even walk outside without gagging from the smell. Something I will never forget and I will repeat what Cyndi said and that is shame on you!! Go take your political agenda and put it where the sun don’t shine!!

          • BrianJBurgess

            Maybe you did inhale a few too many spores. I’ll note that in my “Fake News” dossier about you.

          • cyndilenz

            Maybe I didn’t. Maybe you don’t have earthly idea what you are talking about.

        • BrianJBurgess

          And I’ll be sure to add Treasure Coast to my list of “fake news” since you’re the editor and you seem to have a pretty set-in-stone opinion on matters such as these.

          For the record, nobody is saying the algae wasn’t a problem. But I am saying that environmental lobbyists are posturing for a political reason – to buy the land south of Lake O, and to villify and single out farmers when farmers are – at best – only a tiny fraction of the actual problem. There are millions upon millions of homes north of the lake, a great many of them that fertilize their lawns and some with leaky septic tanks, and you’re trying to blame farmers south of the lake.

          The entire argument defies logic, and all your posturing and wearing masks and gagging and pretending to be offended doesn’t change the fact that environmentalists have badly overplayed this issue from a political standpoint – so much so that NOW you guys are the ones responsible for hurting your own economy.

          Reply
          • cyndilenz

            You do what ever. i wrote what I saw because I lived here. I did excerpt anything. that plus trying to get help for the poor people who are old and on oxygen. If you have an issue with buying the land then maybe you should Joe negron and talk to him. Surely your not against him.

          • cyndilenz

            the sugar industry are not farmers lol they are industrialists. Instead of behaving like two years olds they could come to table and discuss. I offered them a platform so we could get to know and they turned me down. As a trained medical professional your words hurt people and their health.

          • cyndilenz

            If you have issue talk to Kate from the weather channel. She documented the original bloom and then that bloom grew to us. google nasa algae bloom lake okeehobee. Or is Nasa not credible. That plus it doesn’t matter if the water is polluted or clean. The salinity kills us. The discharges have destroyed that end of the Indian River lagoon and estuary. It’s not our water. we don’t want it. It the people in glades like that water so much they can keep but in this case they were flooded because they kept their rim canals too high so when it rained they were terribly and then it was back pumped back into the lake right around where the algae bloom started. I know bad us. You can’t have a conversation with the people live out there because of the propaganda fake news like that is printed here people have lost their ability to reason. call me names whatever. I have lived this for seven years and the conclusion that I came to last year is that they need to close the locks and keep them closed and then figure out what to do with the after. If you don’t send the water south the aquifers will not recharged and the people south florida will run out of water. but whatever! who needs water. I like the trump plan. He said to leave in the lake we may need it. lol Stupid answer but again whatever. The water needs to go south not just for us but for a variety of a bunch of reasons. The reason we know is because for the last 6 years or so we have all become experts. We understand the issues. No one want to hurt the people south of the lake. Its stupid fake news! Big sugar is an expert. Judy Sanchez should get a raise.

          • cyndilenz

            I have to work but I hope what ever you made writing this swill was worth it and next time we will be sure to invite you or deliver a bottle so you smell for yourself. Imagine rotten eggs that were put in a hot heater and left for a few years. It was worse that that.

          • cyndilenz

            sorry for any mistakes. I was typing from the car in the dark. I hope you understand that people have all kinds of disorders that cannot be exposed to these spores in air. It horrible when people with COPD and respiratory disorders can’t breath. I hope you good money for writing this. It;s the same thing we have seen on our local fake new sites that work for big sugar.

  2. gayle ryan

    Another REDIC article when we are trying to save the Humans and Animals being KILLED by water pollution from Lake “O” Discharges
    Thank you Gov Snott………..if we sent filthy water to someone we would all be in Jail. Remember the Clean Water Act???

    Reply
    • BrianJBurgess

      What is “REDIC” is environmental activists engaging in blame game politics. If they were really worried about future discharges, they’d be rallying for the state to pay for a massive septic tank replacement funding bill or some other comprehensive plan, rather than blaming farmers and trying to get the state to buy a parcel of land that won’t have any significant impact whatsoever on Lake O discharge levels. Do you have any idea how many cubic inches of Lake O water will be stored there? Not enough to matter one bit during the rainy season.

      Reply
      • Julie Williams

        Who padded your pocket Brian??

        Reply
      • cyndilenz

        its not the septic tanks.

        Reply
      • cyndilenz

        If you had done your home work Brian Lapointe admitted and then Joe negron announced at a press conference.

        Reply
      • cyndilenz

        are you a scientist? More info from Judy Sanchez U.

        Reply
  3. cyndilenz

    wow. I had walked away this conversation but got this in my email. No one hate farmers. My issue is this piece that yoou wrote. First of all we have seen almost the same article at multiple other sites. Its spoonfed from FLorida Crystals Judy Sanchez. So what amazing me is you don’t really don’t understand the issue to write an intelligent article about it. DId it take all for Judy to get back to you with the answer. He answer. that I hate farmers. lol no one hates farmers. that big propaganda. Where would out food come from?

    Why not behave like an intelligent human and have a conversation to try to bring the parties together to fix this issue?

    Reply
    • BrianJBurgess

      You can come to my site, and hurl all the insults you want, accuse me of whatever biases you want, I’ll post your comments. But frankly, I think you’re doing your movement a disservice because it’s your side that is arguing from emotion, spewing accusations, and pointing the finger at farmers and the sugar industry, which is EXACTLY what this story is about.

      Thank you for making my point.

      Reply
  4. cyndilenz

    and ps the original reason I wrote is you had the punky nerve to post a photo my friend her son. We were wearing masks because there were spores. I see your young and punky so I wouldnt try again to explain how this stuff gets in your lungs. Like science lol oh and btw FLorida Cystals made that deal and they pissed off the fanjuls and then they reneged. They waned that deal originally and they went after it.
    Can’t wait to see the way you deal with other medical issues.
    When you continue with the rhetoric every gets polarized and nothing gets done. Mankind cannot afford to have propagandists anymore. The people of Florida do not deserve it. I don’t think it will change. I think you will continue to take advantage of people and spread more lies.
    so just to clarify and you tell Judy this: no one hates farmers. we love them

    Reply
  5. cyndilenz

    You wrote this: Still waiting on your response to the ACTUAL point, which was that Port St. Lucie just closed a lake because of an algae bloom. And the lake is landlocked.
    You can come to my site, and hurl all the insults you want, accuse me of whatever biases you want, I’ll post your comments. But frankly, I think you’re doing your movement a disservice because it’s your side that is arguing from emotion, spewing accusations, and pointing the finger at farmers and the sugar industry, which is EXACTLY what this story is about.
    Thank you for making my point.

    I wrote this: ohhhh my. I’m not accusing farmers of anything. I have no idea about lake and neither do you but i suspect someone dumped some chemicals in there. so i think we need to wait to find out what the story is. but again it doesnt matter and i said this yesterday if the water is crystal clear. It sucks to have icky lake o but its the salinty of fresh water that is killing us. as far as the rest. what are you 12 years old?

    and as far MY MOVEMENT? I’m a nurse. what movement is that?

    Because i disagree with your propaganda Im in a movement?

    Reply
    • cyndilenz

      I have to go. Maybe you could to do something to make the world a better place.

      Reply
      • cyndilenz

        using the lake in port st lucie is grasping at straws. it has nothing to do with any thing as people throw all kinds of crap into the water. We heard about illegal dumping at night and it could have happened there. The water to go south fr a variety of reasons. No offense to you. God created the everglades. Man screwed it up. Who puts an eaa in the middle of river. Our earth was put together by the creator and it worked. There was functional to that water. We were not connected to the Lake. we had an amazing river and eatuary which has been destroyed. clean water dirty water doesn’t matter.
        plus we are wasting billions of gallons of water. The only people who would happy about that would be people who sell water.
        This issue is not just about and not about algae.
        The project was started already and it needs to be finished.
        It’s going to happen one way or the other. The last algae was public heath nightmare.
        But it won’t go well if [people like you continue to present these myths.
        I have talked to people out there. I understand their issues and I have always been willing to go to the table and have a conversation. The issue is not just the farmers but the people out there.. There is a huge amount of poverty and a huge amount of pride. There are very very good people that live out in the glades. They are downtrodden and they are afraid. and no offense Florida Crystals is their master today. But they want what they have because they are afraid they will loose everything. The best way to have a win win situation is to talk about this. But the propaganda has got to end.
        It’s pathetic.

        Reply
  6. cyndilenz

    we need to stop with the propaganda and show the world that FLorida is not the screwed up place that everyone thinks it is. That we are adults and we can work thru things aas dults. I’m nurse so I am concerned about people health. I’m also an documentary film maker and what I have done is just that. I created way to document so when they propaganda comes our way we can say well no that no true. I don’t object to peoples feeling. I object to the lies that are put out there. Intelligence is the ability to process information and come up with the reasonable . Insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    Reply

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