After two environmental activist groups all but rejected Governor Rick Scott’s long-term plan to address algae blooming in and around the Indian River Lagoon, the Florida Chamber is firing back. Edie Ousley, the Chamber’s VP of Public Affairs, penned a memo to “interested media” redirecting attention to the unpleasant but unavoidable fact that septic tank runoff is a major contributor to the algae bloom.
So while some homeowners in the area gripe and point fingers at other causes, as many as one in ten with septic tanks may be contributing to the problem.
“Many of the septic tanks are old and malfunctioning,” Ousley wrote. “State health officials estimate up to 10 percent of Florida’s 2.6 million septic tanks are failing.”
Environmental groups are quick to join the chorus in blaming others, and there’s a good explanation why: few individual homeowners want to spend thousands of dollars to replace their leaky septic system. It’s an unseen problem that has little obvious impact on their immediate property.
For groups like Bullsugar.org and Earthjustice, It’s much easier, and much more lucrative, to collect small contributions from local residents, then use those dollars to target others. From Politico:
“The [governor’s] proposal is appreciated but is not going to stop the algae blooms and it’s not what we should be focused on right now,” said Chris Maroney, founder of the Bullsugar.org group.
“I think this is an attempt to change the subject from controlling agricultural pollution,” said Alisa Coe, staff attorney with the Earthjustice environmental law firm.
But as Ousley points out in her memo, plenty of more reasonable environmental groups understand the full scope of the cause of algae blooms. Some even acknowledge that it’s a relatively natural occurrence.
Full memo below:
TO: Interested media
FROM: Edie Ousley, Vice President of Public Affairs for the Florida Chamber
DATE: July 8, 2016
RE: Scientists and Environmentalists Agree: Septic Tanks Remain a “Major” Problem
Recently, media outlets have been seeking opinions from scientists as well as environmental leaders on what’s causing the algae blooms in and around Lake Okeechobee.
A recent POLITICO story showed there is agreement from both Dr. Brian LaPointe and Audubon Florida Executive Director Eric Draper, who indicated that septic tanks are a “major contributor” of pollution in local watersheds.
In addition to South Florida, Florida’s panhandle has also been experiencing algae blooms, which are common to Florida during the summer months.
The following are facts that have been recently reported that may be important to you as you report on the ongoing algae crisis:
In addition to reports of algae on the Treasure Coast, a Wednesday WJGH report noted algae blooms in North Florida:
Dr. Lapointe’s scientific research shows that septic tank sewage nitrogen is a smoking gun that threatens many of Florida’s waterways, including the Indian River Lagoon.
Economies across the state rely on water, an abundant resource in Florida. Water issues affect these areas economically and scientific steps need to be taken to prevent and counteract this side-effect of water pollution, a point Dr. Lapointe stresses in a Bottom Line interview with the Florida Chamber. The Florida Chamber will continue to support legislative efforts to address septic tanks contributing to springs pollution and focus resources on cost-effective water quality improvement projects.
For more information, you can read about the Florida Chamber’s past efforts online.