Something Stinks About’s Latest Finger-Pointing

by | Jul 25, 2017

A new algae bloom is starting to develop in Lake Okeechobee, and environmental activists are prepared to point the finger of blame in any direction but at themselves. On that front, there’s good news and bad news. First, the good news: with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers not flooding the estuaries with runoff from Lake Okeechobee, the algae bloom doesn’t yet look to be a serious threat to the coastal waterways, and so the environmental activists will have to find a new boogeyman when it’s time to raise money for the Everglades Foundation and it’s even more extremist subsidiary,

The bad news is that there’s a new threat developing: intestinal bacteria in the local waterways. And while some might argue that’s a great issue for activists to fight against – after all, political opposition to poopy water is nearly unanimous – the trouble is that the extremists like can’t easily flush the blame in someone else’s direction.

That’s because one of the largest and most logical sources of fecal bacteria is from leaky residential septic tanks.

The facts won’t stop extremist environmental activists from trying to point the finger at someone else. In fact, at least one of them is already trying to shift blame: Bullsugar outreach director Mike Conner recently posted a comment online pointing a finger at Florida’s agriculture industry:

“…those nutrients you mentioned that enter the C-44 between Mayaca and Stuart? Largely ag runoff, unfiltered and unimpeded, from western Martin ag.” 

The only trouble with his statement is that it’s not true. And sadly, it’s not the first time Florida’s environmental activists have tried to pin blame where it makes the largest political or financial impact, regardless of the facts.

According to FAU Harbor Branch researcher Brian LaPointe, the problem isn’t ag runoff at all. He told NPR last year that septic tanks – more than 600,000 of them – are the real problem:

BRIAN LAPOINTE: The problem is septic tanks really don’t treat the sewage to a very high level, they are not engineered to remove nutrients, and they don’t disinfect. So today we have upwards of 600,000 septic tanks leaching into tidal creeks and canals that flow into the Indian River Lagoon.

LISA DESAI: Lapointe and his team regularly test the water. He says traces of human pollution from septic tanks are everywhere, artificial sweeteners, acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, and fecal matter. There are 800 to 1000 dolphins living in the lagoon at any given time. Many are infected with E.Coli and antibiotic resistant bacteria commonly found in human sewage from septic tanks. The once clear, sandy bottom of the water is now full of dead algae.

BRIAN LAPOINTE: You can see the other thing that happens with the build up of septic tanks is the buildup of muck over time as the algae blooms and dies it forms this black muck.

So why are activists like Bullsugar’s Mike Conner blaming farmers instead of making a bigger stink about septic tanks? Start with the fact that he lives in a house that contributes to the problem every time he flushes his own toilet. According to public records, Conner lives in Stuart, Florida, in a home that the Martin County property appraiser’s website says is on a leaky septic system.

So the next time you hear activists from making a lot of noise about “ag runoff,” just remember, they either have no idea what they’re talking about, or they’re deliberately pointing fingers away from the real cause.


  1. Mike Conner

    C’mon Brian! Even you can do better than this. When did you stick your head in my septic tank? You inspecting them as a side job?

    And if want to argue the validity of that aerial photo on Facebook, taken by Jacqui Thurlow Lippisch of the C44 and farm field inflows, have at it.

    Martin County septic seepage is a problem but does not contribute to the ongoing Cyanobacteria blooms in Lake O. Even you know that.

    When you consider the retrofits in Martin, and neighborhood retention ponds in Martin, it makes you wonder why Ag operations, such as those along the C44 are not required to hold and treat their water. Why is that?

  2. Robert Himschoot

    Laponte fails to point out that out of 101 permitted wastewater treatment plants there is a direct discharge of 80 MILLION gallons each day that go into surface waters. Septic systems have have no direct discharge. I suspect that the sludge build-up occurs at those outfalls.

  3. Cabral

    What about the city of Ft. lauderdale’s sewer pipes from 1965 that keep bursting and going into our drains, and local water ways? That’s not septic tanks???

  4. George ledon

    This is why folks are concerned!Watch the above documentary about the toxins in the algae. This is a lake issue, this is a water issue. The coastal waters won’t be green until the lake discharges. I feel for the folks on the lake who are not aware of the risks. Instead if finger pointing, you should be educating. It’s a shame health risks have become a political issue. The coastal waters are not having the toxic algae now because the lake hasn’t been drained yet. The lake has blooms now. The coastal waters may have runoff and septic issues but it won’t be a thick green mat until the lake discharges.

  5. Lou

    Shameful use of a misleading quote to do the bidding of the sugar barons.

    Google the issue, don’t take any one source as gospel. There’s a lot of paid for big ag propaganda out there.

  6. Jon Robertson

    How is my septic tank in stuart that is inspected, cleaned and cleared for use contributing to Lake O algae blooms? What about all the water that was backpumped to protect farmland? Was that treated prior to pumping into the lake?

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