Sorry Brian Mast, but Joe Biden isn’t pooping in the St. Lucie Estuary

by | Apr 1, 2024

Not that we needed any further reminders that 2024 is an election year, but Republican U.S. Representative Brian Mast is doing his part, just in case. Over the last week or so, the South Florida Congressman has gone on a bit of a rampage accusing the federal government – and by extension, the Biden Administration – of being the biggest polluter of (his) community.  And of course the local media is all too happy to carry his water for him.

What’s he on about anyway? Here’s a quick explainer for anyone who doesn’t own waterfront property along the Indian River Lagoon or the St. Lucie Estuary.

In the sun-soaked but algae-plagued paradise of Florida’s Treasure Coast, Mast needs votes in order to keep his job, and he’s got a brilliant triangulation strategy designed to appeal to Democrats and Republicans alike by hitting all the tried-and-true environmental talking points that resonate with his more progressive voters, while at the same time pointing the finger at a newer villain – the Biden Administration – in the ongoing kerfluffle over toxic algae. This time, Mast lays the blame squarely at the feet of the federal government. Yes, according to Mast, the feds (and their de facto head, President Joe Biden) are the clandestine masterminds behind the murky, green disaster unfolding in the St. Lucie Estuary.

Mast’s fiery rhetoric suggests that the discharges from Lake Okeechobee, managed by the Army Corps of Engineers under the watchful eye of the Biden Administration, are the chief architects of the Treasure Coast’s algae woes, and he’s demanding that they stop releasing water from the lake (where he thinks all that water should go is another matter). It’s an interesting strategy for Mast, and it might actually work. That’s because the locals always blame anyone but themselves for the algae problems rather than acknowledge the much more costly truth: leaky septic tanks surround the area, offering up a literal all-you-can-eat buffet of fecal bacteria for algae to gobble up and grow into a monstrosity that wouldn’t be noticeable without all the poop in the water.  Of course that poop isn’t all Joe Biden’s fault, but the algae it feeds is, according to Mast.

The problem is (and Mast knows this) that swapping a septic system for a modern sewage system isn’t cheap. At least not as cheap as blaming the federal government for the problem.  And so that’s why the locals, including Mast, usually like to blame agricultural runoff, or golf course fertilizers, or anything really, flowing into Lake O, and only later into their allegedly clean river. With a voting base that apparently thinks their own stuff don’t stink, all of them voters who are eager to ignore their own responsibility, why wouldn’t Brian Mast blame Joe Biden for personally dropping a deuce right into their river?

It’s a brilliant political strategy. But it’s not rooted in truth.

Studies from prestigious institutions show that the discharge from Lake O (and the feds who manage it) aren’t quite the environmental supervillains Mast makes them out to be. Instead, the villainy can be traced back to the nitrogen-rich “effluent” from thousands of septic tanks. It turns out that algae, much like tourists, flock to Florida’s waters for the amenities—in this case, a nutrient feast that turns them from benign visitors into overstaying, toxic guests.

It takes two to tango, they say. In this case, if you want to make the perfect giant green blob of toxic algae, you need two things: algae flowing from Lake Okeechobee, and a whole lot of poopy, fertilizer-rich water sitting in the St. Lucie River, just waiting to join forces.

We can’t blame Mast for choosing the path of least resistance. He’s a politician, after all, and blaming a distant, faceless entity is a much smarter strategy than confronting his own voters with the inconvenient truths lurking in their backyards.  But let’s be real: we can’t blame the president and his government for pooping in the river, either.


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