Malcom “Bubba” Wade can suck our infected water.

JENSEN BEACH — If Malcolm “Bubba” Wade felt a twinge of sympathy for the dumped-on St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, his glib tone did a fine job of masking it.

“Another red letter day for the Sugar Barons,” he said, apparently joking, during Thursday’s meeting of the Water Resources Advisory Commission, where his industry was booed by fed-up locals in the audience.

Wade, a vice president with U.S. Sugar Corp., then proceeded to criticize the one idea that advocates believe could bring real relief from the massive discharges of Lake Okeechobee water:

The construction of a “flow way” south.

“Just be careful about using as your No. 1 tactical weapon your flow way. I think it could backfire on you,” the mustachioed sugar exec said during the meeting at Indian RiverSide Park, where signs are posted warning of blue-green algae in the lagoon.

Mark Perry, another commission member and executive director of Florida Oceanographic Society, recently renewed the push for a flow way from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades. He and other river advocates say it offers a remedy to the releases that have prompted toxic algae blooms in the St. Lucie River.

But Wade didn’t want to give the concept any traction.

He claimed the idea — specifically the modified “Plan 6” proposal that would require buying 53,000 acres south of the lake — “didn’t make sense” when it was proposed years ago “and it makes no more sense today.”

He offered no alternative, just deflection of blame for the St. Lucie River’s current crisis.

“Your problem with that water is not us,” Wade told the commission, which advises the South Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board. “It’s north of the lake.”

His position of opposition shouldn’t surprise anyone.

U.S. Sugar and the state’s other giant sugar company, Florida Crystals, have sweet deals in the Everglades Agricultural Area. They get prime irrigation for their crops, and their industries are propped up by federal price supports in the Farm Bill.

What was surprising was how little pushback Wade got from the majority of the Water Resources Advisory Commission.

Kevin Powers, a Martin County native, is vice chair of the commission and of the water management district’s Governing Board. He lives on the St. Lucie River in Stuart, and his late father, Timer Powers, was a well-respected leader who helped broker landmark water deals.

Kevin Powers has an opportunity to emerge as a leader in this crisis, but he was largely silent Thursday.

As a start, he could help by reviving talks about buying more land south of the lake.

The South Florida Water Management District has six years remaining on an option to buy 107,000 acres south of Lake Okeechobee from U.S. Sugar.

Perry said the district should “absolutely” be talking about exercising the option.

Yes, it’s expensive.

Yes, it would take time to figure out how to use the land for a flow way.

But the toxic conditions in the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon are exacting a toll throughout the local economy.

It’s expensive, too.

And there’s no end in sight.

Charter fishing guide Mike Conner, who attended Thursday’s meeting, said he’s driving clients more than 100 miles south in search of cleaner water.

During the past month, he has guided three paid trips. Last year, the number was 13.

He has tried to bill the South Florida Water Management District and Army Corps of Engineers for his lost income.

He’s still waiting for a response.

Wade may not think a man-made flow way makes sense.

Letting the damage to the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon continue is even more nonsensical.

Eve Samples is a columnist for Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers. This column reflects her opinion. Contact her at 772-221-4217 or eve.samples@scripps.com.

 

ERIC HASERT/TREASURE COAST NEWSPAPERS
Malcolm Wade, a vice president for U.S. Sugar Corp., responds to suggestions of selling off property options for possible Lake Okeechobee discharges during the Water Resources Advisory Commission meeting discussing the state of Lake Okeechobee, the St. Lucie Estuary and the Indian River Lagoon in the Frances Langford Center at Indian RiverSide Park in Jensen Beach on Thursday. “Ain’t gonna happen.”$RETURN$$RETURN$

Initiatives

Stuart boat captain Alek Loudakis grew up near the St. Lucie Lock, on water he described as “crystal clear and blue, almost like being in the Bahamas.” Today, he calls it “murky, dead, polluted.”

He is so angry that decades of efforts to stop the polluting discharges from Lake Okeechobee have come to naught that he is petitioning President Barack Obama’s administration to put an end to it.

As of July 25, 883 people had joined him, signing a whitehouse.gov “We the People” online petition Loudakis posted July 19 with the help of longtime friend and Stuart resident James Hill.

Loudakis wants water to flow south to the Everglades but says Big Sugar with its big campaign contributions is standing squarely in the way.

“Death rides a pale horse and drinks from dirty water,” Loudakis said. “The fish are dying, the dolphins and manatees are dying, the pompano are gone and the fresh polluted water keeps coming out of the lake.”

He needs 100,000 signatures by Aug. 19 to get a response from the federal government. If he doesn’t reach his goal, which he said he assumed he won’t, he’ll start a new petition.

“I’ve been watching this for a long time,” he said. “So many people have tried so hard and it’s all come to nothing.”

Loudakis said he signed Steven Cottrell’s change.org online petition to Gov. Rick Scottasking for an end to the discharges as well. Cottrell’s petition had 6,116 signatures by July 25.

Cottrell said he will send his petition to the governor July 26, but keep it open and send it to Scott each time he gets 2,500 more signatures.

“I plan to be a thorn in the governor’s side,” Cottrell said. “This is something that unites Democrats and Republicans, and there’s an election coming up in a year and a half.”

Leon Abood, chairman of the Rivers Coalition, said he supports both initiatives.

“I am personally pleased and rejuvenated by the amount of community support we have, and any initiative that anyone wants to take is great,” he said.

Cottrell and Loudakis said they were outraged the governor said Treasure Coast waters are not important enough to the state’s economy to merit special treatment or funding.

“I find that Rick Scott is very ignorant of what’s going on,” Loudakis said. “He has vetoed funding for research on the problems that caused these marine life deaths and the destruction of our estuaries. He takes contributions from Big Sugar, which is a leech on taxpayers and is trashing my backyard with our own tax dollars. I’m sending my petition to Obama because we have to try to find a way to go around local government.”

PETITIONS

• Click here for the whitehouse.gov petition.

• Sign the change.org petition.

Algae Releasing Toxins

Source: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2013/aug/06/algae-samples-st-lucie-river-test-positive-toxins/

 

MARTIN COUNTY — Tests by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection have confirmed toxins in the blue-green algae blooms covering the St. Lucie Estuary.

Even before the toxins were confirmed, the Florida Department of Health in Martin County urged residents to avoid contact with algae in the entire estuary, from the St. Lucie Canal to the St. Lucie Inlet.

“Now, knowing that the algae is releasing toxins, we’re continuing that advisory,” said Bob Washam of the county health department.

In late July, concentrations of Microcystis aeruginosa — a type of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, that can produce toxins — began showing up in blooms in the estuary.

Washam said late Tuesday afternoon the toxins were found in samples from three sites in the estuary: Hoggs Cove, in the area where the Rio community and the town of Sewall’s Point meet; Pendarvis Cove in Palm City; and off Harbor Point Drive in the Snug Harbor area of Stuart.

The toxins in Microcystis aeruginosa can be harmful to people and pets. Exposure to water containing toxins may cause nausea and vomiting if ingested and rash or hay fever symptoms if touched or inhaled.

Toxins in the algae can kill small animals in the estuary, such as shrimp and crabs.

In late July, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission lab found Microcystis aeruginosa in all seven samples collected by the health department. However, further tests by the Department of Environmental Protection were necessary to confirm the presence of toxins.

In a related matter, the health departments in both Martin and St. Lucie counties reported results of recent tests for enteric bacteria.

St. Lucie health officials urged residents Tuesday to avoid contact with the North Fork of the St. Lucie River from River Park Marina at Prima Vista Boulevard south to Martin County. Testing revealed higher than normal levels of enteric bacteria. The four locations sampled were River Park Marina, Veterans Park, Kitching Cove and waters near Harbour Ridge. The advisory will remain in effect until results show consistent readings in the good range.

Martin County announced Tuesday afternoon levels of enteric bacteria at the sandbar in the Indian River Lagoon between Sewall’s Point and Sailfish Point had returned to the “good” level in tests Monday.

Washam said the department is still warning people to avoid contact with water at the popular weekend gathering spot for boaters.

The bacteria — which may come from stormwater runoff, pets, wildlife and human sewage — can cause upset stomach, diarrhea, eye irritation and skin rashes.

“We want to have a few weeks of ‘good’ results before we say the sandbar is safe,” Washam said. “Besides, it’s in an area where blue-green algae has been found, so people should stay out of the water.”

Other sample sites near the Roosevelt Bridge and Sandsprit Park in Stuart and Leighton Park in Palm City remain in the “poor” range and are also part of the advisory.

Bacteria levels around the Roosevelt Bridge have been “poor” every week since June 17, according to the health department. At Sandsprit Park, the bacteria levels have been “poor” since July 1.

Washam said bacteria levels at the Stuart and Jensen Beach causeways are in the “satisfactory” range, and the areas are considered safe for contact. Ocean beaches throughout the county are in the good range.

The current algae blooms and hikes in bacteria levels are more common when a combination of conditions — nutrients, low-salinity, warm water and sunlight — occur.

Local runoff from many days of rain and discharges of nutrient-rich water from Lake Okeechobee have contributed the first two criteria. The Lake O releases began May 8. On Monday, nutrient-rich freshwater has been flowing through the St. Lucie Lock into the estuary and Indian River Lagoon at a rate of almost 3.8 billion gallons of water a day.

WHAT TO KNOW

Here’s what you need to know about blue-green algae, also called cyanobacteria, that has been reported in the St. Lucie Estuary and the Indian River Lagoon:

Some species produce toxins that can make humans and animals sick, causing stomach and intestinal illness, respiratory distress, allergic reactions, skin irritations, liver damage and neurotoxic reactions.

Swallowing even small amounts of toxin can result in flu-like symptoms including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. In large amounts, toxins can damage the liver, kidneys and the nervous system.

Swimming or wading in a bloom can result in skin irritation, hives, blisters and rashes.

Inhaling toxins can result in hay fever-like symptoms such as itchy eyes, sore throat and congestion.

Because of their size, children and pets are at greater risk for poisoning.

If you or your pet is exposed to toxins, rinse immediately and thoroughly with fresh water and soap.

To report illness from exposure, call the Florida Poison Information Center at 800-222-1222.

Source: Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute

 

CLICK HERE for a video of the algae causing rashes and allergic reactions
http://www.tcpalm.com/videos/detail/wptv-toxic-algae-causing-rashes-and-lesions

Human Chain to Protest Lake O Discharges

So so so so proud of all these folks.  Will it be enough to get our voices heard?

 

This screenshot taken from WPTV's Chopper 5 shows a human chain forming at the Indian River Lagoon rally Sunday in Stuart.Thousands of protesters stretched across Jensen and Stuart beaches Sunday as part of a rally against discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary.

And they say they won’t stop protesting until they win the fight.

According to the Martin County Sheriff’s Office, between 2,000 to 2,500 people showed up to create the human chain across the Martin County shoreline, but organizers Evan Miller and Clint Starling estimates more than 5,000 took part.

“We connected the chain all the way to Jensen,” Miller said at Stuart Beach.

It was the second protest put on by Miller and Starling to challenge millions of gallons of water being discharged daily from the lake and local runoff into the Indian River Lagoon. A South Florida Water Management District official said last week there’s a good chance the lake releases will continue at some level through the winter and possibly into the spring.

Protesters arrived at the beaches wearing costumes and wielding signs expressing their displeasure with the state of the waterway.

More than 5,000 gathered at the first protest Aug. 3 at Phipps Park in Stuart.

“This is a remarkable event showing broad-based community support to demand cleaning up our waterways,” said Martin County Commissioner John Haddox at the Sunday rally.

Miller said another rally was in the works, but an exact date and time had not been set yet.

“I’m glad that people are coming out to show their support to save the lagoon,” said Mike Schneider of Hobe Sound. “It needs to be done. Change needs to happen now.”

Higher levels of bacteria in Indian River

Found here: http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2013/aug/12/harbor-branch-higher-levels-bacteria-found-indian/

 

FORT PIERCE – There is an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the Indian River Lagoon according to a new study released by FAU Harbor Branch scientists.

A check of water samples taken over the past year there indicates a sizable increase in bacteria, according the the study.

Water testing has taken place where Taylor Creek feeds into the lagoon as well as near the FAU Harbor Branch campus.

Both agricultural and urban runoff have contributed to higher bacteria levels in the Taylor Creek samples, according to scientists.

FAU Harbor Branch says that antibiotics are used extensively in medicine to prevent infections in humans and animals as well as in agriculture to promote the growth of livestock.

Scientists have found that antibiotics are being released into the environment and have been detected in waste water, surface water, ground water and sediments.

FAU Harbor Branch says that the antibiotics in the environment are contributing to the growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

HARBOR BRANCH NEWS RELEASE

FORT PIERCE, Fla. (August 12, 2013) – Preliminary research from FAU Harbor Branch scientists has uncovered an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the Indian River Lagoon. The study compared water samples taken from two locations in the lagoon in June 2011, 2012 and 2013. Data indicates a sizeable increase in the amount of bacteria present this year as compared to the two years prior.

“It is important to remember that these findings are preliminary,” said Peter McCarthy, Ph.D., an FAU Harbor Branch research professor who oversees the study. “Our goal is to continue to pursue this work, but funding will play a critical role in our ability to do so.”

The testing sites included where Taylor Creek feeds into the lagoon, as well as a second site close to the FAU Harbor Branch campus. Research showed that levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria were much higher in the Taylor Creek samples, a waterway which is impacted by agricultural and urban development and receives discharges from the C-25 canal as well as the Fort Pierce Farms Water Control District C-1 canal.

In a previous FAU Harbor Branch study, antibiotic-resistant bacteria had been detected in samples taken from Atlantic bottlenose dolphins in the Indian River Lagoon (Schaefer et al. 2009). These findings are what led to this water sampling research in 2011 and additional sampling of local dolphins is ongoing. Results from both projects, along with environmental data will provide a comprehensive overview of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the lagoon.

Antibiotics are used extensively in medicine to prevent and treat microbial infections in humans and animals, as well as in agriculture to promote the growth of livestock. As a result, antibiotics are released into the environment through disposal and excretion and have been detected in waste water, surface water, ground water and sediments. Exposure to these large quantities of antibiotics can lead to the proliferation of antibiotic-resistant pathogenic strains of bacteria.

For more information, contact Carin Smith at 772-242-2230 or carinsmith@fau.edu.