Red Tide and Coastal Pollution Campaign
by Marti Daltry, Ft. Myers Sierra Club
Gardeners in Southwest Florida are busy tending their yards; trimming, weeding, and applying pesticides and fertilizer. However, our daily deluges wash grass clippings, pesticides and fertilizer into our water ways, canals and rivers providing the ideal food for all types of toxic and nuisance algae such as red tide, red drift algae and blue-green algae to grow. In addition, excess nutrient runoff from animal waste, seepage from over-burdened sewage and septic tank systems, agriculture and industrial runoff all create a nutrient-laden stew that peer-reviewed scientific research strongly suggests is responsible for the increased intensity and duration of some harmful algal blooms in Southwest Florida.
Recently the South Florida Water Management District board voted not to backpump any more polluted water into Lake Okeechobee; an action that was applauded by environmental groups across the state. The Sierra Club - Calusa Group, was among the thirty organizations and individuals who made public comments on this issue, and presented their opposition to this harmful practice.
The Sierra Club has launched a Red Tide and Coastal Pollution Campaign to help reduce excessive nutrient runoff in Southwest Florida. Public education is one component; teaching newcomers and long-term residents alike how to achieve a Florida Friendly Yard and incorporating water conservation techniques to existing yards.
Another crucial step is passing local fertilizer ordinances that protect our waterways by prohibiting fertilizing during the rainy season, using time-release or slow-release fertilizers that contain no phosphorus, requiring buffer zones between yard and water and training and certification in best management practices for lawn care professionals.
From an environmental perspective, from an economic perspective and from a health perspective, now is the time to be pro-active and take the necessary steps to reduce coastal pollution. This problem of red tide, red drift and blue-green algae is not a South Florida problem, nor is it a state problem; it is a global problem. Throughout our nation and the world, along the coasts or on inland lakes, our beaches are closed and our water resources are threatened by harmful algal blooms.
Our natural water resources; our river and its watershed, our beaches and the Gulf of Mexico are Southwest Florida's greatest natural treasures and should be protected for future generations to enjoy.