Florida at Center of Two Water Quality Tragedies — Red Tide and Blue-Green Algal Bloom

The land of sun, sand and beaches has become a red tide wave of death, with slimy, blue-green waters fed by algal blooms along the Southwest Gulf coast of Florida literally destroying everything they touch. The algal blooms reach all the way up the Caloosahatchee River, while the red tide runs from Marco Island to Sarasota, the News-Press reports.

The algal bloom — which some think is caused by nutrients in the Everglades drainage system — has been rampant since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decided to discharge waters from Lake Okeechobee (in the south-central part of the state) into rivers on either side of it. As manatees, sea turtles and sea life die and wash up on the beaches, Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in seven counties.

This particular news story doesn’t mention it, but the rest of the story is that toxic algae like that draining into the Florida seas are due largely to increasing usage of herbicides such as Roundup, which contain glyphosate, a known stimulant of algal blooms. In fact, if you live near a lake anywhere in the U.S., you may have noticed signs warning of toxic blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria.

Such warnings, advising swimmers and boaters to stay out of the water, and keep pets away as well, are becoming increasingly common as the thick, green muck appears on once-pristine waterways. Lake Erie, for example, has been struggling for years with algae blooms due to glyphosate application runoffs. The blooms now cover 25 percent of the entire lake — and research chemists say the bloom spikes coincide with increased use of glyphosate.

In Florida, the algae is fed by phosphorus-rich runoff from sugarcane fields, other agricultural runoff from cattle ranches, dairy farms, citrus groves and vegetable farms. And, despite government agencies across the U.S. spending billions of dollars to help farmers prevent runoffs, algae blooms are growing worse instead of better — and is now a major environmental problem in all 50 states.

It’s even contaminating drinking waters and, as the city of Toledo found out, it’s not something municipal water systems can filter out. Back in the South, environmental reports show that massive manure and fertilizer pollution churned out by meat giant Tyson Foods is blamed for causing the largest dead zone on record in the Gulf of Mexico. Yet, still, the green slime poisoning continues.

So what’s the solution? Besides the absolute necessity of installing a water filter system in your own home, I ask you to join me in calling for an end to the destructive factory farming that leads to algae growths. Even small changes, like the use of cover crops, can help prevent soil erosion that leads to runoffs.

You can also help by only buying food from farmers who are using natural methods and soil-regenerative techniques, such as no till, cover crops, composting and grass fed livestock integration. This will naturally help you to eat better too, since typically only real whole foods are grown this way.
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