Clean Water for the SWFL Environment

Talking Points

  1. Improve the water quality to the highest standards and best practices in America.
  2. Ban Fracking and Drilling in Florida and off our shores.  
  3. Focus on the Everglades as the most important for restoration and recovery.  Develop a land use initiative that includes sea rise and everglades protection
  4. Evaluate the effects on women and children who are most at risk from polluted water and climate change, and put these in top priority for management.
  5. Prepare to mitigate the metro areas that are at risk from violent storms and flooding. 
  6. Plan to combat human trafficking increases when environmental stresses take a toll on the surrounding communities.  
  7. Create a scientist-led panel of experts to measure, evaluate, and propose immediate and longterm solutions to the red tide, blue-green algae, and other algae/pollution in Lake Okeechobee, rivers, and canals in Florida.

Sea rise is an international concern, and it needs immediate attention here in FL.  We have salt water in the Miami sewers, water damage and severe storm damage from Irma and Michael, and poor water quality.  Epidemics, such as Zika, are rising, and invasive species from the south are seeking cooler refuge here in Florida.  We need a blue-ribbon plan utilizing the expertise of national and local experts to prepare Florida for the droughts, fires, and rainy seasons in order to protect our Everglades, our homes, our health, and our businesses.

Urban areas are at risk from storms, water rising and high power storms (hurricanes and tornados). 

  • Storm protection (windows, glass, even evacuation shelters) must be updated to the latest standards. 
  • Urban farming can be promoted as a community –building opportunity.  With these communal farms, families can alleviate food deserts, children can eat healthy dinners, and communities can come together to improve their standard of living.
  • Water quality and sewer treatment are far behind the latest standards in many urban areas. It is time to update the infrastructure and water standards to protect the health of the residents in an area.

Environmental Changes Cause the Most Havoc for Lower-Income Women and Children 

For this reason, we need a special focus on women and children in low-lying, sea coast and farm areas as well as in agricultural centers.

  • Water must be clean, accessible, and affordable in all neighborhoods.
  • Health care and schools must be built to the latest expert recommendations.
  • Transportation and wages must be raised so that families can travel, earn and learn the up-to-date methods for moving into the middle class, including financial training, safety and protection, and health management skills.
  • Laws and law enforcement training must be created to identify cultural needs in the low-income community.
  • Jobs can be created and enhanced with innovation hubs throughout the communities of farmers, particularly women farmers. 
  • Economic security and opportunity in higher education must be offered at fees that are proportional to wages so that all families feel they can move up the ladder in the US.

Human Trafficking Increases 

Human trafficking appears to increase when environmental stresses take a toll on the surrounding communities.  Sensitivity/cultural  training must be paramount for departments of social services, law enforcement, and schools.

Rape crisis and domestic violence centers must be funded at a level that accommodates anyone in a precarious or life-threatening situation.  Safe houses or centers must be built and staffed with qualified  staff to help the adults and children who cannot return to their homes.

Much of the above is excerpted from Congresswoman Barbara Lee announcement of the Women & Climate Change Act.

The Importance of the Everglades 

The Everglades must be elevated into the prime spotlight for restoration and recovery.

  • Lake Okeechobee overspills and discharges must be reconfigured to ensure the best outcome, least pollution, and most protection of the wetlands around it. 
  • SFWMD has proposed a plan that will not house significant water runoff  nor prtect the wetlands from wilt and drought.  The reservoirs are too small, improperly positioned, and much too costly.  It’s time to give these designs to a collaborative body that can include the Army Corps of Engineers along with experts from FGCU, Land development experts, and concerned and educated citizens who can prescribe a better plan to reinforce the dike while saving more rainwater in larger reservoirs for maximum salvage during the rainy season.

Redistribution of the agricultural areas must be created to disperse the toxic water more broadly for washing through the Everglades.

  • Potassium and phosphorous, insecticides and herbicides can be diluted by directing flow directly through the fields as nature intended.
  • Innovation can assist the agricultural areas to guard revenues to the businesses while making the ground-level changes needed.
  • A comprehensive assessment and remediation plan must be created in partnership with the Indigenous peoples of the area for best results for all.

The water flow through the Everglades must be re-designed into its original sheet flow and away from the east-west rivers, a directional shift that will re-populate the preserves and protect the fragile coastal waterways.

Make the water clean again

Florida Is Too Fragile for Fracking and Offshore Oil Drilling 

We must ban Fracking and Drilling in Florida and off our shores.  Our ecosystems have been hurt with wastes, chemicals and sea rise.  We cannot accommodate drilling in the fragile substrate of coral and limestone. Fracking and drilling in the sensitive, protective wetlands as well as in State and Federal protected lands must be stopped.

  • Create incentives for solar, nuclear and wind energy that will speed our development of sustainable energy. 
  • Create job-training for miners and drillers to offset the loss of jobs whenever sustainable energy eclipses the oil-coal industries.
  • Expand technical training in high schools and colleges to drive innovation, economic growth and opportunities for sustainable energy creation and use. We are still cleaning up from the Gulf Oil Spill, in which the largest amout of benzene was dropped against restrictions into the Gulf.  On cool days, oil spill balls still rise to the surface of the water. 
  • Fracking also drives extraneous health care costs for inpatient days in areas where wells are present.  In PA, it amounted to over $20M dollars per analysis of inpatient days, which would be paid by tax dollars and/or private insurance. (Nayer).  Our counties are larger and more populated than those from the study in Pennsylvania. 
  • Remove the TRADE SECRETS clauses so we know the damage and remediation needed to return the area to its natural state.  (most is Toluene and Benzene—Benzene is the most carcinogenic compound known). 
  • Improve access to medical Tx and mental health tx, esp for kids, who suffered increased stress, addiction, violence during this time.  Offer yearly screenings for opioids, cancer, cardiology and other concerns due to the enormous influx of Benzene.
  • Create a marine biology Task Force to assess what needs to be done now and into the future.

Land Use in Florida

Land use in Florida, and especially in Lee and Collier Counties, is growing rapidly. It is imperative to develop and deploy comprehensive, coordinated attention to sea rise, water quality and use, and waste management.

  • 20thcentury landfills and water diversion techniques have caused inappropriate water clogging and and sewer backup from Dunbar in Fort Myers to the Estero River and estuaries to the Gulf. This must be a part of remediation and resculpting of the water flow supervised by Land-water experts from FGCU, among others.
  • Canals near Ben Hill Griffin and Six Mile Cypress are impeding the natural flow of water, backing up sewers and diminishing water quality in Estero.
  •  Land fill and junk yards in family neighborhoods are leaking odors and smells that are assumed to be lead, arsenic and possibly benzene. To date, the water tests were performed on lands several miles above the land fill, giving a false interpretation of results. Real sampling of the grounds in the landfill and around the neighborhood is required for mediation.

Improve Water Quality to Highest Standards in US

Quality in Florida was changed for the worse in 2015.  Newer methods to manage water quality should be identified and deployed by a new panel that does not seat stakeholders of agriculture and industry, as they have vested interest in the lower standards and additives.

  • The 2015 proposal reversed the balance of 39 chemicals in the treatment of the water, and this is unacceptable.  The new standard allows polluters to dump dangerous amounts of chemicals in high concentrations into Florida waters before they trigger the limits of the new rule, and lets Florida adhere to standards that are weaker than federal guidelines.
  • Known carcinogens (such as hexavalent chromium) have been elevated.  In the case of chromium, it was moved to almost 100 % higher than previously approved levels. These must be rolled back.

Legislation is here

Immediately Create a Scientist-Led Panel of Experts 

We can no longer trust the climate-denying stakeholders and representatives to deliver clean water, safe shores, and drawdown measures for our state.  We need to re-engage with the scientists, monitors, and economic experts to provide a pathway to safe, clean water for every resident of the state, and a future plan that respects climate science and economic innovation.