Right now, parts of South Florida are once again in a state of emergency because of a toxic, slimy, green algae bloom that’s spreading from Lake Okeechobee into the local waterways.
I spent last week traveling from one coast of Florida to the other – from Fort Myers to Pahokee and, eventually, to Stuart – to hear directly from local residents and business owners who are most affected by these toxic algae blooms.
One of the things I heard over and over from the folks I met with is that they are worried about the potential health risks associated with this toxic algae. They feel like they’re not getting timely, accurate information about what to look out for, and what they should do if a bloom takes over the waterways in their area.
So, I wrote to the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ask that the agency provide any information it has about the potential health risks associated with algae exposure to the people in South Florida as soon as possible, and to take steps necessary to study the potential long-term health effects that these algae blooms may cause for those who live near these waterways, especially the effects it may have on our children and the elderly.
It’s important to remember that while we all celebrated the Army Corps of Engineers announcement last week that it was going to set aside an additional $514 million to complete its work on the Herbert Hoover Dike by 2022 instead of 2025, as Sen. Rubio and I requested, fixing the dike alone is not going to end these disastrous discharges.
To truly solve this algae crisis and prevent these blooms from reoccurring again in the future, we need to finish restoring the Everglades to send more clean water south of Lake O as Mother Nature initially intended, instead of east and west through the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie waterways.
That’s what I’ve been pushing for, and that’s what I’m going to continue pushing for as long as I’m in the Senate.
Bill Nelson represents Florida in the U.S. Senate.