This year, harmful blue-green algae was found in our water earlier than usual - in February. As a result, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers temporarily paused discharges from Lake Okeechobee, but if the toxic algae can bloom in the water that early on, our community could be in real trouble when the wet season rolls around.
Our goal is always zero discharges from Lake Okeechobee, and we will not stop fighting until we get there. Until then, however, we’re going to play the hand we’re dealt and that means protecting the health and safety of those in our community.
That is why I introduced three bills this week: the Stop Poisoning Florida Act, the Toxic Health Threat Warning Act and the Prioritizing Revised Operations To Eliminate Cyanobacteria Toxins in Florida (the PROTECT Florida) Act.
The Stop Poisoning Florida Act would prohibit discharges from Lake Okeechobee at the Port Mayaca Lock and Dam and the St. Lucie Lock and Dam when the water exceeds the toxicity level that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined is too dangerous for human contact.
The Toxic Health Threat Warning Act will require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to notify the public and affected local governments if the water to be released from a flood risk management project is contaminated with cyanobacteria. Our community must be notified if the Army Corps is going to release toxins into our waters - that’s the least they could do.
And the PROTECT Florida Act will amend the Army Corps’ operational priorities to include public health, in addition to existing charges of flood control, navigation, water supply, enhancement of fish and wildlife, and recreation. Protecting the public, including public health, is a primary responsibility of the government, and this bill would make sure that the Army Corps remembers that.
For far too long, the Treasure Coast has struggled with algal bloom outbreaks while the federal government sided time after time with the sugar industry. While these three bills could certainly be a step towards protecting those who call Florida home, the work does not stop here. I will continue to fight to make sure our community is not poisoned.