WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) today sent a letter to President Biden asking him to direct Lieutenant General Scott Spellmon, the Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, to visit the communities affected by the Army Corps’ toxic discharges from Lake Okeechobee before he authorizes the poisoning of American citizens this summer.
"Lieutenant General Scott Spellmon swore to me during a Congressional hearing that he would work with my office to ensure protecting human health and safety was a higher priority for the Army Corps, but he has failed to live up to that promise,” Rep. Mast said. “Before the Army Corps spends another summer poisoning us, Lieutenant General Spellmon should first look in the eye of every man, woman and child whose lives he will be putting at risk. Authorizing Americans to be poisoned while hiding safely in an office in Washington, D.C. is the epitome of cowardice.”
On May 5, 2021, Rep. Mast's office reached out to Lieutenant General Spellmon’s staff to request that he visit Florida as soon as possible to view the toxic algal bloom on Lake Okeechobee. On May 7, 2021, however, Lieutenant General Spellmon’s staff replied that the Lieutenant General was unwilling to visit.
On May 14, 2021, Rep. Mast sent a follow-up letter directly to Lieutenant General Spellmon requesting again that he visit the communities affected by the Army Corps’ toxic discharges, but on the same day, Lieutenant General Spellmon informed Rep. Mast that he still would not visit the communities he is threatening to poison.
Rep. Mast is now calling on President Biden to intervene. A copy of the letter that Rep. Mast sent to President Biden is attached.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, last week, the algal bloom on Lake Okeechobee measured more than 500 square miles, making it larger than the size of New York City and Los Angeles.
According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, water at the Pahokee Marina tested more than 100 times higher than the health advisory limit issued by the EPA for microcystin, which is caused by harmful algal blooms.
A study released by the University of Florida found that these toxins can travel roughly 10 miles from the bloom source once airborne.
According to the EPA, potential health impacts from exposure to these toxins include liver and kidney damage, ALS, Alzheimer’s, and even death.
In 2019, Lieutenant General Spellmon admitted in Congressional testimony to knowingly discharging toxic water from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers.
In 2018, Lieutenant General Spellmon testified before Congress that he would be willing to work with Rep. Mast to prioritize public health in the Army Corps’ operations. So, Rep. Mast’s letter urges him to reconsider.