Algae Bloom In Lake Okeechobee Has Microcystin Levels That Are 80x More Toxic Than What WHO Deems To Be Unsafe Levels

Last week, Florida DEP announced that the latest algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee has microcystin levels that are 80 times more toxic than what the World Health Organization deems to be unsafe levels. Microcystins pose a grave health hazard and are capable of making humans and animals very sick. We can only hope that water levels in the lake remain low enough that water won’t need to be discharged into the estuaries, causing another environmental and human health disaster like the one we faced in 2016.

Decades of pollution and mismanagement have led us here, and the problems in Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades and the surrounding communities will only be solved if we fix the water flows (sending more water south to Florida Bay and less east and west into the estuaries) and drastically reduce the levels of contaminants in that water. The swift implementation of SB-10 remains an important step in the efforts to fix the problems that are threatening ecosystems and communities in South Florida.

A New Era For The South Florida Water Management District?

Are we entering a new era for the South Florida Water Management District? Environmentalists are hopeful that the answer is yes, as scientist Ernie Marks was just tapped to take over the Executive Director of the SFWMD role, replacing Peter Antonacci.

Unlike Antonacci, whose main qualification was being general counsel to Governor Scott, Marks has a background in science and is highly qualified for the role. He has been working for the district as the director of Everglades policy and coordination, and previously served as the south region director for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Prior to that, he spent 13 years working for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Hopefully, science will be put back behind the wheel. That includes reestablishing ties to the National Academy of Sciences, beginning the scientific modeling laid out in SB10 to ensure there is sufficient land for the treatment needs of the 240-360K EAA reservoir, and tabling deep well injection, which was never a part of CERP, already objected to by the Army Corps of Engineers and would shortchange southern storage (needed for Florida Bay in drought conditions) by wasting water underground.

It’s time to let science and reason prevail. The appointment of Marks gives us cautious optimism that they will.