Don't eat the fish in Lake Okeechobee...

“Lake O, laden with nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, is again fostering what is becoming an annual bloom of toxic algae. Meanwhile, commercial fishermen are busy harvesting catches of catfish, bream and tilapia from these same algae-laden waters.

So we're actively harvesting and selling fish caught from waters we know to be harmful to human recreational contact. This has bad idea written all over it.”

TC PALM: Lake Okeechobee fish: Is it safe to eat?

"Congressman Brian Mast is making another run at stopping harmful Lake Okeechobee discharges by requiring the Army Corps to consider the health and safety of people downstream before releasing toxic water to the coasts.”

This is what change looks like. Slow at times, but always pushing forward, relentless.

TC PALM: Rep. Mast retools bill to make Army Corps consider public health before Lake O discharges

“For years, people in the poor cities of Belle Glade, Pahokee and South Bay have coughed and gasped. FIU reports that during burning season the air there contains 15 times the amount of 18 chemicals, some possibly carcinogenic.

According to Big Sugar, it’s not harmful at all.” And it helps their bottom line. Sound familiar?

PALM BEACH POST EDITORIAL: Let lawsuit unearth facts on sugar-cane burning on the Glades communities

You would think this would be a no-brainer. But even today, the Army Corps and SFWMD have policies in place giving sugar growers top priority for water supply and water drainage. Everything else has lost in this equation. Enter, Congressman Brian Mast.

CBS12.COM: Mast to introduce new legislation requiring army corps to prioritize public health

During heavy rains, corporate agriculture’s increasing overuse and misuse of fertilizers washes off the fields and is flushed into rivers and ultimately into the Gulf of Mexico. The result is an enormous dead zone where the Mississippi meets the Gulf.

Is this to be Florida's fate?

CBS NEWS: Number of bottlenose dolphin deaths triple in Gulf of Mexico, NOAA reports

“The causes of our blue-green algae problems are well understood. At this point, we need this Task Force to scour the science, look at our regulatory structure, and draft a bold prescription for how to get us out of the problems we are facing right now.”

Task Force should be addressing (in this order):

* Bad agricultural practices (current) vs best management practices (imaginary) 
* Degraded municipal infrastructure for sewer and stormwater
* Upgrading or converting septic to sewer (give the homeowner a choice, but it must be mandatory)

SUN SENTINEL: Big mission awaits Florida's new blue-green algae task force

Americans sure are competitive! But we’re also compassionate about the wildlife around us and caring, more and more, about the health of our water and waterways.

SUN SENTINEL: 633 Divers set world record cleaning ocean floor off Deerfield Beach

The South Florida Water Management District has denied a permit for the farm to fertilize crops, mostly corn, with a compost mixture containing tons of partially treated human waste.

District officials said plans for the farm don't ensure heavy rains won't flush polluted stormwater into nearby canals leading to the Indian River Lagoon.

Florida Today: Biosolids - Sunbreak Farms wants judge to grant permit to spread human waste on cornfields

Blooms in Lake O are likely to keep growing this summer, thanks to warmer temperatures; long, sunny days; and wet season afternoon thunderstorms washing nutrients from agricultural runoff into the lake.

"Those are the three things algae needs to grow," said Dennis Hanisak, a researcher at Florida Atlantic University's Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Fort Pierce.

TC PALM: Lake Okeechobee blue-green algae bloom at Port Mayaca growing; is it getting more toxic?

This dead zone off Louisiana is connected to runoff from one of the largest rivers in the world, the Mississippi. Thousands of acres of farms have flooded this year because of what NOAA calls "the abnormally high amount of spring rainfall." That means there is a lot more water from those fields going straight into the river, which empties into the Gulf.

NBC 2: The Gulf could see one of the largest dead zones in history this year

"As a precaution, I'd say don't eat any fish from anywhere in the lake right now," said Dr. Paul Gray, an Audubon biologist who's been studying Lake O for 30 years. "Even if you don't see algae in the water, there can still be toxins in the water because when the algae dies, the toxins remain."

TC PALM: With toxic blue-green algae bloom, don't eat lake Okeechobee fish, Audobon biologist says

Our waterways, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean - and everything they support - are under an assault of our own government's making. Except for the Governor, and a handful of decent, committed legislators, there remains a defiance and a lack of urgency from too many.

Mary Radabaugh, manager of Central Marine Stuart, shares a summary of the marina's frequent fight with toxic algae-filled summers.

TC PALM: Lost Summers: The Story of Central Marine's frequent fight with toxic algae

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