ST. PETERSBURG, FlaThe Center for Biodiversity, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, and Calusa Waterkeeper today filed a petition with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to protect the public from toxins in the harmful algal blooms that reoccur in the state.
Today's petition requires the Department to consider introducing pollution limits for algencyanotoxins associated with liver disease and neurodegenerative risks in humans. The state could be the first to set water quality criteria to protect swimmers, boaters and fishermen from exposure to hazardous recreational cyanotoxins.
"These standards are critical to protecting Florida's people and wildlife from toxic algae," said Jason Totoiu, a senior attorney for the center. "As someone who grew up wading in the Indian River lagoon, I know that it is critical for the state to tackle this dangerous, disgusting problem, with rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns due to climate change adding to that risk Our communities have suffered more than a decade of inaction from the government and we deserve it better. "
The petition calls on Florida's Department of Environmental Protection to adopt the recommended criteria published by the EPA in 2016, which are far more protective than the final recommended criteria issued by the agency this week.
Florida's lakes, rivers, springs and estuaries have some of the country's worst algae blooms. They cost local economies hundreds of millions of dollars. The flowers come from nutrient pollution from household, industrial and agricultural waste as well as from climate change and shortsighted water management decisions. The US Army Corps of Engineers routinely drains algae-laden water from Lake Okeechobee into the rivers and estuaries of Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie.
The algae produce cyanotoxins that threaten human health and wildlife. People exposed to cyanotoxins by drinking contaminated water, exposure to seaweed or inhaling cyanotoxins may have health consequences, including a higher risk of liver disease. There is also growing concern that humans and marine mammals exposed to water-based B-methylamino-L-alanine derived from cyanotoxins may be at increased risk for neurodegenerative diseases.
"The islands of Sanibel and Captiva are beautiful, special places that are exposed to a great threat of harmful algal blooms," said Ryan Orgera of the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. We need our state to establish and enforce reasonable water quality standards that support us and our communities Protect children and grandchildren. "
"The public health risks posed by cyanaobacteria blooms are well known and seem to be the basis for our governors' repeated state of emergency when large blooms occur," said John Cassani of Calusa Waterkeeper. "However, Florida has not set" actionable "criteria for assessing the environmental impact or public health risks of cyanotoxins."
The standards are designed to help the department monitor water quality and identify and purify water that is impaired by cyanotoxins. They would also help civil servants inform the public about the health risks of swimming, wading or boating in high cyanotoxin waters.
The criteria would also help to optimize the planning, protection and restoration of watersheds in water catchment areas such as Lake Okeechobee and the estuaries of Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie by establishing specific performance measures to protect human health through exposure to water leisure time, fish, wildlife and the aquatic environment.
This week's EPA recommendations to protect human health and water quality from dangerous cyanotoxins provide 8 micrograms per liter for microcystins and 15 micrograms per liter for cylindrospermopsin.
These values are much less protective than those suggested by the EPA in 2016, which were 4 micrograms per liter for microcystins and 8 micrograms per liter for cylindrospermopsin.