Biological Hazard in USA on July 01 2016 03:12 AM (UTC).
Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency Thursday as blooms of toxic algae plagues beaches along the state's Atlantic coast. "This is our Deep Water Horizon. It's time the federal and state government understand how God-awful the problem is here," said Martin County Commissioner Doug Smith, referencing the 2010 oil spill that devastated wildlife along the Gulf of Mexico. When the algae blooms die, they release toxins that cause rashes and could endanger wildlife. The foul-smelling problem - which has closed beaches along the Treasure Coast - stems in part from stopgap measures put in place by the feds. To preserve the aging earthen dike surrounding Lake Okeechobee, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers routinely releases water to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers. After floods devastated the area around the lake in the wake of a massive 1928 hurricane that killed 2,500 people, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began regulating lake water levels to minimize the risk of a dike breach. Now, local officials are citing the lake discharges as the cause of the spreading blooms - although the South Florida Water Management District said that septic tanks and stormwater runoff can also play a role. This season's high temperatures and heavy rainfall have only exacerbated the problem. Predictably, the Sunshine State's Republican governor laid the blame at the feet of the Obama administration. "Florida's waterways, wildlife and families have been severely impacted by the inaction and negligence of the federal government not making the needed repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike and Florida can no longer afford to wait," he said in a statement. "Because the Obama Administration has failed to act on this issue, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to discharge millions of gallons of water into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries resulting in the growth of blue-green algae which is now entering residential waterways in South Florida." Scott has asked state and local authorities to pursue water storage alternatives to reduce the blooms' spread through St. Lucie and Martin counties. Environmentalist Erin Brokovich posted about the toxic blooms on Facebook, predicting further consequences if no action is taken. "Next stop, dead animals, dead endangered manatees," she wrote. Now, local officials want a federal emergency declaration - and they also want the dike locks closed to stop the waterflow. But corps spokesman John Campbell said that's just not safe. "I see suspending the flow as unlikely. It would put people who live and work around that area at risk," he said.