Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Florida Senate Coddles Polluters, Abandons Public Health Protection

Florida House Votes Next: Representatives Should Restore Protections

David Guest, Earthjustice Attorney; (850) 228-3337 or (850) 681-0031
Manley Fuller, President, Florida Wildlife Federation; (850) 567-7129
Frank Jackalone, Florida Staff Director, Sierra Club; (727) 824-8813 x302
Andrew McElwaine, President, Conservancy of Southwest Florida; (239) 403-4210


TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Senate today voted down a common-sense measure which would have better protected Floridians and tourists from toxic algae outbreaks in the places where we swim, fish, and boat.

At the behest of polluter-lobbyists, legislators voted against an amendment to SB 1808, which would have required state authorities to track the number of children and adults diagnosed with skin rashes, acute respiratory illness, and gastrointestinal symptoms after coming in contact with algae-infested waters.

The Senate bill passed 34-4. A companion measure,  HB 7115, is still in the House of Representatives. Click Here for ALERT

The Senate amendment – and one pending in the House -- would also require the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to make public:

- The number of dogs and livestock that died within 3 hours of exposure to algae-  infested waters.
- The number of manatees that died within 30 days of exposure to algae outbreaks. 

- The number of seabirds that died within 30 days of exposure to algae outbreaks.

Florida Sen. Darren Soto and Florida Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda drafted the amendments to protect Floridians, wildlife, tourists, and their pets from the effects of dangerous slimy algae outbreaks on the state’s beaches, lakes, springs, bays, and rivers. The outbreaks are fueled by sewage, manure and fertilizer runoff, known as “nutrient pollution.”

“It is clear that Florida's polluters are the winners today, securing Senate approval of ineffective and unenforceable guidelines that will leave our rivers, lakes and coastal waters slimed with green algae and red tide,” said Sierra Club Florida Staff Director Frank Jackalone. “We are shocked that the Senate decided there won't be any sunshine in the Sunshine State, rejecting a simple amendment that would have required the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to report to the public the number of incidents when toxic algae harms human health or injures pets, livestock and wildlife."

Four senators stood up for the public health of Floridians: Sens. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Wellington; Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth; Joe Negron, R-Palm City; and the sponsor of the public health amendment,  Sen. Soto, D-Kissimmee.

“What we need to do is limit pollution and clean up our waterways,” said Florida Wildlife Federation president Manley Fuller. “The Florida Senate won’t even go as far as documenting the problem, much less set real limits on the amount of sewage manure an fertilizer running into our water.”

“Year after year, we watch the influence that these polluters have on these legislators grow. They sell out the public who elected them time after time, and it is frankly difficult to watch,”  said Earthjustice attorney David Guest.

“It’s hard to believe that the Florida Senate would vote against monitoring these toxic algae outbreaks when we have hundreds of dead manatees washing up on our shores right in the middle of tourist season,” said Andrew McElwaine, President of the  Conservancy of Southwest Florida .