Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Soto/Vasilinda amendment praised for setting nutrient pollution limits

Florida Legislators Darren Soto and Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda
File Measure To Protect Public Health and Public Waters



Senator Darren Soto
Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasalinda
TALLAHASSEE - Clean water advocates are praising Sen. Darren Soto and Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda for a legislative measure that aims to protect Floridians, tourists, and their pets from the effects of dangerous slimy algae outbreaks on the state’s beaches, lakes, springs, bays, and rivers.

These outbreaks are fueled by sewage, manure and fertilizer – called “nutrient pollution.”

Soto and Rehwinkel Vasilinda  today unveiled amendments to HB 7115/SB1808 which would require 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 amendments 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.

Soto and Rehwinkel Vasilinda’s amendments also require the Florida DEP to report which water bodies around the state are out of compliance with the DEP’s rules on sewage, manure and fertilizer pollution.

If the number of reported deaths or health problems affecting people, dogs, livestock, manatees, and seabirds combined exceeds 100, the amendment specifies that the state DEP’s rules on sewage, manure and fertilizer will be replaced by more effective rules developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“Senator Soto and Representative Rehwinkel Vasilinda should be commended for acknowledging that Florida is facing a major crisis as many of our springs, lakes, rivers and coastal waters are plagued with either green slime or red tide,” said Sierra Club Florida Staff Director Frank Jackalone.   “They see what most Floridians are witnessing in their back yards – vast algae outbreaks  which are lethal to our fish and manatees, harmful to human health, devastating to our tourism-based economy, and ruinous to property values. Their amendment tells the truth --  It says Florida's green slime and red algae problem is so big, our state government probably can't fix it on its own.”

Earthjustice attorney David Guest agreed.

“People and pets are getting sick from algae outbreaks, and the public has a right to know the extent of the problem. If the DEP’s rules aren’t protecting Floridians, then we need EPA’s rules in place to protect us.”

“We have to reduce nutrient pollution of our Florida waters, and this language helps do that,” added Florida Wildlife Federation President Manley Fuller.

Andrew McElwaine, president of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, said his group also strongly supports Soto and Rehwinkel Vasilinda’s amendments.
“It will set meaningful limits on pollution where children and wildlife are threatened,” McElwaine said.  With the death of over 250 manatees from harmful algal outbreaks, southwest Florida urgently needs the protection the amendment provides.” 

SB 1808 is currently on the Senate’s special order calendar.


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