Three environmental groups filed notice Wednesday that they intend to sue the federal government over the disastrous pollution that’s been fueling toxic algae outbreaks and marine die-offs in South Florida.
The Center for Biological Diversity, Calusa Waterkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance filed a 60-day notice against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
At issue: the slugs of pollution that are repeatedly released every time the Army Corps opens floodgates on Lake Okeechobee, sending water west down the Caloosahatchee River to the Gulf and east through the St. Lucie Rive to the Atlantic. The water, polluted by agricultural waste, sewage, manure and fertilizer runoff, sparks green slime toxic algae that kills marine life, makes people sick, and chases away tourists. See previous Florida Phoenix in-depth coverage of the issue here, and here and here. Disturbing photos of dead fish and manatees washing ashore have drawn worldwide negative attention to Florida.
Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said “the Corps keeps treating Florida’s rivers like a toilet.”
“Year after year our waterways are polluted and the health and livelihoods of Floridians are threatened,” she said in a statement. “Florida’s residents, from fisherman to manatee, deserve better.”
The group says that: “Before approving long-term schedules for discharges from Lake Okeechobee, the Corps is supposed to work with scientists from the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service to assess risks to plants and animals protected under the Endangered Species Act. But the agencies have ignored the impacts of the algal blooms and failed to consider how the ongoing damage would harm populations of manatees, sea turtles, smalltooth sawfish and coral for the next seven years.”
And: “It has been well documented that the current schedule for discharges from the lake causes harm to the rivers, their estuaries and marine animals. The harmful discharges are managed by the Corps to prioritize agricultural needs. The releases, which include algae and nutrients that are allowed to accumulate in the lake, cause significant harm to water quality and wildlife.”
“Government agencies are supposed to uphold and enforce our nation’s laws,” Waterkeeper Alliance executive director Marc Yaggi said in the group’s statement. “Sadly, the Army Corps has been violating the very laws it is sworn to uphold, causing incalculable damage to endangered and threatened species like manatees and sea turtles that rely on clean healthy waterways and coasts to survive. We intend to force the Trump administration to immediately end its dereliction of duty and to protect threatened marine life and coastal economies from the impacts of harmful algal blooms before it’s too late.”