The famous beaches in South Florida are getting flooded with polluted water from Lake Okeechobee, which is located in the interior parts of the Florida state. This lake is the seventh largest in the country, and it is known for fishing activities since, until recently, it used to contain a lot of freshwater (Oeffner & Dunning, 2010). The contaminated waters may lead to severe damage to the state’s economy and the environment because the beaches are tourist attraction sites, who are likely to be turned off when they learn that the place is not as clean as it was before.
Lake Okeechobee is an inland lake and also the largest freshwater lake in southern Florida. Since November last year and January this year, the state experienced large volumes of El Nino rains. The water levels have risen abnormally high, which has not been the case for almost a century. However, in 2013, the levels of the lake had already risen a little and caused a mixture of salty and the fresh water. This issue relates to global warming as it is attributed to the increasing heavy rainfall occurrences (Oeffner & Dunning, 2010).
Some industries have been using this lake as a dumping site for fertilizers, cattle manure, and chemicals for many years now. These include local sugar production and cattle industries that have been irrigating their lands using the lake water, which later returns to the lake carrying a lot of pesticides. These toxins are the main causes of water pollution (Modak, 2016). However, due to the heavy rainfall and rising water levels, the local authorities took the action by diverting the water into the local rivers in the region. Before this plan was carried out, there were two options. One was to risk the breaching of the dike that the small communities depended on for agricultural purposes. Second solution was to release the dirty waters to the nearby estuaries. The industrial sludge has also been diverted to some rivers like St. Lucie River. The polluted water from these rivers has, in turn, made its way to the coastal beaches of the local southern communities of Florida State (Modak, 2016).
Some officials that advocate for environmental conservation have called the contaminated water “toilet” water. This lake originally is a freshwater reservoir that is a supply of public drinking water for Fort Myers, West Palm Beach, and lower coast area. It means that the polluted water is endangering human lives. The taxpayers of the district that manages South Florida’s Water have violated the law that advocates the right of people to have clean water. It happened because they are the ones who permit the industries to back pump water that is full of toxins.
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Water pollution has presented immediate problems to the environment of the southern Florida. The toxins in the fertilizers are harmful to the local fauna and flora. In addition, these chemicals cause the growth of algal blooms which poisons the fish population and disrupts the marine food chain. Poisoned fish is also harmful to human beings. In the past five years, some fish businesses have been closed completely because the fish was not edible (Norris, 2016). This occurrence has affected the economy because the United States commerce department suggests that fishing creates approximately 100 thousand jobs yearly.
The growth of algae can also result in deaths of livestock and pets that drink the water and increase the outbreak of water-borne diseases in people (Norris, 2016). Many supplies of drinking water across the U.S have been affected by the contaminated rivers and lake. These include California, Colorado, and Florida states. The contaminated water is a very high health hazard for pregnant women due to industrial toxins such as Mercury.
The economy of the state has also been affected by the dirty waters. Tourism is a key driver in the local economy of southern Florida. During summer, the beaches are flooded with tourists due to the clean and relaxing environment. However, as a result of pollution, the tourists encounter dirty waters flowing instead of the clean beaches they are used to. The water dependent businesses such as resorts, hotels, and commercial fishing have been left with frustrations. In addition, the values of real estate have declined since 2013 in south Florida because the investors do not want to invest in the property close to the waters that is harmful, disgusting, and toxic.
The damage caused by water pollution has become a concern to many, and some are trying to take necessary actions. A politician named Rick Scott has proposed two projects that may help correct the problem. One of the projects offers that the water from the lake is directed into the Everglades where it will flow in a natural way. Water flowing through them will be treated and filtered unlike the one flowing into the estuaries. In the other project, he assures families that they will not be forgotten. The waters in the rivers will be cleaned through water treatment. The local communities and the tourist are also taking action. They are posting the pictures of dirty water on the social networks in order to get the state government find solutions.
The water pollution is preventable. It is well known that the excess of phosphorus and nitrogen in sewages, fertilizers, and manure is the leading cause of the growth of algae (Dewan, 2016). The waters are green and toxic but can be cleaned again. The Earthjustice and other Florida clients have been working on this issue. The industries that have been releasing toxins into public waters should take an initiative of constructing private sewers. In addition, before water is released into the outside environment it should be completely treated. Clean water standards are being set and advocated for across Florida because people deserve clean drinking water. The ecosystem should also be preserved by reducing contamination of natural habitats (Dewan, 2016).
Moreover, local industries can reduce the use of chemicals. One way to do this is to frequently test the soil and use fertilizers and pesticides in small amounts. In addition, compost such as dry leaves may be used more to reduce the need for chemical usage (Dewan, 2016). The law makers can also buy extra land that can be utilized to store clean drinking resources and help to stop the release of contaminated water.
The commitment that the Earthjustice has taken to protect the environment is a good move to reduce pollution. They are closely following the members of the District Water Management of South Florida to ensure they do follow the standards advocating for clean water. The action of directing water to the south side instead of the estuaries will increase clean drinking water resources and reduce the rising of the sea levels.
The disadvantage of stopping the environment hazard is to the local industries. After signing the agreement of the clean water standards, the district officials will expect them to adhere to the standards. They need money to construct private sewers and ensure water is treated before it is released. Another disadvantage is that the realizing water to the south side might continue to endanger the Everglades that are trying to be restored.
Stopping the pollution will boost the local economy because the water related activities such as tourism, fishing, and boating will be back to normal. Some people claim that the water is sick, the wildlife is in danger, and there are almost no fishing activities. It is important to stop the contamination before it is too late. Thousands of ecosystems including fish inhabit the rivers and the coastal regions. These species are endangered, and if the pollution is not stopped in the future, it will lead to the increased death of the fish and poisoning of the habitat.
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This environmental issue has proved to be the major problem that needs immediate action. It will do more harm than good in the near future if the pollution from Lake Okeechobee continues. Environmentalists are urging the industries to stop considering the cost of cleanup but the benefits that clean water will bring to the state (Li & Migliaccio, 2011). The residents of South Florida should not continue to bear the burden of job losses and poor economy due to contamination that can be easily controlled. This environmental problem has disturbed the natural balance of the human beings and the ecosystems at large. The issue of water pollution should be addressed immediately.