Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Slime-covered river prompts Florida environmental groups to sue Corps of Engineers

A coalition of environmental groups is suing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, arguing that the way the agency dumps polluted water from Lake Okeechobee is causing toxic algae blooms throughout the Caloosahatchee River near Fort Myers.

"This is making people sick, figuratively and literally," said Becky Ayech of the Environmental Coalition of Southwest Florida, citing complaints about everything from nausea to earaches among people who live along the river. "People have a right to clean water."

When heavy rains push the water level in Lake Okeechobee too high, the Corps opens floodgates that dump millions of gallons of lake water into the Caloosahatchee and also into the St. Lucie River on the state's east coast. But the lake water is full of pollutants, especially nutrients that can fuel algae blooms.

Algae blooms have plagued the Caloosahatchee eight of the past 11 years, the lawsuit points out. Last year's algae bloom lasted for eight weeks, during which officials in Glades, Hendry and Lee counties warned residents to avoid contact with the river water and not to eat the fish.

Even worse, according to the suit filed Monday in federal court, is the fact that what the Corps is releasing from the lake is so polluted it forces the shutdown of a water plant that is supposed to use the river to quench the thirst of 40,000 people.

The problem, according to the suit, is that when water levels are low, the Corps holds water back from the rivers —- to the point where the Caloosahatchee sometimes runs backward. That not only lets the freshwater river turn salty, it also bottles up the pollution in the lake and makes it worse when it's finally released, the suit contends.

Corps spokesman John Campbell said the agency normally does not comment on litigation. However, he said, the Corps manages the lake level in accordance with a 2008 guide that was prepared with the help of some environmental groups.

Slime-covered river prompts Florida environmental groups to sue Corps of Engineers 07/23/12 [Last modified: Monday, July 23, 2012 11:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. PolitiFact takes on big health care question: Does GOP bill cut Medicaid?

    National

    Politics and math don't always get along, and counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway raised a common complaint about how people talk about the future of Medicaid spending under the Senate Republican health care bill.

    Alice Jacobs, 90, at Dogwood Village, a nonprofit county-owned nursing home in Orange, Va., on June 23. Medicaid, targeted by Republicans' health care bill, pays for most of the 1.4 million elderly people in nursing homes, some of whom do not know they are on it. (Khue Bui/The New York Times)
  2. Gov. Scott in Washington as health care debate intensifies

    Blogs

    Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday began a daylong series of meetings in Washington on health care, saying he wants to ensure Florida gets its share of Medicaid funding while praising parts of the Senate GOP’s Obamacare replacement.

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks at Creative Sign Designs in Tampa on June 13.
  3. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and estranged wife Carole put Beach Drive condo on the market

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their Beach Drive condo on the market for $1.5 million.

    U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their Beach Drive condo in Parkshore Plaza on the market for $1.5 million. {Courtesy of Amy Lamb/Native House Photography]
  4. St. Petersburg showdown: Kriseman faces Baker for first time tonight at the Rev. Louis Murphy Sr.'s church

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The mayor's race has been making headlines for nearly two months as Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker have been making speeches, pressing the flesh at fundraisers and gathering their ground forces for an election battle that has already broken fundraising records.

    Former Mayor Rick Baker, left, is challenging incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman, right, to become St. Petersburg mayor.
  5. Tampa moves to pause permits for 5G wireless equipment to assess impact of new Florida law

    Blogs

    To business groups, the bill that Gov. Rick Scott signed Friday will clear the way for superfast 5G wireless communications and give Florida an edge in attracting high-tech companies.

    Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and other local officials have worried that a new state law aimed at facilitating the installation of 5G wireless technology could clutter scenic corridors like Tampa's Riverwalk.