This week a Florida lawmaker asked a government agency not to poison his constituents. This shouldn’t be news. It shouldn’t be unusual. But it is, and Eye On Miami explains why…
Congressman Brian Mast Ventures Where Few Have Gone Before
To hear Florida congressman Brian Mast (R-Stuart) lead from the front on the rampant pollution once again coating his district with deadly toxins is refreshing. Congressman Mast has had enough. Last week he wrote to the US Army Corps of Engineers, urging a halt to all discharges “until the water quality is deemed safe …”
Here is a brief background. Gov. Rick Scott and the US Army Corps of Engineers are again permitting filthy, algae-laden water to puke from Lake Okeechobee onto Florida’s badly damaged estuaries and on the shores of property owners and businesses in Martin County on the east coast and Lee County on the west coast.
Yes, we’ve seen this movie before. It happened in 2013. It happened again in the bizarrely wet winter of 2015/2016. It’s pathetic, where the third act involves taxpayers paying $2 billion for an Everglades man-made reservoir that is highly likely to fail at delivering clean water as promised. (Even the Army Corps has stated, as much.)
It will be a decade or longer before this act plays out. Meanwhile it’s another season of algae spewing from Lake Okeechobee with toxics that can cause long-term brain damage.
The cause of the algae: water management practices that are designed with a primary purpose: keep Big Sugar profits flowing. Of course that is not what the public hears from astro-turf groups in the Everglades Agricultural Area, funded by Big Sugar, or from state propaganda outlets including the sugared-up Sunshine State News.
Mast’s statement is interesting for another reason: in the United States toxics regulation is designed to protect polluters, not people. PEOPLE must prove that toxics are damaging to human health (remember, cancer and Big Tobacco?).
Big Sugar was NEVER required to prove its phosphorous pollution was safe for the Everglades. It took PEOPLE and two decades of federal Clean Water Act litigation to hold government accountable. That’s the same Clean Water Act that Scott Pruitt’s EPA wants to dismantle now.
While it may seem common sense–that government agencies must prove the safety of toxics to people–what Mast wrote is heresy to polluters. In stating the obvious, that government shouldn’t be promoting water management district policies that give people Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s diseases, he’s pushing against very powerful special interests whose wealth depends on turning other peoples’ property and health into sacrifice zones. (Their biggest political assets: Rick Scott who is running for US senate, Adam Putnam who is running for governor, and Matt Caldwell who is running for agriculture commissioner.)
Mast’s colleagues in the Florida congressional delegation ought to join in holding government responsible for safety, first. When it comes to toxics, it’s about time.
-gimleteye, Eye On Miami