Last week we made fun of the connection between sewage, politics, and industry in Florida. It’s one way to cope with the cycle we’ve been stuck in, where three institutional forces survive and thrive by literally crapping on the public:
Florida’s municipalities are looking to cut corners on basic services that get more expensive every day; our politicians are looking to stay in office at any cost; and our biggest industries are looking to get out of paying for the increasingly expensive mess they make.
A classic illustration of the cycle works like this:
- Miami and Orlando quietly ship their sewage out to the country, slapping “fertilizer” labels on it, and let it all ooze back into the surface water and rivers that the sugar industry and others already use as a toilet
- Those industries gleefully point out the stew of pollution, saying it’s senseless to track sources because it’s everybody’s problem and nobody’s fault
- The government agencies paid to protect our water agree and pick up the tab (with taxpayer money), repeating the talking points handed down from the corporations that funded their bosses’ campaigns (with taxpayer money). Everybody wins.
Like the human feces that seeps into our water, South Florida’s cycle of corruption soaks down to the roots of our communities, where sugar executives and out-of-state bagmen pay off the desperate to lobby their neighbors to shut up about the pollution or blame one another. And low-level public servants desperate to become mid-level public servants fall over each other barfing praise on low-level politicians (desperate to become mid-level politicians) for peddling compromise while pleading that they can’t do more about the pollution because it’s all too complicated to fix just now.
But it’s not complicated. Or impossible to fix. We can still vote out the low-, mid- and high-level politicians who say defending our communities is too complicated. We can also refuse to repeat their talking points and excuses for selling us out.
For example, calling out this year’s legislation to inject “reclaimed water” from “advanced wastewater treatment” into the Biscayne aquifer. It means mixing Miami’s drinking water with sewage… to get out of replenishing the Everglades flows we dammed off years ago… so the sugar industry can take all it wants, and developers can take all they want, and the Everglades and Florida Bay can starve… until it’s convenient to use them as a toilet.
Same with the scheme to dump human sewage–called “biosolids” if it’s squishy (permit required), “fertilizer” if it’s chunky (no permits, no tracking, no records since 2014)–out in rural communities, away from the cities that won’t pay to clean it up. You don’t need to be a farmer to guess that piling it two-feet-deep has nothing to do with growing anything. And you don’t need to be a scientist to guess that it’s still sewage when it leaks into your local waters, or that it can’t be distinguished from leaky septic tanks.
In both cases, only the taxpayers lose. As we wait for this next wave of state legislation to make it easier to take, use, and destroy public resources, and for the next election to decide whether the people who made it all possible should stay in office, it’s important to remember that these cycles can be broken. No matter what the agencies or candidates or lobbyists say, Florida taxpayers don’t have to take this crap.