“Polk County is having growing pains, as listed in your column. Yet, this county is set upon a swamp. This Chain of 100 Lakes is a wetland. You fail to bring this issue into your discussion. Your discussion fails to talk about stormwater issues regarding all of Polk county's roads and freeways. Stormwater comes of the asphalt of the roads, and takes the oils, the chemicals, the tire residue, into the wetlands, into our lands. These chemicals destroy the clean water, and therefore destroy the wildlife, the ducks, the birds, the fish, the animals. And it will destroy us. The Polk County Water Board has been talking about these chemicals, this stormwater, forever. Yet we see no solutions from them, except to put in deep wells that pullout saltwater, at a cost of millions and millions of dollars. Now they are talking about spending millions of dollars to clean our sewage so that we can drink that? What about the discussion of limiting growth? I grew up in Florida. I have seen the blatant destruction of our lakes, our wetland, the wildlife, and the birds. What tourism will we have if this is destroyed? Thanks.” L

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, L. Your analysis is right on. Directly to your point, Florida ranks number one in the country in acre-feet of lakes that are too polluted for swimming or healthy aquatic life. Florida ranks second in the amount of contaminated estuary water. Here’s how Florida became the nation’s number one polluter of lakes and rivers. The federal Clean Water Act of 1972 made it illegal for industry to dump their waste into our lakes and rivers. But the act did nothing to control runoff from agriculture or urban living. The Federal government left that to the states. How have the states done? According to the EPA (sic), “Today, almost four decades after the Clean Water Act’s deadline for fishable and swimmable waters across the U.S., 50 percent of assessed river and stream miles across the U.S. — more than 700,000 miles of waterways — remain impaired with pollution, as well as 55 percent of lake acres and 25 percent of estuary miles.” In Florida, America’s top polluter of lakes, creeks, and rivers, of the 829,000 acres of lakes studied in Florida, 92 percent were impaired for fish consumption; 80 percent of the lakes were impaired for water contact recreation. Readers, please slow down and reread this paragraph. There are two causes for Florida’s pollution fiasco — agricultural and urbanization. Many of us insist on beautiful green lawns and shrubs year-round. We layer on fertilizer, which runs off down the sewer and out to our lakes and rivers. There is no politician with enough backbone to tell homeowners they can’t have a beautiful lawn. And, of course, as you point out L, the more homes, the more pollution. But agriculture is also a big polluter. No politician wants to be seen telling big agriculture they can’t do what it takes to grow crops or livestock in Florida. There is one proven, powerful tool we should be using that we are not taking advantage of. Florida has sizable regional water management districts that help agriculture and urban areas reduce water usage and pollution. The Republican state legislature slashed those districts’ budgets because sometimes regional water authorities spent money in ways the legislature did not approve of. Here’s what we should do: Keep the baseline funding of the regional water districts but let the people in each water district vote every five years if they want to have a higher level of tax to help reduce the pollution of our lakes and estuaries while helping reduce water usage. I recommended this to a state legislator, and he said, “No way, the state legislature alone gets to decide what is the right level of funding.”

And so here Florida sits, number one in the country in acre-feet of pollution of our lakes and estuaries because the irresponsible legislature wants to micromanage local water policy instead of letting the people decide. Share your thoughts. David@d-r.media

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