February 12, 2016


Every time muddy waters of Lake Okeechobee roar through the release gates, there is a loud outcry. Particularly from the direction of the affluent FL East Coast communities up and down the coast from Palm Beach. And that outcry is heard, it matters because the dollarites there have clout. Good, they wake up media, shake up politicians and water managers when they see their expensive real estate devalued as the dirty water pours into Indian River Lagoon and laps onto their manicured waterfront properties. To be just, it has to be noted that FL West Coast got also badly hit by the recent emergency water releases from the Lake.  Coastal waters in the vicinity of Fort Myers and in the mouth of the Caloosahatchee look like somebody emptied a giant mug of coffee there. Blooming red, green and brown algae tides are following everywhere supported by nutrient pollution.  The tourists, expecting pristine blue waters that Florida advertizes world wide, are disgusted, locals are mad and the fish are already gone or dead.
The situation prompted Governor Scott to even chime in “let something be done” ! As if he would not know any better – and he probably does not.
Scott’s letter, sent on Thursday, comes one day after the mayors of Lee County’s six municipalities held an emergency meeting to discuss steps to address the water releases.
Well, what could we expect ?  The releases are upon us as we were caught up with our pants down - again. Mother Nature unexpectedly filled up Lake O, we added the crap - and the Army Engineers had to turn the taps so that we wouldn’t get flooded by it all if the dike gave way. All of our own making. As we keep dithering in fixing the Everglades, we notice only when a disaster starts happening, our notorious management by crisis. Of course that we know how to repair the damages already done around the Everglades. We can hardly really “restore” the Everglades as we keep repeating – but we could honestly try to at least establish some cleaner “steady state” of fresh water on the peninsula so that 8 million people down south of it would not be facing continuous danger and possibility of outright annihilation. No, that is not an exageration, the freshwater is running out, flooding poses a real and imminent threat, pollution is out of hand and overcrowding does creep in - all precursors of an economic decline, of a local culture demise.
Rather than a mass exodus, just imagine a gradual depopulation as 8 million people consider this-and-that and slowly decide to abandon threatened areas for safer higher grounds and cleaner water – the essential foundations of life. Just watch for the real estate values decline as our leaders continue to dither and yep, paralyzed and subservient to financial super-interests.
It is disgusting to look at the money grab for the new dollar resource provided through Amendment 1 that people wholeheartedly supported – and politicians are cleverly diverting in all kinds of unintended directions. Amazing machinations !
Reconstituting the Everglades sheet-flow southward through the Everglades Agricultural Area ? Forget it – and billion-dollar reservoirs are a drop in the bucket, and a pretty dirty drop at that.
Nothing seems moving– let alone water South. A few drops maybe, but we would rather keep wasting it to tides in the direction West and East. Until the angry rising seas pour in from all directions and wipe us all out.
Doomsday scenarios ? Oh yeah, just watch the salinity already quietly creeping in underground. And just keep debating -



March 9, 2015


Now, let's see how "reasonable" our legislature is going to be with regard to actual allocation of the funds brought in through this overwhelmingly approved amendment -

March 5, 2015


Nitrogen (N) and Phosphorus (P) are admittedly two crucial elements for growth – of crops and even our bodies.  We learned that by supplementing these elements through  “artificial fertilizers“,  we enhance crops and can sustain our population and its well being.  As we withdraw these elements from natural resources, and use them in the environment, we upset the natural balances around us causing nuisance or even accute toxicity.  Just remember toxic potable water in Toledo, Ohio, red tide in Florida or eutrophic overgrowth of thousands of fresh-water lakes and streams and poisoning of what remains of Florida Everglades. 
Highly polluting algal blooms - sometimes toxic
The surplus of nitrogen nutrient dissolved in waters we know how to handle. That surplus of contaminaiting nitrogen we learned to turn back into neutral gas and return where it came from – the atmosphere. All with the help of microbes that do it for us.
Phosphorus, however, is a different story - 

It's the phoshorus, stupid ! 
- (paraphrasing former President Clinton).
It is an element that we “unearth“ and it lingers in the environment around us where we release it. While some of it supports production of our crops, most of it washes into “receiving water bodies“ - causing havoc.  We do not have any mechanism whatsoever to put that genie back into the bottle.  Wetlands, say some – wetlands remove phosphorus !  However, that just does not quite add up in simple mass balancing that teaches us –
what goes IN, that goes OUT or it ACCUMULATES
(this checks out even for your wallet $$).
So now, wait a minute – where does that phosphorus go when channelled into a wetland ?  It cannot evaporate into thin air.  It supports growth of wetland plants that grow and die in cycles.  As part of this, the phosphorus becomes “mineralized“ – deposited in the bottom soil.  Good, gone !  Not so fast – what happens to that bottom soil ? 
It settles and – remains there with all the phosphorus that was removed from circulation - for the time being.  P-rich bottom muds -

Lake Okeechobee
That is also close to the story of phosphorus-rich bottom muds in Lake Okeechobee and everywhere else where phosphorus-enrichment takes place, creating "legacy phosphorus“ mud and soil depositions – a looming threat, a time bomb and a major problem ! Because all that phosphorus can and does keep uncontrollably leaching out again –
By the way – sending water from LO south, as it is nowadays called for -  there is so much phosphorus present AND deposited in LO that it can convert a third of Florida into a “biological desert“ overgrown with life-choking cattails instead of the Everglades native sawgrass.  That LO water needs to be proportioned and cleaned first.  It is a certainty that the indian tribes living downstream from LO just would not allow its pollution pouring south.
Phosphorus is a solid element that remains just that – in its solid or dissolved molecular forms.
Unlike nitrogen that can exist as free gas – and pooof, off it goes then, ‘disappearing‘ back into the atmosphere.  Phosphorus is phosphorus is phosphorus – sometimes dissolved, sometimes in a combined solid, it does not ‘disappear‘ as gas.  While we  desperately need it, there are only rather limited quantities of it to mine on the earth (mostly in Morocco, some in China, some in Florida). We mine it and throw it around, literally. 
Phosphate mining in Morocco - our P is a finite resource !

And so what ?

Some rather nagging practical questions emerge – what happens to the phosphorus “removed“ in the STAs (huge-scale constructed wetlands) that Florida is frantically trying to build ?  For how long can we keep accumulating phosphorus in their bottom muds ?  Is that becoming another “legacy phosphorus“ for next generations to worry about then ?
It would be wise to introduce some common sense in phosphorus husbandry and control.  Using slow-release fertilizers and strictly controling their application could be a good start. Recovery of phosphorus from our waters – and from our muds - should be attempted.  We have to address these issues. 
Of course, it is quite difficult because phosphorus control and recovery goes “uphill“ against the 2nd law of thermodynamics and entropy – am I overwhelming you ? Of course -
Let’s just say – it is easy to go from concentrated to dilute forms of substances - but it is difficult (and energy requiring) to go back from dilute to concentrated.  We would want to not just remove phosphorus when it contaminates our surface waters but to recover it for effective re-use. 
We need a techno-scientific breakthrough there. 
That is what the $10-million Prize recently announced by the Everglades Foundation is all about. Good luck !

Agriculture fields pollute - the problem to be corrected by vast artificial
wetlands (STAs) that are supposed to clean up. Will they ?  For how long ?

January 20, 2015

TMDLs and BMAPs - what the heck ?

By Linda Young, Executive Director - Florida Clean Water Network

Speaking of pollution and shell games.  The Florida DEP has become the national expert in making sure that big polluters are never held accountable for their pollution and that the Clean Water Act is never implemented or enforced in Florida.  If you live in Florida, then you live near a polluted water body of some kind, whether it is a spring, lake, river, sound, estuary or coastal waters.  Many of you have been actively involved in trying to work within
DEP's scheme designed to circumvent section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act which basically says these polluted waters must be identified and then cleaned up.
Over the past 16 years or so in Florida a series of steps have unfolded through the regulatory process, driven by large polluters such as pulp and paper, phosphate, agriculture, electric power companies, etc. to assure that citizens have no voice in decisions about their waters and that these big polluters are never required to reduce or stop their pollution. They demand assurance that they will never be held accountable for the damage they have done and continue to cause.  Here is a short synopsis of what these steps are and how they have created a trap for any possible enforcement of section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act:

1 - First there is clearly a pattern across the state of doing as few TMDLs as possible by keeping polluted waters off of the 303(d) list; 
2 - then for the waters that do make the list, DEP adopts TMDLs that are based on biased or faulty data;
3 - then eventually (usually late) DEP will develop a BMAP that is hideously inadequate to result in any improvements and usually require very little action by pollution sources; 
4 - then by changing water quality criteria for numerous parameters such as nutrients, dissolved oxygen, and others they can go back and revise the TMDLs  to either weaken the previous TMDL or eliminate them all together.  
5 - Now they are developing the "pollution credit trading" rule which uses much of the voodoo from items 1 - 4 as a basis and then makes it possible for polluters to make money on their pollution.

In short - don't step in DEP's/polluters trap.  Working within this system is largely a waste of time.  We need to expose it for what it is and find other ways to deal with pollution.  Most likely, working with your local governments is the best way.  Lee County is a good example of citizens and local governments working together to overcome pollution that is being aided and abetted by our government.  Educate your friends and neighbors and work locally.  Eventually better people will get elected into office and sanity will be restored.
Right now the inmates have taken over the asylum and they are going crazy. With the re-election of Rick Scott, the polluters are foaming at the mouth over his talk of more deregulation.  There will be no limit on what they will try to do.  I'm not trying to depress anyone - just be ready for what may come and be thinking of a way to keep pushing your goals forward.  We will eventually prevail.

Linda Young, Executive Director - Florida Clean Water Network
P.O. Box 5124, Navarre, FL 32566    Tel.: 850.322.7978



November 22, 2014


Useful conversions first - close to the Everglades:
Water and Math in the Caloosahatchee Watershed
One acre-foot represents VOLUME and it equals:
    • 326,000 U.S. gallons
    • 43,560 cubic feet
    • 1233 cubic meters
    • 893 gallons per day for 365 days
  • Your bathtub holds about 5 cubic feet. How big is the Caloosahatchee River ?
  • In the dry season, the Caloosahatchee River flow can go as low as 300 ft3 (0.007 acre-foot) per second, or 18,000 ft3 (0.4 acre-foot) per minute, or 1.1 million ft3 (25 acre-feet) per hour, or 26 million ft3 (600 acre-feet) per day.
  • In the rainy season, the Caloosahatchee River flows at about 2,000 ft3 (0.05 acre-foot) per second, or 120,000 ft3 (16 acre-feet) per minute, or 7.2 million ft3 (170 acre-feet) per hour or 170 million ft3 (4,000 acre feet per day) per day.
  • The Caloosahatchee watershed contains 1408 square miles, or 900,000 acres. It receives an average of 53" (4.5') of rain every year. That comes to 4.1 million acre-feet of rain that drains into the soil, runs off hardened parking lots and roads, or evaporates
     (Courtesy of Friends of the Charlotte Harbor Aquatic Preserves)
And now, please allow me a to add a few words, a little rumination perhaps - on "science" and some attitudes.
First of all, the above is NOT really "math" or "science" - it is really arithmetic and it is part of what is generally labeled as "literacy". Just like reading and writing, it is an indivisible part of our civilization - and functionality. We need to know how to count our money, right ? We are priding ourselves as being literate. Well, are we really ?
Have you heard of "functional illiteracy" ? It has to do with, for example, writing a message that we post on our fridge - that could be understood by others. Others who are supposed to not only read it - but interpret it and act on it.
Surprise - there is 48.7% "functionally illiterate" people in the USA !
And this is not even considering math or arithmetic skills.

Governor Scott entered history with his 'disclaimer' that "I'm not a scientist". That is true, he has not been trained as one. We can only hope that he does comprehend some level of "science" and can act correspondingly. Also, that he can read and interpret the message on his fridge posted there for him by the experts, the highly trained science people.
It all has to do with literacy and functional literacy.
And at the bottom of it all is EDUCATION - which relies on a certain level of INTELLIGENCE that we claim to posses as human species.

Regarding those two categories (education and intelligence), it does not do much good when highly visible and role-model public personalities, a governor, TV or radio hosts, politicians, celebrities or such, publicly declare that he/she is "no good in math" - and we are really talking only simplistic addition/subtraction skills.
Such a confession does happen every once in a time - much too often in our 'intellectually' dominated media where people do not seem to read and 'think' numbers. Avoiding them since childhood. Hmmm -
Can you imagine the impact of such a public statement ?
Leading by example ? This type of a 'disclaimer' is not only dumb, it is actually a very-very serious intellectual public crime -
Crime on our children who see, hear or read it - and form their attitudes. What a role example, what motivation !
What a leadership.