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Florida's Waters Depend On Us Electing Leaders That Care

“Toxic Florida waters devastating entire ecosystems are becoming more frequent. We have been experiencing dolphin kills, massive fish kills, dying of Florida springs, and the drying up of aquifers all across Florida”.
Ms. Balzac is an environmental attorney. Visiting Assistant Professor at Rollins College and an adjunct professor at Barry University School of Law teaching Sustainability in Business.
Hobe Sound Beach a day after a ban on swimming was lifted due to a blue-green algae bloom Crédito: Rhona Wise/AFP/Getty Images

Florida's water systems failed the people and the environment this week with the most recent toxic algae infestation. Previously, the Flint water crisis poisoning our children exposed our vulnerability and violated our trust in government. Instead we are learning of a deeper rooted culture in our government, one of prioritizing monetary interests over the health and safety of the people and the environment. These environmental crimes expose a system where government officials get away with murder.

The entire water infrastructure in the U.S. is on the verge of collapse and government officials are well aware of these facts. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has repeatedly given the U.S. water system a grade of D over the past several years. Degraded corroded pipes that were constructed before environmental protection even existed, are inadequate to handle the water.

The truth is that lack of government leadership and environmental funding pushed Florida into a state of emergency in four counties. Since Rick Scott took office, Florida's waters have gone downhill. He has frequently been dubbed the worst governor in terms of the environment in Florida history. The fact that he has yet to visit the area of the St Lucie Algae crisis proves his apathy for the environment.

During Scott's first term he sliced the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) budget, cut funding to water management districts, defunded the springs initiative, decreased enforcement and fines, prohibited the word climate change, and handed out environmental permits like candy on Halloween. The failure of Florida lawmakers to truly utilize the Amendment 1 funding for land and water conservation has upset voters because it is being diverted to operational costs and salaries.

The toxic waters devastating our communities signify an imperative necessity to overhaul our entire water systems. Business as usual for both government and corporations is no longer sustainable and will continue to cause more destruction. Extensive issues in water management, water quality, water accessibility, agricultural practices, and chemical management all need to be examined and changed.

The lack of government accountability and the perpetuation of corporate influence on public officials are a huge factor which triggered these disasters. There is clear and convincing evidence of a flawed government that fails the people by not protecting the essential resources that are necessary to survive.

The water resources of Florida are suffocating underneath toxics and it isn't the first time. Toxic Florida waters devastating entire ecosystems are becoming more frequent. We have been experiencing dolphin kills, massive fish kills, dying of Florida springs, and the drying up of aquifers all across Florida. The waters of Florida are a major resource and essential for Florida's economy to thrive.

An immediate threat to the health, safety, and welfare of our people and our environment exist in every community. One fails to fully realize, how these environmental disasters inevitably destroy our people and our economy.

In the new era of sustainability, the triple bottom line (People, planet, profit) dictates the path forward. Unfortunately, the truth is that the typical mentality puts profit first.

In order to see Florida's waters flourish again, we need to elect leaders that recognize the importance of protecting the environment over corporate influence and greed.

Take Chuck O'Neal for instance, an environmental leader who is now running for the Florida Senate. He has been a lifelong advocate to protect Florida’s springs, has been a strong proponent of stopping bear hunting in Florida and is a strong voice on climate change. This sincere passion for protecting our future generations has gained him a strong following.

Sean Ashby, a teacher who is running for the Florida House of Representatives and who grew up on the Indian River Lagoon proposes smaller water management districts in order to save our waters. Florida is broken up into only five water management districts, each covering fifteen counties on average. These are too large to be handled effectively and clearly are inadequate.

There is a path towards true change and saving our environment. That path is at the ballot box. This August 30th and November 12th, let us all walk together towards true change for our future generations.

The only way we can do this is by voting.

Disclaimer: We selected this Op-Ed to be published in our opinion section as a contribution to public debate. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of its author(s) and/or the organization(s) they represent and do not reflect the views or the editorial line of Univision Noticias.

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