The Blue-Green Algae State

Remember that scene from “Jaws” when the police chief wanted to close the beaches and the mayor said no because it would scare off the tourists?

What an amateur. The mayor could have gotten some bureaucrat to post cautionary tips for shark infested waters (1. Look out for fins…) and washed his hands of the whole thing.

Ah Memorial Day weekend. The official kickoff of summer. Millions of Floridians and visitors alike will flock to the beaches. Tens of thousands more will plunge into our clear, cool springs, or take a river dip.

Wait, is that a fin? Is that a gator’s snout? Oh no, killer Suwannee River leaping sturgeon! Cue to panic mode. Summon Chief Brody, Hooper the shark geek and Quint the great white slayer. 

Or maybe just call a bureaucrat.

At the beginning of what promises to be a long, hot summer, Florida doesn’t have a shark problem, or a gator problem or even a leaping sturgeon problem. It’s got a red tide and blue green algae problem. Forget flashing white teeth and start worrying about flesh eating bacteria.

With toxic algae already appearing up and down the St. John’s River the Florida Department of Health has issued the following….um, tips:

Avoid scummy, foamy water (duh!).

Don’t eat fish caught in said scummy, foamy water. 

Don’t let Fido drink it.

If the water isn’t foamy and scummy but the fish still looks sickly, well don’t eat that either

Don’t swim in, jet ski through, or play in….well, you know.

And if some of it accidentally gets splashed on you, be sure to wash it off right away. 

With soap and…um…water.

And that’s not all. Just in time for Memorial Day, the slumbering Environmental Protection Agency – ever a day late and a dollar short – has issued new guidelines for determining when blue green algae has gotten too blue and green to be messed with. 

“With Memorial Day and summer vacations around the corner, EPA is providing this information to help Americans know when it is safe to swim and play near the water,” says an EPA bulletin.

But remember, this is Trump’s EPA. So we shouldn’t be surprised if the new thresholds are – dare we say? – “liberal” enough to please even the skittish mayor of Amity.

“We are very disappointed by the EPA’s decision to recommend criteria for toxic algae that are far less protective” than limits that were recommended in a 2016 EPA draft but never adopted.

This from Jason Totoiu, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity: “Dangerous cyanotoxins threaten our state’s families, waters and wildlife,” he told the Ft. Myers News Press. “Referring to the EPA guidelines, he added, “we expected better and we will be petitioning the state, which is well aware of the crisis before us, to adopt more stringent water quality criteria for toxic algae in Florida’s waters.”

What, and scare off the tourists?

Not to make light of all of this, but we’ve seen this coming. We saw it coming when Rick Scott became governor and proceeded to turn the Department of Environmental Protection into the Department of Environmental Whatever. When he gutted the water management districts and fired the scientists and put the polluters in charge of protection. When Donald Trump started undoing every Obama-era environmental protection reg he could get his tiny hands on. When we turned Lake Okeechobee into an open sewer. When we began dumping vast quantities of toxic gunk and sewage sludges into the St. John’s. When dolphins started going belly up in the Indian River Lagoon. When the red tide stopped becoming a Gulf Coast problem and started creeping up and down the Atlantic side. 

We saw it coming and we kept electing and re-electing the politicians who were letting it happen. 

So by all means, let’s stay out of the foamy, scummy water this summer. It’ll all clear up by January, or February at the latest. And now that Red Tide Rick has been safely packed away to the D.C. Swamp, things will be fine back here in the Blue-Green Algae State.


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