Here are the facts. Farmers use fertilizer because fertilizer is good at what it does – providing nutrients for plants. When it rains, some of this fertilizer washes away, and ends up in our waterways. In central Florida, this means Lake Okeechobee, and eventually, the Caloosahatchee River. Fertilizer is not good in our lakes and rivers because of what it does – provide nutrients. Naturally-occurring microorganisms feed off the fertilizer and explode in number.
One type of harmful microorganism is cyanobacteria. Cyanobacteria produce a variety of toxins that are harmful to humans and pets. Cyanobacteria can use up all the oxygen in a body of water, killing other organisms that need oxygen to breathe.
Another effect of fertilizer runoff is algal blooms, also known as red tide. Red tide is caused when there is a high concentration of certain microorganisms. This causes oxygen depletion, resulting in the mass death of fish and other aquatic wildlife. It also causes discoloration of the water and foul smells. Contact with red tide causes breathing difficulties and irritation.
Southwest Florida relies on the tourism industry. If we have dirty water, tourists will not come to see our beaches and support our businesses. As if that is not enough, dirty water affects our bodies. Clean water is not just an environmental issue, it is an economic issue and a matter of public health.
In Tallahassee, I will support more restrictions on fertilizer and chemical runoff, and I will ensure that our water is clean so our economy can continue to thrive