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Florida’s Blue Green Algae Task Force meets

Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 5:33 PM CDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - Protecting Florida’s environment is back on the agenda. The state’s Blue Green Algae Task Force met Wednesday for the first time since October. The discussion was about warnings and not allowing toxic algae to be released.

The Blue Green Algae Task Forces recommendations last fall recommended included transferring regulation of septic tanks from the Department of Health to Environmental Protection, providing grants to improve waste water treatment, and increasing fines for administrative violations dramatically. All of it and more was signed into law. DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein calls it unprecedented.

“You never see government actually get a group of scientists together, ask them some difficult questions and thoughtfully sit down and listen to them, then actually do something about it,” Valenstein said.

Now the Task Force is back in business after a nine month hiatus. Republican Congressman Brian Mast of Ft. Pierce wants the state to stop the Army Corps from releasing any toxic water.

“The state owns the state of Florida,” Mast said. “They are not going to allow the Federal government to poison communities.”

Becky Harris of Stuart called for better public notice after her dog became ill from biting a dead catfish following highly toxic water being released.

“And you did not call the Department of Health and tell them to warn all the people all along the St. Lucie,” Harris said.

The meeting was in essence an effort to return to some normalcy, as well as a recognition that Florida’s other problems haven’t gone away.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done and I think the Task Force feels that sense of urgency, rightfully so,” Julie Wraithmell, the Executive Director of Audubon Florida, said.

In the end, the Task Force can only make recommendations. After the task forces makes recommendations, it’s up to the DEP and lawmakers to act, but Wednesday’s meeting puts that ball in motion.

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