Saturday, July 2, 2016

Florida Declares State of Emergency Over 'Toxic Soup' Algae

From SOTT:

Renowned for its turquoise-colored waters, Florida declared a state of emergency as a blue-green algae outbreak caused miles of waterways and beaches to be swamped in a toxic soup that caused skin rashes and drew concern for the fate of marine animals.

 US Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) called on President Barack Obama to declare a state of emergency to help businesses harmed by the algae bloom in Florida's southern rivers and beaches.

"I hope the president will have an emergency declaration, because that will open up the full portfolio of aid that the federal government can provide local businesses and communities that are being impacted by this," Rubio said, the Associated Press reported.

 Rubio's announcement comes after Florida Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in St. Lucie and Martin counties over the algae problem and as local politicians and residents blame the federal government. Scott added two more counties, Lee and Palm Beach, to the emergency declaration on Thursday.

"I would describe them as guacamole-thick. And it stinks," Gabriella Ferraro, spokeswoman for Martin County said.

 Algae samples from the lake taken earlier this month found levels of toxins 20 times higher than a safety threshold set by the World Health Organization.

 "The smell is so bad it will make you gag," said Martin County resident Mary Radabaugh at an emergency meeting, reported the Guardian. "We have red eyes and scratchy throats. We can smell it in our office. It's terrible."

Other residents complained of skin rashes from the bloom. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is telling people to steer clear of discolored water and not to use it to water their lawns. Other potential health concerns include vomiting and respiratory problems.

 There are also fears for the local marine life, such as manatees, which graze on seagrasses in the estuary area, and sea turtles that could be killed off by the toxins. The flat wetlands of south Florida have been extensively re-engineered with canals and man-made lakes, radically altering the natural flow of fresh water.

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