By Tyler Treadway
Treasure Coast residents will meet with federal officials on Capitol Hill next week to seek help in combating the algae bloom infesting the St. Lucie River.
U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, will host ‘Lagoon Action Day’ Thursday and issued an open invitation. Federal agencies expected to send representatives include:
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
- U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Take-aways and next steps will be announced at a news conference after the meeting.
Murphy and several environmental activists plan to collect algae Sunday at Central Marine on the north shore of the river to deliver to the federal agency officials and members of Congress.
Algae samples the Florida Department of Environmental Protection took near the marina tested positive for hazardous levels of the toxin microcystin, which can cause nausea and vomiting if ingested, and rash or hay fever symptoms if touched or inhaled. Drinking water with the toxins can cause long-term liver disease.
Marinas are among the many water-oriented businesses hurting because of the thick mats of foul-smelling algae choking the river.
‘Getting to meet with these agencies and members of Congress, to me, is critical,’ said Martin County Commissioner John Haddox, who plans to attend. ‘Hopefully we can get them, as well as President (Barack) Obama, to know more about our plight and get help for our environment and the businesses that are hurting.’
On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Scott asked Obama to declare a federal state of emergency to address the algae blooms, which could funnel money to the Treasure Coast to help state and local governments deal with public health and safety costs.
The Treasure Coast delegation also will seek federal help for long-term projects designed to prevent future Lake Okeechobee discharges that cause algae blooms.
The event is reminiscent of an Oct. 3, 2013, Capitol Hill hearing orchestrated by Murphy and U.S. Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fort Myers, that informed 22 members of Congress about that year’s Lake Okeechobee discharges and subsequent toxic algae blooms.
Then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was ‘shocked’ by a bottle of black water from the St. Lucie River that Murphy had been toting around the Capitol.
That event also drew more than 100 people, many of them Treasure Coast ‘River Warriors’ who drove or rode a bus for 14 hours. Because of short notice, not as many water advocates will attend Thursday’s event, said Kenny Hinkle, head of the BullSugar.org activist group.
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