Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Calls for Emergency Aid to Fight Florida Algae Crisis

Jul 12, 2016
Press Release
“200-Square-Mile Toxic Bloom So Big It’s Visible from Space”

President Should Declare A Federal Emergency

WASHINGTON – Congressman Vern Buchanan today urged the Obama administration to declare a federal emergency in response to the unprecedented toxic algae blooms wreaking havoc across Florida. 

In a letter to President Obama, Buchanan called the toxic algae crisis in Florida a “nightmare” for millions of families, local businesses and iconic wildlife. The Congressman noted that the blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, has forced Floridians to wear masks near the water, and some have complained of skin rashes, headaches and respiratory issues.

“Under federal law, you have the power to declare an emergency in order to help save lives, protect public health and mitigate looming disasters,” Buchanan wrote. “Public health is at risk from a 200-square-mile toxic bloom so big it’s visible from space. In light of the threat toxic algae blooms pose to Floridians, I urge you to issue a federal emergency declaration before it is too late.”

Discharges from Lake Okeechobee have recently infested South Florida’s beaches and waterways with thick coatings of contaminated algae blooms. According to press reports, some experts estimate the outbreak has increased in size 500 percent since May.

“My home state of Florida is a national treasure, and vital to sustaining a thriving national economy,” Buchanan said. “This crisis, if not stopped in its tracks, has the capability of impacting millions of Floridians’ well-being and devastating businesses across the spectrum.”

The Florida Department of Health said exposure to blue-green algae at high levels can affect the gastrointestinal tract, liver, nervous system, and skin and has recommended that people avoid contact with the algal blooms. Cyanobacteria can also harm fragile ecosystems and kill domestic animals, pets, and fish and wildlife that drink or are otherwise exposed to contaminated water.

Moreover, local economies in South Florida that depend on tourism and provide jobs to millions of hard-working Floridians have seen an impact. Industries such as lodging, fishing, boating, retail and restaurant operators in the region have all been affected by the “guacamole-thick” algae blooms.


“I look forward to working with your administration to ensure emergency funds are delivered, and rest assured I will help in any way possible to protect Florida from future damage,” Buchanan said.


Buchanan, chair of the 29-member Florida congressional delegation, last week urged Congress to approve bipartisan legislation he’s co-sponsored that would help protect the state’s coastline from foul water discharges from Lake Okeechobee. The bill requires the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to expedite repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike and control water levels in the lake.

The Herbert Hoover Dike has been rated as “critically near failure” by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The measure is backed by several members of the Florida delegation including U.S. Reps. Curt Clawson, Daniel Webster, Jeff Miller, Alcee Hastings and Debbie Wasserman Schultz. 


Full text of Buchanan’s letter below:

 

July 12, 2016

 

The Honorable Barack Obama

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20500

 

Dear Mr. President:

The toxic algae blooms wreaking havoc across Florida have become a nightmare for millions of families across the state, local businesses and our iconic wildlife. I urge you to immediately declare a federal emergency given the public health, economic and environmental impact of this crisis.

Toxic algae spawning in Lake Okeechobee has been introduced to the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ release of contaminated lake waters. As a result, a thick coating of algae has covered South Florida’s beaches and waterways.

This scourge has forced Floridians to wear masks near the water, and some have complained of skin rashes, headaches and respiratory issues, according to press reports. The Florida Department of Health has warned that exposure to blue-green algae at high levels can affect the gastrointestinal tract, liver, nervous system and skin – and they note that children are particularly vulnerable to these threats.  

Moreover, local economies in South Florida that depend on tourism and provide jobs to millions of hard-working Floridians have seen an impact. Industries such as lodging, fishing, boating, retail and restaurant operators in the region have all been affected.

The blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, can kill domestic animals, pets, and fish and wildlife that drink or are otherwise exposed to contaminated water. As these algae blooms are spread into Florida’s waterways and coastlines, they have the potential to harm the state’s fragile ecosystems. In fact, a 2013 algae bloom was blamed for the deaths of scores of manatees, dolphins, birds and fish.

My home state of Florida is a national treasure, and vital to sustaining a thriving national economy. This crisis, if not stopped in its tracks, has the capability of impacting millions of Floridians’ well-being and devastating businesses across the spectrum.

Under federal law, you have the power to declare an emergency in order to help save lives, protect public health and mitigate looming disasters. Public health is at risk from a 200-square-mile toxic bloom so big it’s visible from space. In light of the threat toxic algae blooms pose to Floridians, I urge you to issue a federal emergency declaration before it is too late.

I look forward to working with your administration to ensure emergency funds are delivered, and rest assured I will help in any way possible to protect Florida from future damage.

 

Sincerely,

 

Vern Buchanan

Member of Congress

 

 

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