Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Urges Congress to Address Florida’s Algae Bloom Crisis

Jul 8, 2016
Press Release
Floridians’ Health at Risk From Toxic Blooms

“Congress Must Address This Disaster Now”

WASHINGTON – As record amounts of toxic algae blooms continue to wreak havoc across Florida, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan today urged Congress to approve bipartisan legislation to help protect the state’s coastline from foul water discharges from Lake Okeechobee.

Toxic algae is covering a 33-square-mile swath of Lake Okeechobee. But high water levels have forced the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to release these rancid-smelling lake waters into waterways that feed into the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean. Buchanan, chair of the Florida congressional delegation, is a co-sponsor of legislation to require the Army Corps of Engineers to expedite repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike and control water levels in the lake.

“The algae bloom crisis has quickly become a public safety and health concern,” Buchanan said. “Florida’s waterways, coastline, economy and fragile ecosystems are at risk.”

The recent discharges from Lake Okeechobee have infested South Florida’s beaches and waterways with thick coatings of algae blooms. Many Floridians have had 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 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.

Specifically, the legislation would direct the federal government to complete urgently needed repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike, a 143-mile dike that encompasses Lake Okeechobee. The Herbert Hoover Dike has been rated as “critically near failure” by the Army Corps of Engineers.

“This bill delivers federal funds to repair and strengthen the aging dike,” Buchanan said. “Congress must address this disaster now and pass the legislation."

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.