Sanibel, FL. August 26, 2016. On June 11, District 27 Florida Senate candidate Jason Maughan was on the ground in North Fort Myers, talking to concerned beach goers following the Department of Health’s closure of North Shore Park. After a summer that’s seen beach closures in Cape Coral and on Sanibel Island and chronic Coca-Cola-colored water in the Caloosahatchee extending miles into the Gulf of Mexico, Maughan found it necessary to take time away from greeting voters at the polls to assess yet another North Shore Park beach closure.
Health officials say a routine water test turned up an unsafe amount of Enterococcus, a bacteria that normally inhabits the intestinal tract of humans and animals. The presence of an elevated concentration of the bacteria is an indication of pollution, which may come from a variety of sources including sewage and storm water run-off.
“What the Department of Health isn’t saying and won’t tell you is that the bacteria comes from all the cow manure, fertilizers and other chemicals being dumped into the waters that feed Lake Okeechobee by the agro-industrial interests north of the lake and which U.S. Sugar and Crystal Sugar pump into the lake when they drain their sugar cane fields following the heavy rains that take place this time of year,” said Maughan as he walked along the crushed shell that lines Yankee Beach at the northwest foot of the Caloosahatchee Bridge in North Fort Myers.
“They’re also not telling voters that the only way to stop discharges of the polluted water from Lake Okeechobee that’s causing these bacterial outbreaks and associated blue-green algae blooms is for the State of Florida to use Amendment One funds to purchase land in the Everglades Agricultural Area so that excess water from the lake can be sent south to be cleaned, filtered and re-directed into the Everglades. And that’s precisely why I decided 12 weeks ago to run for the Florida Senate. And to show I’m serious about fixing this problem, I’ve signed the Now or Neverglades Declaration.”
Fox 4 Now reports that this same beach was closed several times last year because of high concentrations of Enterococcus bacteria, which can cause serious illness in humans and pets. Discharges from Lake Okeechobee have plagued the health of the Caloosahatchee for years, prompting American Rivers to categorize the river as one of the country’s most polluted in 2008. The situation has gotten progressively worse since then.
“You can’t keep doing the same thing time and again expecting a different outcome,” said Maughan. “Because of her ties to Big Sugar and agro-industrial special interests, my opponent, Lizbeth Benacqusto, is not in favor of buying the land and sending the water south. She adamantly refuses to sign the Now or Neverglades Declaration. If people really want to put a stop to this insanity, they have to make a change. That’s why I’m asking them to cast their ballots for me in the August 30 primary.”