Orlando Sentinel: Algae plaguing Florida's iconic springs triggers major legal battle

Article Posted on March 12, 2019

By: Kevin Spear, Orlando Sentinel

Soon after taking office, Gov. Ron DeSantis promised long-awaited fixes for the ailing Everglades, the green slimes at the waterfronts of Stuart and Martin County and the red tides along Sarasota and Fort Myers.

Those aquatic disasters have rallied broad alliances of environmentalists, anglers, waterfront homeowners, motel and restaurant owners, boaters, beachgoers and local politicians in the heavily populated bottom half of Florida.

Meanwhile, the majority of the state’s hundreds of springs — a collection unlike anywhere else in the world — are confined largely to rural and less-affluent places north of Interstate 4, Orlando and Tampa Bay, and often are secluded in woods or wetlands at the end of a quiet county road.

For environmentalists taking on the state over springs in a costly legal challenge, politics haven’t tipped in their favor.

Clay Henderson, executive director at Stetson University’s Institute for Water and Environmental Resilience, said authorities, with a nod from the new governor, could regroup and revise their springs strategy.

Otherwise, environmentalists say, what remains is a do-or-die fight.

The trouble is excessive growth of algae feeding on — as documented by authorities — pollution seeping into groundwater from septic tanks, sewage systems, agricultural and lawn fertilizer and stormwater.

Once jewels of blue water, neon-green eelgrass and brilliant-white sand, Florida springs typically have been rendered darkly slimy.

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