Who’s to blame for Florida’s failure to fix the blue-green algae crisis?

We told you last month that toxic blue-green algae — cyanobacteria — is proliferating across the country, the globe — and across Florida.

Dozens of health alerts have been issued across the Sunshine State; in Cape Coral earlier this week residents were asked to stay inside because the smell of a blue-green algae bloom in Rubican Canal “is so strong and dense that the only way to escape it is by getting inside.”

We also told you that Florida has a way to solve this problem, a list of recommendations from the state’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force, issued in late 2019. But three years later we’ve picked only the lowest-hanging fruit — ensuring the crisis will both continue and intensify.

That’s the conclusion of a coalition of environmental groups across Florida, including VoteWater and our sister organization, Friends of the Everglades, which issued a “report card” showing “Florida leaders have failed to address critical water-quality concerns by not adequately implementing the recommendations of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force.”

The report graded 32 key metrics, and in only four cases was the benchmark achieved. That’s a passing rate of 12.5%.

If your kid brought home a report card like that, you’d take away the Xbox for a month.

While the report card was issued in time for the Blue Green Algae Task Force’s meeting Aug. 4, in part to get the group’s attention, let’s be clear about who’s to blame for this abject failure to address the problem.

It’s not the fault of the task force itself.

The five academics who served on the task force provided key scientific expertise. They studied the issue at length and produced recommendations which in many cases involved tough political decisions.

Florida’s policy-makers and regulatory authorities have pointedly refused to make those decisions. And it is they who bear the blame for the failure to act — effectively ensuring that blue-green algal blooms will remain a recurring and worsening problem.

Said Eve Samples, Executive Director of Friends of the Everglades: “There’s a gaping divide between the sound scientific recommendations made by the Blue-Green Algae Task Force and action taken by Florida lawmakers. Until we close that divide, Floridians will remain perpetually vulnerable to another toxic-algae crisis — and the resulting harm wrought on public health, ecosystems and our water-dependent economy.”

Added VoteWater Executive Director Gil Smart: “The Blue-Green Algae Task Force did its job; the political will to solve the problem just doesn’t exist. And unfortunately it may take another acute crisis that generates global headlines, like 2016 or 2018, for decision-makers to finally face up to the tough choices required — and make them.”

More funding needs to be allocated; more land for water storage must be acquired; there must be additional monitoring and where polluters are identified, they must clean up their act.

It’s time to treat blue-green algae like the crisis it is — and the crisis it will metastasize into if we fail to act.

We’ll keep you informed; we’ll do our part — so you can do yours.