The following editorial was published in The Daily Sun on May 13, 2023.
OUR POSITION: Water quality is such an important issue that numerous entities must work together to ensure Southwest Floridians can feel secure their water is clean, safe and in abundant supply.
A recent editorial board meeting with members of the Peace+Myakka Waterkeepers reminded us how critical the health and supply of our water is in Southwest Florida.
Caring for our water is especially important when you consider most of it comes from one source — the Peace River. And, besides the concern for that precious source of water to drink, cook, wash clothes and swim in, there is also the health of Charlotte Harbor to consider. Keeping that body of water suitable for game fish, aquatic feeding grounds and a draw to boaters and fishermen is of utmost importance to our reputation as an outdoor paradise.
Judy Ott and Andy Mele shared their concerns and their approval of policies being put in place during our time together. And, we later sought more input from Charlotte County’s water quality guru, Brandon Moody.
But, as we considered the health of Charlotte Harbor and the Peace River, it became more and more evident that Charlotte County is just one entity in the fight for clean abundant water. There are a host of players in this struggle — including Sarasota and DeSoto counties, the Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority, Southwest Florida Water Management District and every person who fishes, turns on their spigot, hooks up a hose or goes boating.
We’re all in this together. Charlotte County has adopted a One Charlotte, One Water program that is still a work in progress. The plan encompasses everything to do with water in the county.
Right now, Moody is working on a long-term plan to monitor and improve water quality in the county.
When he came on board, Charlotte County had already begun an ambitious septic to sewer conversion program that has cost millions of dollars but is already paying dividends as to the health of our water system. The county has also been working on a Conservation Charlotte plan that buys up and preserves property, most of it near waterways, to prevent development that could be harmful.
Moody explained his role. “I plan to provide a suite of programs, some of them already underway, that will provide connective tissue to all these plans (and ideas),” he said. “There are so many different departments in the county what play a role in water quality protection, and I can reach out and see how they can all work together and not conflict.”
Creating a stormwater model, looking at resiliency and sea level rise along with nutrient levels in Charlotte Harbor and monitoring the health of the Peace River are all part of One Charlotte, One Water.
The Waterkeepers believe we’re at a “tipping point” in our fight to protect our water. The region’s water is naturally high in phosphorus already and that relates to nitrogen that can grow algae and sicken our harbor.
Nitrogen is the evil villain in the fight to protect our water. Its fellow bad guy is ammonia. Phosphorus, nitrogen and ammonia are destructive components when it comes to water. Mele believes ammonia flows into and down the Peace River from Mosaic mining.
Heather Nedley, spokesperson for Mosaic, says ammonia is only used in the manufacturing process at the company’s fertilizer plants in Hillsborough and Polk counties. She said any water discharged at the mining operations is stormwater runoff and small volumes of treated water.
It’s easy for people to be leery of mining given the history of accidents by other mining operations.
But the issues with our water are far more extensive and complex.
A clean, abundant supply of water is a goal all entities and all people must work toward. The urgency to work toward that goal with greater speed and to develop a plan that works can’t be stressed enough.