Diane Roberts: Rick Scott’s breathtaking hypocrisy on water pollution

algae bloom (Large)

Rick Scott, our Trumpster-diving governor, has declared a state of emergency. He’s suddenly discovered Florida’s waters are choking in toxic algae, green as arsenic, and malodorous as a pile of rotting mullet.

Images of slime-covered sand, and fish gasping their last on closed beaches are appearing in print and on screens around the world. It’s not just another day in paradise.

Scott blames “the inaction and negligence of the federal government not making the needed repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike,” the perpetually leaking earthwork that’s supposed to contain the noxious soup of sewage, fertilizer and Big Ag runoff that is Lake Okeechobee. South Florida has had a lot of rain, so the Corps has been trying to ease pressure on the dike by flushing a lot of noisome lake water out into the rest of Florida.

“Because the Obama administration has failed to act on this issue,” Scott said, “the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continues to discharge millions of gallons of water into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries resulting in the growth of blue-green algae which is now entering residential waterways in South Florida.”

Um, what? Scott has always demonstrated an impressively sociopathic talent for hypocrisy, but this is truly breathtaking.


The Corps could fix the dike tomorrow, but the water in the lake would still be infested with cyanobacteria. It would still contain 20 times the toxins deemed tolerable by the World Health Organization. It could still cause liver damage, severe rashes and respiratory distress. It would still be destroying the Everglades.

It would still smell, as one lady put it, “like death on a cracker.”

Why is this water so foul? Because Scott’s political clients have been allowed to pollute all they please, pumping untreated wastewater into the second-largest freshwater lake in the contiguous 48 states — a lake which also supplies drinking water for millions of Floridians.

Big Sugar — one of the biggest polluters — is a top contributor to Scott’s political committee “Let’s Get to Work.” Cleaning up the water would hit profits.

A little history: Back in 1998, the EPA gave states six years to develop “numeric,” i.e., measurable, standards for water quality. Florida used a “narrative” standard: if the fish ain’t floating belly-up, that water’s fine.

Florida ignored the 2004 deadline, and state officials keep pretending that court cases won by various citizens and environmental groups don’t mean polluters actually have to clean up their mess.

Actually, the state has recently made it easier for polluters to dump crap into Florida waters. Since Scott signed Big Ag’s comprehensive water bill into law in January this year, all polluters have to do is claim they’re following “best management practices.” And what does that mean? Why, whatever Big Ag says it means!

So the dirty water’s on the Florida Legislature. And on Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who sees any attempt to enforce the Clean Water Act in Florida as sinister federal overreach. And on Rick Scott.

When Gov. Charlie Crist left office in 2011, there was a deal in place for the state to buy 187,000 acres of US Sugar land which would begin restoring the natural flow of the Everglades south. The ’glades, a natural filter, would help clean up the water before it got in the rivers and estuaries.

Scott voided the agreement. He even opposed a much scaled-back purchase in 2015 that would have gone a little way to putting water where it needs to be. By then, US Sugar wasn’t keen on selling. The company mused that maybe they’d put a resort or two and a bunch of houses on the land instead. More profit in that than in Everglades restoration.

South Florida waters have been gunked-up with toxic algae on and off for years. Tourism is suffering; property values are tanking.

Scott has just noticed. If he’s going to run for the U.S. Senate in 2018, he needs to look like he cares about the environment. He also needs to take care of Big Shug.

Guess which one will win out?


Diane Roberts teaches at Florida State University. Her latest book, “Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America,” will be out in paperback in the fall.

Diane Roberts

Diane Roberts teaches at Florida State University. Her latest book, “Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America,” will be out in paperback in the fall.


  • Richard Crooks

    July 6, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    Voters in Florida voted for the slimy Rick Scott so now suffer you are all brain dead so you got what you wanted.

    • Dan Halcomb

      July 7, 2016 at 10:35 am



    July 6, 2016 at 11:49 pm

    We need action and we need it now. What is happening to our environment is a travesty
    The Governor and Legislature need to be held accountable for their lack of action

  • Lauren Olsen

    July 7, 2016 at 7:03 am

    The corruption need to be stopped and action for the citizens health needs to be prioritized. Scott lack of action is political corruption while he receives “donations” from big sugar and is still “contemplating action” weeks after establishing “state of emergency.” He doesn’t know how to be a leader and we need help, most recently shelters are becoming available in Martin county for citizens to escape the toxic algae to breathe and Scott still has yet to visit the issues.

  • Beth

    July 7, 2016 at 7:35 am

    You pretty much hit the nail on the head. The state legislature misappropriated a larger portion of Amendment 1 funds that was set aside for EAA. Let’s not forget about Big Sugar also being a large contributor to Marco Rubio Presidential Campaign I think the amount was $900,000. That came out in the wash after he visited Treasure Coast. Mr. Scott only cares about lining his own pockets. Research Sabal Trail Pipeline, Spectra Co & Governor Scott & see who prospers from financial gains from that. Even though it’s illegal to be a State official & contract a company(that you will receive financial gains from),Spectra Co, to do state work. And the saga continues with Mr Scott & his cronies. My question, who really cares about Florida?

  • Barbara

    July 7, 2016 at 8:01 am

    Much truth in the article but without declaring a state of emergency the Federal Government would not have slowed the rate of release of water through it’s agency the US Army Corp of Engineers. It should stop–the innocent communities it is destroying don’t deserve to pay the price. Putting up the dike back in the day was the beginning of the disaster. Building a community in a natural watershed and flood zone continued the process in the wrong direction. Using Lake Okeechobee as a dumping station for agriculture and the community to the north AND back dumping from the sugar industry from the south ALL add up to a perfect storm. Decades of poor decisions at the local, state, and federal level–Democrat and Republican-have ensured an eventual crisis situation. You cannot blame just one individual. The entire region needs to own up and do its part and stop pointing fingers at each other. Everyone there just blame shifts and does nothing. The rich get richer and innocent coastal communities are forced to suck up the consequences. What crisis to you wish to inflict next?

  • Patti Timm

    July 7, 2016 at 8:33 am

    Thank you Diane. Really clear and concise history of our greatest problem in Florida.

  • Peter Maier

    July 7, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    Algal growth is a nationwide problems, caused by the EPA.

    The best kept national secrete is that EPA never implemented the CWA, because it used an essential test (BOD) incorrect and not only ignored 60% of this oxygen exerting waste, but all the nitrogenous (urine and protein) waste, while this waste also is a fertilizer for algae. By calling this waste now a nutrient and blaming it mostly on farmers, the public has been successfully kept in the dark.
    Therefore no more new regulations or lawsuits until EPA first acknowledges three major sources of nutrient pollution, that are presently ignored.
    1. The lack of nitrogenous (urine and protein) waste treatment in municipal sewage, due to a faulty test and also nutrient pollution, partly created by the food produced by farmers. Wp.me/p5COh2-2C
    2. Septic tanks do not treat sewage, they only solubilize sewage so it can get into groundwater.
    3. The impact of ‘green’rain’ or rain containing reactive nitrogen (fertilizer), the result of the burning of fossil fuels, the increased use if synthesized fertilizer and increased frequency of lightning storms, the result of global climate change.
    When this rain falls on land it stimulates the growth of grasses and brush, that become the kindle wood for the hard to control range and wildfires, during the dry season and when it, either falls directly or indirectly, via runoffs, in water, it stimulates algal growth.
    The public, especially the farming communities, should demand that without, first acknowledging and quantifying these major nutrient sources, any new regulation should be halted and existing lawsuits dismissed.

  • Barbara Ann Cox

    July 7, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    Diane, always the voice of truth and reason! Perhaps we could have Rick and Adam bath in that toxic scum…for days on end. What happened to “we the people”!

  • cyndi

    July 7, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    Thank you so much! Death on cracker is my quote! This is taking place at my home. It was a matter of when not if. I do not think we had any idea how bad it would be. Kait Parker is calling the worse algae emergency ever. You cannot imagine the smell. We have been fighting for our flow way. We have taken everyone into consideration and my conclusion is if ig sugar has just sold the land and we could have started on the reservoir this would have been a different story. we have always worried about the people who live in the EA despite the fact that they ridicule us and even now think we made all this up and everything is photoshopped. I’m done asking for big sugar to do the right thing. I’m done asking my legislators and rick scott to do the right thing. I am done begging SFWMD to do the right thing. The locks need to go off and stay off. If tey stop sending this water to destroy us then it won’t matter any more the rhetorical games that are played. Because it will not longer be our problem. We are done. We have been destroyed. I am sick from smelling this stuff. Our economy has been devastated. The damage has been done. If it was up to me I’ll take my county out of FLorida out of the US and build a giant wall around us to protect from the terrorist who is our govenor. I would get a giant cement truck and fill it in at the St Lucie Locks never to have this poison water hurt us, our wild life, our economy, our martin county again.

    • Mike

      July 14, 2016 at 8:24 am

      Vote the c o r porste lohing GOP out of office. Those arevthevreal crooked politicians and their network!!

  • Doug Foster

    July 7, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    There are more registered democrats in Florida than republicans. We need to get people out to vote and throw out the sandbagging big profit republicans and take back the Floridahouse and senate and governorship. Then we need term limits to get rid of the revolving door from congress to lobbying.

  • A. V. Ley

    July 8, 2016 at 4:36 pm

    Good article, except that arsenic isn’t green. Elemental arsenic is grey-silver. I say this as a chemist/chemical engineer who’s carrer was growing arsenic semiconductors.

  • Aslan Balaur

    July 9, 2016 at 5:06 pm

    And in one concise, well worded blog, explains why my family would vacation in the deepest, darkest pits of Hell before we visit Florida.

  • Dale Orlando

    July 11, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    Typical greedy, self-serving male Republican…to create doubt, blame a dike.

  • Mary Castlow

    July 15, 2016 at 7:53 pm

    A superb history of what is wrong with Florida now…Impeach Governor Scott. Do it now!

Comments are closed.


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