Brian Mast Pressed Army Corps of Engineers on Lake Okeechobee Discharges

At a hearing of the U.S. Transportation and Infrastructure Committee this week, U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., pressed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on toxic water and algae blooms in Florida.

Mast’s office weighed in on Wednesday on the hearing.

“For the first time ever, the Army Corps admitted to willfully and knowingly releasing toxic water containing cyanobacteria and harmful algal blooms from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee Rivers,” Mast’s office insisted.

Mast asked Maj. Gen. Scott Spellmon about the topic.

“Has the Army Corps of Engineers transferred toxic water – toxic water – from Lake Okeechobee to the East through the C-44 [canal] into the St. Lucie Estuary and the Indian River Lagoon and to the West through the Caloosahatchee River?” Mast asked.

“Yes, sir. We have conveyed water out the system that has contained cyanobacteria and harmful algae blooms. Yes, sir,” Spellmon replied.

“And the Corps considers that toxic?” Mast asked.

“Yes, sir,” Spellmon answered.

Mast’s office showcased that exchange.

“The importance of this admission—made for the first time ever during this hearing—can not be overstated. A branch of the United States military has now admitted to intentionally directing toxic water, without warning, into communities on the east and west coasts of Florida,” Mast’s office insisted “This admission makes the need for operational change to include both human health and flood control all the more pressing, including two priorities that Rep. Mast has long fought for.”

Mast’s office highlighted the congressman’s “Toxic Health Threat Warning Act” which would have the Army Corps test the toxicity of the water prior to discharging and issue warnings if needed and the “PROTECT Florida Act”  to “amend the Army Corps’ operational priorities to prioritize public health and minimize harmful discharges.”

On Wednesday, Mast insisted Spellmon’s admission should change how the Army Corps has handled the discharges.

“Now that the Army Corps acknowledges that the water they are discharging is toxic, they cannot continue to willfully and knowingly poison our community,” Mast said. “The Army’s mission is to defend the American people, so they have a duty to prioritize protecting public health when they make operational flood control decisions. The changes they made lowering Lake Okeechobee this winter to prevent discharges are working, and they must commit to making these changes long-term to prevent this massive public health crisis. Anything less than that is an unconscionable failure by our government.”

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

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