Mayor Bill’s Corner

Mayor Bill Barnett

It seems the 2018 summer conversation revolved around whether we will be lucky this hurricane season and escape red tide, and blue green algae. I suppose it has become my trademark when I say I’ve lived in the City of Naples for forty-five years but it’s usually relevant to something I’m going to or have said. In this case it’s red tide. I can remember my first encounter with it shortly after we moved here in 1973. There was nothing in the newspaper, or the radio, or television that even mentioned red tide. I was at the beach one day with my kids and of course we knew something wasn’t right but didn’t know why we where having the symptoms we were having.

It was a local back then that gave us our first history lesson about red tide. He said it shows up once or twice a year, it kills fish, it makes people’s eyes water and cough but he said it would be gone in a day or two when the wind changed directions and nobody knew what caused it but it had been around for many years. His words of wisdom seemed accurate and as the years went by we got used to it and accepted it as a way of life. After dealing first hand with Irma in Naples last year everything else seemed irrelevant at the time. There have been so many trickle down effects from that hurricane that even today we are still dealing with them and will be for years to come.

Naples did a marvelous job of cleaning up and last years season was amazing. Fast forward to this summer. Red tide has been as bad as I and many others have ever seen it. To make matters worse our neighbors to the north, Sanibel, Fort Myers, and Cape Coral have been severely affected with a nasty blue green algae that is wreaking havoc on those communities. Finger pointing, accusations, politics, and theories galore about
who is to blame and what is the cause. Lake O seems to be the culprit and I have watched and listened to the experts. We are fortunate to have some of the top marine scientists and biologists in Florida. I paid particular attention to remarks that were made by a Florida Atlantic University professor whose name is Brian Lapointe. He said “ it’s time to start looking at the science and accepting that human activity caused these problems.

Irma brought torrential rainfall and flooding across the state and that’s when the brown tide started coming”, he said. What he then said absolutely made sense to me. There has been a long debate about who is responsible for the nutrients, specifically nitrogen in Lake O and other bodies of water. Agriculture played a major role years ago, and non-agricultural fertilizer use was a factor as well, but that’s not really the case anymore according to Lapointe. “We are reducing fertilizers tremendously in the Sunshine State, so where are they coming from?” he asked. “All you have to do is read the headlines”.

Those headlines, and his research, puts the onus on the tens of thousands of septic tanks near water bodies
as well as the State’s aging and inadequate wastewater infrastructure. Those tanks and sewers are leaching
human waste into the water supply. “Septic tanks are the major source of nitrogen. Around the Tallahassee area, 50 percent of the nitrogen is from septic tanks and only 8 percent from agricultural sources he said. Fixing those problems will be costly he said. The infrastructure alone will take 18 billion to fix, but ignoring the problem could be even costlier.

He went on to give proven examples that happened in the Keys. I agree with his final statement where he said if we don’t protect our environmental health, in this case water quality; it will have disastrous impacts on human health. He finished by saying we need to call on our business leaders and politicians to pay attention
to scientific research before pulling the trigger on new policies. I take what I read very seriously and will do my best to be a part of the solution and not the problem.

For those of you who are returning to our beautiful Naples be prepared for another great season! Our staff has been working diligently while you were gone to make sure that you are pleased with what you see upon your return. I do respond to e-mail @  Mayor Bill

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