Friends of the Everglades executive director deflects on septic tank impact on water quality

FORT MYERS, Fla. (FLV) – Eve Samples, executive director of Friends of the Everglades, deflected when asked about the major impact of septic tanks on pollution in Florida’s waterways.

The samples found twice as much that agriculture is the problem, even though their home and office are connected to a treatment plant, which data shows is a major contributor to poor water quality.

A recent comprehensive study from 2023 showed that drainage ditches, canals, streams and the estuary of the Caloosahatchee River “often have high concentrations of nutrients and bacteria that limit their intended uses.”

This study linked poor infrastructure to harmful algal blooms and poor water quality.

The study “provides evidence of widespread human waste pollution” in Lee County and calls for infrastructure improvements.

However, Friends of the Everglades keeps blaming farmers for nutrient pollution in the waterways.

During a recent interview with WPTV 5 on toxic algal blooms, Samples said nutrient pollution from “agricultural runoff” and the “occupation” of southern land by the sugar cane industry are the problems.

Florida’s Voice polled samples on the study, which links horrible infrastructure like septic tanks to harmful algal blooms, especially since her home and office are on septic tanks.

Samples was asked if it was hypocritical to blame farmers for nutrient pollution when it is in septic tanks that contribute to the problem.

“It is undeniable that agriculture is the largest source of nutrient pollution in the Lake Okeechobee watershed, as detailed in the state’s Lake Okeechobee Basin Management Action Plan,” Samples said in response to Florida’s Voice.

“If we are to protect the lake and associated estuaries from toxic algal blooms, we must address the largest source of nutrient pollution in Lake Okeechobee,” she continued.

Florida’s Voice asked what Friends of the Everglades is doing to raise awareness of the septic tank issues, while social media posts focus on farmers, Lake Okeechobee discharges and fertilizer bans.

“Regarding your question about septic tanks, in their 2023 legislative priorities, Friends of the Everglades called on lawmakers to mandate regular inspections of septic tanks,” Samples said.

Samples believes the problem is that farmers have the “vast majority” of the capacity of the taxpayer-funded stormwater treatment areas south of Lake Okeechobee to drain their fields. Others believe that septic tank conversion and the need for northern storage must be prioritized to help solve nutrient pollution problems.

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