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Yesterday, I drove up to the Monroe County Government Center in Marathon to attend the Steering Committee of the Water Quality Protection Program for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary meeting.
I learned some things I didn’t know.
Of the 505 (or so) canals being attended to by Monroe County (excludes canals in incorporated Florida Keys cities), 137 canals (I think was the number) have been identified with impaired water quality.
In the old days, canal residents caught lobster and grouper in front of their homes. Corals and sponges grew in the canals. As the canals became polluted, those creatures left the canals and were replaced by small organizms. That’s the litmus test for the health of a canal. If the big creatures are not there, the canal is polluted.
*canals deeper than 8 feet do not get tidal water exchange below that depth
*long and/or long and/or twisting canals do not get tidal water exchange
*canals without weed guards get polluted with dead sea vegetation
*canals get lawn fertilizer runoff from homes on canals
*people cleaning fish on canal docks and throwing fish remains into canals
*oil and gas leaks and spills into canals
*septic tank and cess pit seepage into canals
*liveaboard sewerage dumped into canals
My impression was, I never saw a Florida Keys canal which was a not a lot deeper than 8 feet, and I have seen lots of canals in the Keys. I figure, therefore, every canal deeper than 8 feet has impaired water quality, and the only way to fix that is fill in those canals so they are less than 8 feet deep. That will take a whole lot of fill and money.
Although there was talk of using pumps to force water to move the water in the long and twisting canals, I felt that mostly is a pipe dream.
There was talk of putting weed barriers at the mouth of canals to keep most of the sea vegetation from getting into canals, but that might impair large boat traffic into and out of canals.
Five of the most impaired (polluted) canals are being monitored to gather scientific data. More canals need to be monitored to gain more scientific data. The funding is there for most of that, but there is no funding for fixing the canals.
Nobody seemed to know what that would cost, but when I said $500,000,000, nobody argued with that figure.
My impression was, which I stated at the meeting, the canal monitoring and testing are needed to provide evidence which can be used to attempt to pry money out of the County Commission, Tallahassee and the Feds. I said the County Commission has a 1% infrastructure sales tax, which can be applied to fixing canals.
During my citizen comments late in the meeting, I said there are three areas of concern:
1) I said I know the county commissioners and some of county staff. I had heard their arguments. I said Cudjo Regional Sewer District will use a lot of grinder pumps. Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority wanted gravity sewer systems wherever possible from the very beginning, but the County Commission did not wish to pay for that. So, the County Commission reversed engineered the Cudjo Regional system from what it was willing to pay. As late as 3 or so moths ago, I heard Bob Dean, Chairman of the Board of Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority, tell people in the Cudjo Regional area that FKAA always had preferred gravity to grinder pumps, and would install gravity wherever feasible, if the County Commission would pay for it. I said the County Commission does not believe grinders are as cheap and environmentally friendly as gravity. We know this because they gave Walt Drabinski gravity in his area wherever it could be used, when he sued the County. If the the county commission believed grinder pumps were better environmentally and cheaper, they would have given Walt all grinder pumps. They would have used grinder pumps everywhere in Cudjoe Regional, if they had believed grinder pumps were better than gravity.
Walt Drabinski already had told the officials and audience how environmentally unfriendly grinder pumps are, but he had not told them what happens when a Wilma hurricane comes, power goes out for 2-3 weeks, grinder pumps cannot work without electricity, and human feces backs up out of the grinder holes into yards and backs up out of toilets and plumbing into people’s homes. My bad for not mentioning that yesterday. I wanted Florida Department of Environmental Protection District Director Jon Igelhart, who chaired the meeting, to hear what he might not yet have been told: that DEP had been misled by the County Commission and by FKAA about how wonderful the Cudjoe Regional Sewer System would be. I wanted Jon to hear that so he would understand why DEP soon will be sued by people in the Cudjoe Regional Sewer District, and who is the reason for the lawsuit: the Monroe County Commission, which historically has been viewed by Tallahassee as an outlaw government, disinterested in preserving the Keys environment, which finally led to Tallahassee declaring the Florida Keys and area of critical concern and Monroe County was given a date certain to get the Keys properly sewered. A date the County Commission did not meet.
2) I said Tallahassee is about to allow farm chemical runoff to be dumped into the Everglades again, because right now that runnoff is killing manatee on the east and west coasts of Florida. I said way back when, that runoff came down through the Glades and into the Bay of Florida and then drifted down to the Keys and killed about 90 percent of the reef, according to Briam La Pointe, a marine biologist. I suggested they talk with Brian, hear what he has to say. He is well known, they appeared to know of him.
3) I said DeeVon Quirolo, co-founder of Reef Relief, told me that cruise ships leaving Port Everglades come down to Key West using the inside current into which they dump their so-called treated wastewater, which ends up coming down to the Keys and the reef. Devon told me they once tried to run cruise ship treated wastewater through Key West’s state of the art sewerage treatment plant but were unable to do so because of salt in the cruise ships wastewater and because of what else was in it, which Key West’s treatment plant could not handle. I asked them to get in touch with Devon about that, hear what she had to say.
Jon Iglehart said I was out of time and to wrap it up. I asked them to step back, talk with people other than the people they were accustomed to speaking with, hear what those other people have to say. From the looks on the faces on the dais and in the audience, I was heard and they they might not have heard any of it before. Jon took notes as I spoke. He seemed level, diligent, sincere. He doesn’t call the final shots. He answers to DEP in Tallahassee, and, I suppose, DEP answers to Governor Scott, and I hear Governor Scott loves big business. Even so, perhaps the tide turned a bit yesterday. I hope so.
Down Key West way, distant in-law Ron, who used to vacation often in Key West, sent this yesterday:
SLOAN – I hope this finds you feeling well. I saw a TV bit on a Nashville TN group’s approach to the homeless condition.
I don’t know if you have seen it, so pardon me if this is redundant. The group is called 100 homes for the homeless. They have established the group with the idea that it is cheaper for the community to provide housing for the homeless than it is to ignore or harass or incarcerate the homeless. They provide fully furnished apartments (food etc. included) for homeless folks, free of charge.”
As you would expect, they win some and they lose some, but they feel that they are winning and saving the community money….. a lot more than they lose. I find it an interesting approach. We shall see how they fare over the long hall. But their main focus is about the Cost of caring for the homeless. On that point, I agree with them. On the long term. I believe they will win some. Perhaps more than they lose. But, addiction is the devil in the details. As you well know, you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot stop it from drinking rum.
Regards, Ron K.
Hi, Ron –
Had not heard of this program in Nashville, reminds me of what I read a while ago Salt Lake City is doing for the same reason – it’s cheaper to give homeless people housing than it is to deal with homeless people who do not have housing.
I can’t imagine Key West trying this approach. It doesn’t have the available housing, it doesn’t have the money built new housing, it might have the land – out by the airport and Truman Waterfront, but the politics there would be rough squared.
The waiting list for Key West (Housing Authority) subsidized housing is very long, and there is a lot of that kind of housing in Key West, mostly due to the Navy having given or sold to the city cheap Navy housing no longer needed by the Navy.
The mood of the city government is still aggressively punitive against homeless people. Bums are viewed as something to be rid of if at all possible.
The city seems to have zero understanding of the problems caused by addiction, mainly the high relapse rate, which you indicate in your email. You can clean up homeless people, bathing-wise and drying out-wise, but you cannot ignore the addict high relapse rate – probably 95 percent long haul.
I remain of the view that this city, at least, Key West, should provide minimum services for homeless people – an overnight shelter with showers and lockers for storing belongings, and a couple of people who can help homeless get IDs, apply for $$ benefits, fill out job applications, and a one-way bus ticket to anywhere on the mainland, if same is requested. Part of the cost of running a city in America.
Other homeless services, soup kitchen, medical clinic, mental health should be provided as charitable services by private profit or non-profit providers. Part of the cost of doing business in Key West.
It perhaps never will be admitted by this city, nor by any city, county, state or national government, nor by mainstream, but the stark fact is, homeless people mirror what isn’t working in mainstream; homeless people are a product of mainstream, a waste product, if you wish, but a product nonetheless.
Mainstream deals with its sewerage and does not complain about that. The same perspective should carry through to mainstream dealing with its homeless people, many of whom, of course, are US military war vets. Many homeless people are products of horrible child abuse. Many homeless people are products of divorce and/or job and/or assets loss. Many homeless people simply gave up. Many homeless people are mentally ill. Mainstream efforts to help/save any and all of them them failed.
Mainstream views and treats stray dogs and cats far better than it treats homeless human beings. Mainstream views and treats wild animals far better than it treats homeless human beings. Mainstream does this because deep down inside mainstream sees itself in homeless people and does not like its reflection.
I see more homeless people in America in the future, a product of an increasingly dysfunctional American society and a corresponding increasingly dysfunctional local, state and national governments. And, I see more and different attempts to treat the symptoms, which is what Nashville is doing apparently with its eyes wide open; same for Salt Lake City. My opinion, Key West still has its eyes closed shut.
I did not speak to new homeless, who are an entirely different kind of homeless. I have told the city commission several times that new homeless is where most of the city’s “fix/deal with the homeless” assets/efforts need to go. So far, I have not seen any movement there; the focus remains on dealing with the bums, as they are called by many; also, vagrants, derelicts, leeches, sleezes, etc. The “vagrant” tattoo on my right shoulder is itching 🙂
From the most recent issue of Key West the Newspaper – www.thebluepaper.com:
I can’t seem to shake the haunting images of two famous classical orchestras. They aren’t famous for who they were, they are famous for where they played. One played on the deck of the Titanic as the unsinkable ship sank. The other, even more nightmarish musical venue I had in mind was the Nazi concentration camps. One of the first camps formed, as soon as Hitler gained power, was Theresienstadt or Terezín, as it was called by non-Germans. Classical, along with original works composed in the camp were played to give the illusion of civility and normalcy in an environment of satanical horror. Terezín was the first camp to utilize professional musician prisoners, a policy all the camps eventually adopted. Many in Terezín would die by disease, malnutrition and outright murder, but they would die with music in their ears. Terezín, for some, was only a temporary stop over on their way to the death camps of Treblinka or Auschwitz, where the bands played on.
These thoughts and images are cropping up in my mind more frequently these days. The reality of a fatal hole in the Titanic’s hull allowing the sea to rush in and fill the “water tight” compartments was ignored at first, because, after all, the ship was unsinkable. Of course our human penchant for hubris is nothing new, but instead of isolated, albeit tragic mishaps such as the Titanic, we are now ignoring glaring evidence on a much grander scale of global catastrophic proportions. No one enjoys hearing bad news, but to dismiss it off hand without investigation or to figuratively (or literally) (1), shoot the messenger is just plain delusional idiocy.
I went to a party a few nights ago, and yes, I enjoyed myself. In spite of what you may think of me, I’m not all gloom and doom. But I digress. A smattering of marine scientists was there as well. (Scientists like to party, too) Long story short, our own Great Florida Reef is ninety percent dead. (2) What took millions of years to develop, what has protected our archipelago from annihilation by wave erosion, what has been the ocean’s nursery for so many eons is very close to death. This horrible state of the reef has been brought about in a geological blink of an eye which “coincidentally” jibes with the time frame of our western industrial revolution and the start of our sordid love affair with fossil fuel. This indescribable tragedy doesn’t seem to alarm the general population. Hey, Wal-Mart and Chili’s are still open and the game is on the flat screen tonight…The band plays on.
We listen to our metaphorical Titanic orchestra so we can stay calm and carry on, even as our planet is sinking. We can go about our daily lives and be tranquilized by the lilting “musical distractions” of Celebrity and Hollywood. This is our passive, self induced coping method. We voluntarily tune in to all that is offered in the way of escape, be it booze, drugs or reality TV. Much like the character Neo in the movie “The Matrix”, we know things have become dire, yet we cannot seem to identify what it is, so we ignore that scratching sound and take another Xanax. The band plays on.
The music of the camps is a different kind of distraction, a more deliberate manipulative influence. Unlike the selfless volunteer musicians on the Titanic the music of the camps is a forced and cold thing. This musical propaganda tells you the masters are here for you and have only your best interests in mind. They want you to pay no attention to the smoke rising from the chimneys or that water that is undrinkable and on fire.
The perversely named company, “Freedom Industries”, that dumped toxic chemicals into the Elk River in West Virginia on January 9th, made the tap water not only un-drinkable for 300,000 West Virginians, but totally unusable for bathing and washing, as well. (3) The dear friends of Corporate and Industry in the House in Washington tell us regulation is strangling business and forcing them overseas. The last time the ruptured tank of toxins was inspected by government regulators was twenty years ago! Corporate self regulation is a myth and moral responsibility is an anathema to these trolls. The anti-government-zero-regulation pendulum has swung absurdly as far right as it can and needs to swing back towards common sense.
Another example of thoughtless environmental degradation is the new “panacea” of natural gas as the answer to all our energy needs in this country, dismissing wind and solar as silly tree hugging pie in the sky. (4)(5) The process of natural gas exploration, “Fracking”, which is pumping thousands of gallons of water and toxic chemicals deep into the ground under pressure, has the unfortunate side effect of destroying square miles of aquifer rendering water unusable. (6)(7)
Republican President Teddy Roosevelt, the father of the National Park System and a champion of the environment, (8) is spinning in his grave at the prospect of Big Oil systematically destroying the country’s water supply so share holders can fatten their portfolios, all this under the guise of patriotism and freedom from “foreign oil”. The band plays on.
The death of our reef, the poisoning of the Elk River in West Virginia, Big Oil’s Fracking and lest we forget Fukushima’s (9) ongoing nuclear meltdown and British Petroleum’s (BP)(10) Deepwater Horizon oil well blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico, the damage from which we still can’t fully comprehend. These are just a few examples of our un-regulated Libertarian future “paradise” that our masters are very busy convincing us is our only salvation. Our masters are committed to the capitalist fallacy of the sacredness of the ever expanding market, that everyone on the planet must have more cars and more houses and more cell phones and more TVs (as long as they can pay). To all my fellow Americans denying climate change, to all the Master’s bootlickers on Capitol Hill defending the rape of our Mother Earth in the name of ever greater quarterly profits and campaign contributions; the sad truth is this psychotic environmental pillaging is simply unsustainable. We do not have another spare planet lying around waiting for us to climb on board. This is it, baby…our little island in space. No science-fiction-last-minute rescue. No re-play, no re-boot. This is for keeps. The band plays on.
Shall we keep dancing on the deck of the Titanic, changing partners, but not our behavior? Shall we ignore the insanity of our precious water bursting into flame? Shall we allow evil to succeed? The band has been instructed to keep playing until there is no one left to hear the music. The band plays on.
There is a new and deeply personal post today at www.goodmorningbirmingham.com, which you should be able to reach by clicking on this link: my father’s second wife, Joann Bashinsky, the born-again Christian