I could smell it the other day. Creeping down the river, lapping at the shore. It steals your breath. It burns your skin. It kills the fish, the birds, and the plants. It makes you sick. The green monster first appeared in significant size in Jacksonville in 2005, and it was bad. I mean, bad. It covered 100 miles of the river from shore to shore and lasted for what seemed like an eternity. It was so thick it looked like you could walk on it. In subsequent years it hasn’t been as severe, but it’s still a danger.
This thick, neon green slime is an algae bloom that produces a toxin so intense that pilots flying 500 feet above it have been known to have trouble breathing, so you can only imagine what it’s like for those of us at ground level.
The birds and gators that swim through this stuff come out looking like they’re covered in green fir, and a friend of mine had to rush his black lab to the vet when he broke out of the yard and jumped in the river. He let out this scream and jumped right back out, but over the next few days he lost much of his hair and had to be treated for weeks afterward.
What causes this toxic stew? A lethal combination of heat, rain, and nutrients. And those nutrients are caused by man. As per usual, we are the authors of our own destruction. The nutrients come from fertilizer, septic tanks, waste water, storm water runoff and industrial waste. We have created this monster and only we can kill it. If we do not provide it with food in the form of nutrients, it cannot survive.
We need to stop treating our river as if it were a toilet. Septic tanks need to be totally phased out. We need to stop prioritizing our pristine green lawns over our river. Industry needs to be held accountable for its indifference.
And this monster isn’t exclusive to Jacksonville. It’s happening in waterways all over Florida. Industrial lobbyists are still trying to maintain that this is not a problem. What’s it going to take for them to wake up? Every time the green monster rears its ugly head, we need to realize that we did this. All of us. And only we can vanquish this killer. It’s too late to look the other way. The life of our state, and all the flora and fauna within it, hangs in the balance.