Letter to the Editor: An open letter to those who love Okeechobee

As an avid fisherman and waterman, I’ve seen the changes that impacted the waterways in Stuart, and thus feel compelled to reach out to anyone who loves the “Big Lake.” The lake is sick. From tainted water flowing in, to chemical aquatic weed control, legacy muck and cyanobacteria blooms, there’s a vicious cycle taking place that is poisoning, and slowly killing it.

There’s a level of abuse the lake can withstand, but when that balance tips in the favor of pollutants that have infinite lifetimes, the destruction is cumulative, quick and unstoppable. Lake Okeechobee is heading that way.

Cyanobacteria should be the first issue you confront, as it has some serious health impacts. It’s hard to think about a poison floating on a lake that is the center of your life, but it’s real, it’s been attributed to major health problems, and it’s being absorbed by every level of the aquatic food chain as well as the water supply. Or maybe it isn’t.

How do you know if you don’t make an attempt to find out? Every fishing guide on the lake should take part in the CDC’s health study. If it’s actually true, you’ll have it on record.

There’s a general sentiment to not be involved because the findings might lead to bad publicity and hurt business. But think about it this way: If the results are negative, it will confirm everything is safe. That will be positive for business.

Then again, if the results show your body is assimilating poisons, you’ll know the science is true, the lake is sick, and that you need to do something before the lake, your life, and your business, collapse. For those that refuse to be a part of the study, I think you already know the answer.

Step up and help scientists acquire samples for testing. Be a part of the science, so no one can berate it later. Don’t let someone who doesn’t know the lake pick the locations, fish and water to test.

As for aquatic weed control — everyone knows poison doesn’t magically evaporate. We’re spraying poison to kill the weeds that clean the water. They are poisoning your lake and water supply, on purpose. When that weed decays, it breaks down into tiny particles that get stirred up every time the wind blows, creating the dirty water. Year after year, that decaying matter makes the muck deeper, making it more difficult for the plants to grow. It’s a continuous cycle.

The lake may never die off, maybe there will just be warnings not to consume the fish. Maybe you’ll get to fish clean water every once in a while. But it will never be the same. It will never get better if the right people don’t take an active interest. And you, the people who live there and are on the lake the most, are the right people.

Mike Holliday
Stuart, FL

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