Florida’s love-hate relationship with phosphorus
The state has mined and abused the Devil’s Element for decades, and now it is increasingly fouling precious coastal waters
In the summer of 2018, in Stuart, a small beach community on the Atlantic Coast of Florida, some hundred panicked homeowners showed up at City Hall in the middle of the business day to demand something be done about the green goo plaguing their coastal waters. It was a sweltering July day, the kind towns like Stuart are built for, but signs on the boardwalk outside City Hall warned visitors:
As people at the meeting introduced themselves and stated their affiliations, it became clear this was not a typical gathering of environmentalists. They weren’t strategizing about how to protect some beleaguered species and the far?away lands or waters upon which it depends. These people, who represented businesses as well as homeowners’ associations and fishing and yachting clubs, spoke as though they were the threatened species.
“I need help,” said Will Embrey, a scraggly commercial fisherman whose business had collapsed right along with the region’s schools of mackerel not long after the green slime arrived. “There are a lot of people like me that need help.” The 45-?year-?old was suffering chronic stomach pain that was initially diagnosed as diverticulitis, and then ulcerative colitis, and then Crohn’s disease. Eventually doctors had given up trying to figure out what made Embrey so sick.
Embrey didn’t need to spend tens of thousands more dollars on more specialists, CT scans and lab tests to figure out the source of his illness. He knew it was the poisoned water, and he wasn’t alone.