Saying he was frustrated by Republican Rick Scott’s lack of action on the algae bloom plaguing the Treasure Coast, Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy of Jupiter brought bottles of foul-smelling, toxic green water Tuesday to the governor’s office so he could see it first hand.
“I decided that I wanted to come to Tallahassee and deliver this bottle of toxic algae to the governor to make sure he sees exactly what we are dealing with on a day-to-day basis,” Murphy said, shortly after delivering a half-dozen bottles of the Indian River Lagoon water to the office.
Scott is out of town.
“You see, my constituents have to wake up every morning and not only do they have to look at this, two-, three-, four-inches of algae on the surface. But they have to smell it, and that is something that is really hard to put into words, just how bad this really smells,” he added.
Scott, who has dashed to Orlando and Fort Myers to provide relief after recent mass-shootings, has mostly stayed away from the Treasure Coast during the algae outbreak, which has angered homeowners and inflamed environmental activists.
The governor did come to West Palm Beach in June to take part in a roundtable on the Zika virus. But unlike the man Murphy is hoping to unseat, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Scott chose not to go up the coast to observe the spreading algae and catch heat from area residents.
Instead, Scott asked the Obama administration to declare a federal emergency, which was declined. But that action has only added to Scott’s criticism of the president for failing to fund a replacement for the aging dike around Lake Okeechobee.
The Army Corps of Engineers has ordered water releases from the big lake to ease stress on the dike, sending farm- and septic-tank polluted water flowing into the Indian River estuary and and Caloosahatchee River in southwest Florida.
Scott also has turned focus away from the sugar industry and other politically influential farming giants as a source of the dirty water. Instead, the governor said he will ask the Legislature next year to establish a 50-50 grant program between the state and local governments to finance efforts to reduce septic tank use and also encourage cities to build wastewater treatment centers.
Scott’s office wasn’t pleased by Murphy’s arrival.
“It’s disappointing that he has spent more time on a stunt than a solution,” said Jackie Schutz, a Scott spokeswoman.
“We wish Congressman Murphy would spend more time in Washington getting Congress and the President to approve funding to repair the federally operated Herbert Hoover Dike which has caused the algae problem in the Treasure Coast.”
Murphy on Tuesday said that Scott should urge lawmakers to use voter-approved Amendment 1 environmental dollars to buy land south of Lake Okeechobee that can be used to clean and store the discharged lake water.
Republican lawmakers have rejected both the price and science behind the proposal.
“This isn’t a problem you should be pointing fingers and blaming folks,” Murphy said. “This is well beyond that. My constituents don’t care whose fault this is, they want it solved.”
Murphy’s appearance at the Capitol was the latest dust-up between the Democratic Senate candidate and Republican governor over algae.
Last week, the governor’s office served up email sent by a Murphy aide seeking to delay the announcement by the Small Business Administration of a federal aide program for companies and services hurt by the algae outbreak.
Murphy wanted to attend a news conference unveiling the program and had a conflict on the day scheduled. Once the email was forwarded to Scott by the SBA, the governor’s office became outraged, saying it was important to hold the announcement as soon as possible, warning that a day’s delay jeopardized help for businesses.
The America Rising PAC, which does opposition research on Democratic candidates, soon was handing out details of the clash to reporters.