Last month, Florida's Environmental Regulation Commission (ERC) took the alarming step of changing state rules to allow more cancer-causing chemicals in Florida's water. That change is now on hold thanks to the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which sued the state over the change — and the Tribe is far from alone at being alarmed at the prospect of more carcinogens in the water.
Almost 20,000 people would like to see that plan reversed. A two-week-old Change.org petition demanding that Tallahassee "Keep the cancer-causing chemicals out of our water!" has gathered 19,403 signatures as of 1:35 p.m. today.
Malory Spier, who lives in Central Florida's Indian River Beach, started the petition drive after helping her mother beat cancer earlier this year.
"I’m a Floridian, and my mother just finished chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma," she writes on the petition. "My eyes have been opened to the many places carcinogens lurk — they’re everywhere, and now they’ll be in our water and seafood!"
The ERC's proposal is outrageous and would likely not have flown in any administration but Gov. Rick Scott's. The rule change would increase the acceptable levels of known carcinogens that polluters could dump into the state's rivers and streams.
Though the state somehow maintains the new rules would protect more residents than the current rules do, scores of scientists and environmentalists have spoken out against the new regulations. In July, the state approved the rule change, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must sign off on it before it takes effect.
Speir, who did not respond to a message from New Times, said online that she hopes her petition catches the EPA's eye and lets the agency know that a sizable chunk of Florida disagrees with Scott.
"Water is vital to nearly every activity in Florida, so why did our officials elect to endanger it?" she wrote. "The answer might have to do with money. One chemical in particular sticks out, benzene, and is a key chemical used in oil fracking. This vote will nearly double the amount of benzene allowed in our water, which might entice fracking companies to move to Florida."
It makes sense that Scott, a corporate bank-deposit box with googly eyes hastily glued onto the front, would stand back as his own environmental agency pushes rules that would let the state's biggest companies dump whatever they want into the water supply.
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But after Big Sugar virtually destroyed the Treasure Coast by polluting it to the point where toxic algae took over earlier this year, state residents really aren't having it this time.
"I love this state, and I don't want to see it destroyed," one petitioner from Palmetto, Merab Favorite, wrote.
Another commenter, Largo's Trae Theis, was even more direct.
"Not a fan of cancer!" Theis wrote.