State of the Florida  and Coastal State Environment s

Florida  and other coastal states h ave been undergoing rapid growth and increasing congestion with widespread adverse consequences that threaten our environment, economy, and health. This includes many unsustainable environmental and economic trends. There are solutions and options that can improve most of these problems.  Growth-related damage to Florida and unsustainable trends include: 

Export of economic capital and falling value of the dollar due to  energy dependency  and huge sums for fuel and fertilizer imports

Warmer ocean and coastal waters , and  More and bigger hurricanes  related to Global Warming

Sea Level Rise  and Coastal Erosion

Saltwater intrusion  (1,17)

- Drying up of lakes and wetlands in many areas   (1)

- Falling water tables in some areas     (1)

- Contamination  of drinking water, groundwater, and surface waters by toxics and runoff throughout Florida, with most surface waters contaminated(1). Autopsies Find Microplastics in All Major Organs - water bottles, plastic packaging, plastics in water, etc.

- Rapid decline of the Everglades and coastal environments   (1,9,20)

- Collapse in the populations of fish, shellfish, birds, and wildlife of Florida . Bird, bee, and insect populations are rapidly declining catastrophically as a result of habitat loss, misuse of pesticides , cell phone tower RF microwaves , and global warming .

- Toxic fish and seafood  in the majority of the state due to increased levels of mercury and toxics from emissions and coastal pollution       (1-6) 

Dangerous levels of mercury   in over 30% of the Florida population 

- Disposal of increasing levels of garbage and  sewage   , most containing high levels of toxics

-  Increased accumulation of toxics in the environment, significantly affecting Floridians, including major increases in  birth defects  and infant  neurological  and  immune  problems

- Huge "dead zones" in Gulf waters due to increased fertilizer use and runoff into rivers along with toxic pollutants.  (20,1)

Increased food prices due to significant increases in energy and fertilizer prices.  (22)

The U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy(9) released the following findings regarding the increasing problems of the oceans and coastal areas: 

••Thousands of acres of coastal wetlands providing essential spawning, feeding and nursery areas for three-fourths of U.S. commercial fish catches are disappearing each year. 

•• Ocean pollution, largely from farmland and urban runoff, and human populations near shorelines are increasing so much that proper coastal management is overwhelmed. 

•• Fish stocks continue to be depleted, and the advice of scientists too often is ignored at the expense of fisheries and the long-term sustainability of the fishing industry. Of the fully assessed U.S. fish stocks, 40 percent are depleted or overfished.

•• Not enough study has been given to the interaction between oceans and climate change. 

** Climate change is a significant factor increasingly threatening Ecosystem, Health, and Economic collapse .  

The latest U.N. FAO report on fisheries found that more   and stronger regional fisheries management organizations are needed to rebuild depleted stocks and prevent the collapse of other stocks(13).    

The National Coalition for Marine Conservation(14) found that numbers of most species of marine fish are at an all-time low, and the chief culprit is overfishing to meet an unprecedented demand for seafood.  Modern, technologically-advanced fishing fleets have the capacity to push most fish populations to the brink.  About one-fourth of the global catch - are killed and discarded yearly by fishermen using huge nets, multi-mile longlines and other indiscriminate gear.  Some fleets throw away more fish than they keep.  This wasted "bykill" is a problem in almost every fishery.

Most salt water fish spend all or at least part of their lives in coastal waters, where their environment is continually assaulted by pollution and development.  The massive destruction of wetlands and other vital habitats directly reduces the number of fish the ocean can support.  Without healthy, properly functioning coastal ecosystems, fish cannot grow and reproduce – in a word, they can’t survive .


This statement is a summary and update of reports released earlier by Florida Watch Institute on trends and the state of the Floridaenvironment. 

It documents that the continuing growth in Florida, and the resulting increase in wastes, pollution, and toxics, has surpassed the regional carrying capacity in large areas of Florida.

Hence we are now seeing rapid declines in the state of the Floridaenvironment: in fish, seafood, birds, and other wildlife, and in the quality of life and health of many Floridians. Florida is experiencing increased congestion, water shortages in coastal and urban areas, as well as contamination to thousands of wells, lakes, rivers, and bays due to toxics and pollution from air emissions, waste effluent and runoff, causing serious declines in fish and wildlife, and also now affecting the food chain and the health of large numbers of Floridians, especially children. 


The state is losing large areas of wetlands due to growth and development each year. Additionally, Central Florida has lost over 150,000 acres of wetlands in recent years; (1,etc.) lakes throughout the north and central Florida area have had declining water levels periodically;

and we are seeing widespread saltwater intrusion in coastal aquifers from water use and pumping beyond the area''s carrying capacity. Salt-water intrusion along the South Florida coast extends inland anywhere from 5 to 15 km and also affectsmost coastal areas of Florida. (17)   This is leading to water wars between coastal and inland counties and with other states. 

Drainage of wetland areas for urban and agricultural use, and diversion of water from the Everglades and Florida Bay, have lead to catastrophic collapses of plant, bird, and wildlife ecosystems in huge areas. There was a 90% decline in wading birds in the Everglades, and sea grass, coral reefs, and saltwater fisheries are rapidly declining or collapsing in areas like Florida Bay and the Florida Keys. Elkhorn and Staghorn coral used to be the dominant species on the Florida and Caribbean reefs as recently as the 1980s, but have  declined 97 percent  since the late 70's." (25)  Bleaching related to  global warming  along with pollution are significant factors in this decline(29).  Initiatives to identify and act to resolve such problems need to be supported(26).Sea grass and fisheries are also declining in most other areas of Florida.  A bill recently passed by the Florida Legislature reducing flows of sewage into the coastal   waters is a beginning to address some of these problems.

(2)  Pesticide  runoff from farms, lawns, and from spraying to control exotic weeds and mosquitoes, is affecting fish and wildlife throughout Florida. Catastrophic collapses have occurred in populations of amphibians, fish, turtles, alligators, etc., due to organochlorine pesticide-induced reproductive system abnormalities that are resulting in the inability to reproduce. This has resulted in an over 90% decline in such populations of Lake Apopka. Likewise, die-off of lobsters, clams, amphibians, etc. is occurring in coastal areas. Similarly, fish, seafood,  and other wildlife of St. Josephs Bay, Perdido Bay, and many rivers and lakes of Florida are contaminated by  dioxin , which has similar effects as the other organochlorinecompounds, but has also been found to be the most toxic and carcinogenic compound ever tested. Marine mammals at the top of the food chain, like dolphins, are experiencing die-offs in Florida and world-wide, due to the accumulation of organochlorine compounds in fish and marine mammals.  (19 & IndexP )

(3) Every year there is an huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, more southern beach closures, and more dying coral in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. (10)   Every day, some 32 billion gallons of agricultural, urban and industrial runoff (including oil, pesticides, and manure) pollutes America's marine environment.

The pollution is suffocating our coastal bays and estuaries, poisoning marine mammals, and feeding outbreaks of stinging jellies and harmful algal blooms that contribute to some 7,000 beach closures a year (9-11). Most of this is attributable to so-called nitrogen-rich nonpoint-source pollution, pollution from agricultural and other sources that follows down our rivers and watersheds and into the sea(1). Nitrogen is essential for soil productivity, and can be supplied by animal waste and plant decay. But too much of a good thing can also be a bad thing, as anyone who's ever had a hangover will attest. According to various studies and recent reports in Science and Scientific American, synthetic, nitrogen-rich fertilizers developed after World War II, along with the burning of fossil fuels, doubled the global nitrogen cycle between 1960 and 1990.

Along with natural nitrogen found in air, soil and lightening, this added input is too much for the land to handle, and so the surplus is washed off into the world's rivers, estuaries and oceans where it ends up feeding giant algae blooms.

The most productive and diverse parts of America's seas, such as Florida's coral reefs(29), need clean, clear, low-nutrient waters to thrive. Algae, by contrast, loves farm waste and other nutrients, and in their presence, will bloom into a green, light-obscuring soup that sucks oxygen out of the water as it decays, killing off massive numbers of reef fish and suffocating living coral. Nutrient pollution from the Mississippi River, along with nutrient runoff from South Florida's federally subsidized sugar industry and coastal sprawl, eventually ends up on the reefs, according to scientists working on Aquarius, the world's last underwater research station, located some seven miles off (and 50 feet below the waters of) Key Largo, Fla. Every spring, the Gulf of Mexico experiences a seasonal algae bloom that creates huge dead zones, where there is so little dissolved oxygen in the water that no fish or bottom dwelling life can survive(11).

(4) The food chain and seafood in several bays have been contaminated by radioactive elements like radium from phosphate mining wastes and coal or ash pile runoff. Likewise, bays, lakes, and drainage ponds are accumulating highly toxic and carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons ( PAHs)  and toxic metals like  mercury , cadmium, lead, and copper , from air emissions, urban runoff, industrial effluent, and sewage. 

(5) Toxic metals, like mercury, lead, and cadmium, as well as  endocrine system-disrupting chemicals , like dioxin and PAHs, are getting into the food chain from emissions of incinerators and fossil fuel combustion. This has resulted in over half the rivers and lakes in Florida having health warnings regarding dangerous levels of mercury or other toxics in the fish and widespread fish disease and fish cancer.  Dangerous levels of mercury and other toxics  are also commonly being found in shellfish and saltwater fish such as tuna, swordfish, bluefish, sharks, mackerel, grouper, and many other commercial and recreational species at the top of the food chain.

The level of mercury in people eating such seafood has been found to commonly exceed dangerous levels as well, and to result in levels in about 10% of women of childbearing age high enough to cause developmental effects on infants. Mercury from  dental amalgam fillings  is also a similarly large source of mercury in large numbers of people in Florida. The level of dioxin found in the food chain, in people, and in mother's milk in many areas of the country is above the level found to cause serious harm to animals in studies, and Florida appears to have some of the highest emission rates in the country.  (18)

Toxics in the food chain in Florida have been documented to be causing serious harm to wildlife populations like panthers, alligators, and fish eating birds, and also appear to be seriously affecting people in Florida, causing increased reproductive problems and reproductive system abnormalities and cancer. 

(6) We are generating millions of pounds of toxics with no legal place to dispose of them in Florida, and running out of places to dispose of the growing volumes of garbage, sewage, and industrial effluent, which is often contaminated with toxics . For example, the average amount of  mercury in Florida sewage  is 3 parts per million, a very high level.     Floridians generate millions of tons of garbage and billions of gallons of sewage each year;  Most landfills and sewers are documented to have dangerous levels of toxics, resulting in contamination of groundwater, lakes, rivers, bays, fish, crops (where sewer sludge in used), and rainfall(high levels of mercury in rain outgased from these sources). There have been high levels of toxic metals, dioxin, and acid pollutants deposited throughout Florida's lakes, streams, bays, ecosystem, and food chain by emissions from incinerators and power plants. This is resulting not only in serious environmental degradation and damage to groundwater, surface water, wildlife, sea grasses, and coral reefs, but also in adverse health effects and ever-increasing costs to dispose of these wastes in a manner without doing serious environmental damage. 

In Southeast Florida, a lot of what gets flushed winds up where people fish and sometimes swim and affecting offshore reefs.   According to the Miami Herald, Southeast County sewage facilities pump more than a half billion gallons per day of sewage into the Atlantic Ocean, with  with Miami-Dade flushing about 208 million gallons of wastewater a day into the ocean; Broward, 191 million; and Palm Beach, 108 million. (29) Other areas also have such ocean outfalls.    Fertilizer, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, Prozac, estrogen, anti-bacterial soap, toxic metals, oils, and countless other chemicals pour into the ocean off southeast Florida, shot through sewer pipes to ocean outfalls and washed off lawns, golf courses, roads and farms.  Studies have shown these chemicals  andalgae growth fueled by the fertilizer and organics are harming Florida’s reefs and related sealife.  Bacteria counts in the water off beaches from outfalls or more commonly from septic tanks have caused dangerous swimming conditions and often closed beaches throughout Florida.  (9-11,1)


(7) Floridian’s generate approximately 95 ,0 0 ,000 tons of garbage per year, about   4.3  tons per person per year .  (28)  Approximately 24% is recycled and 25.4% is incinerated, with most of the rest landfilled.  Several counties or cities also have mulch processing facilities for yard organics.  There are 11 incinerators and 53 Class I or II landfills in Florida.  Florida has had a significant decrease in curbside recyling collections since 2000.  Florida is much below average in recycling, California recycles 52% of its garbage for example.    In recent years the Florida Legislature has cut recycling-education grants moneys, according to county waste division staff.

(8) There has been a very large increase in  birth defects, neurologically damaged children  with conditions such as  autism, ADHD,  etc. and  allergic conditions  such as allergies, asthma, systemic eczema, etc. due to increased exposure to toxic substances. The National Academy of Sciences recently found that almost 50% of births result in birth defects, neurologically damaged infants, or other chronic developmental health problems--  mostly related to toxic exposures.  (21,22) Arsenic  has also been found to be having significant adverse health effects on Florida children, with neurological conditions common and also cancer(24).  Treated wood used on playgrounds and decks has been found to be a common source of arsenic, as well as contaminated seafood. 

Likewise there is a large increase in chronic autoimmune conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, lupus, multiple chemical sensitivities, etc. among the adult  population  due to exposure to toxic substances .  Such conditions commonly  improve  after elimination of toxic source and detoxification. 

(9) Florida is almost totally energy dependent and imports over $45 billion dollars of fuel each year plus additional fertilizer imports. This constitutes a huge capital drain on the state economy, not to mention a significant portion of the national trade deficit each year. Some north Florida areas have also been found to have high lung cancer rates that appear to be related to air emissions of acid pollutants and toxic metals; and Central Florida has high lung cancer rates related to phosphate mine wastes and radon. 

(10) There is scientific consensus that  global warming  and  is extremely serious problems already affecting Floridians and people throughout the world. Recent years were the hottest in history and the ozone decline over the Antarctic and rest of the world the is still a significant problem. Florida is especially susceptible to the effects of global warming. 

Global warming has already had major effects on climate with heat waves, droughts, water table draw-down, increased crop losses, stronger storms with increased damage, increasing range of insect-borne diseases from the tropics, sea level rise and coastal erosion. Recent years have been the warmest in recorded history and follow the warmest decade in history. Ice in glaciers and ice sheets are rapidly  melting  and disintegrating. There are many  measures and options  to improve energy efficiency and sustainable energy trends. 

Recent year's ozone holes over the Antarctic were some of  the earliest and worst in history, bigger than the entire U.S., and a hole also develops over the Arctic that affects larger numbers of people due to the higher population in northern latitudes of the northern hemisphere. Increased skin cancer from ozone layer thinning and more rapid sea level rise have been documented; each could have immense impacts on Florida's coastal areas and tourist industries. 

With continuing growth, increasing levels of pollution, and resource shortages becoming more evident, its more important than ever that we elect leaders that have an understanding and concern for these problems. There are solutions that can reduce these problems, but insufficient resources or time have been given in recent years to these growing problems in Florida. It is clear that some areas of Florida have surpassed the carrying capacity of water and other resources, as well as the ability to dispose of wastes in an environmentally acceptable and cost effective manner. Toxic pollution from air emissions, urban and agricultural runoff, and effluent must be dealt with more effectively and soon, or the damage already widespread will become even worse. Floridians and legislators need to become more educated on these issues and take them more seriously, because they threaten our quality of life and that of our children. There are cost effective solutions and measures to alleviate most problems if all costs are evaluated and new options considered. 

(11) World prices for basic food stocks have been increasing at unprecedented rates in 2008, threatening billions of those living in poverty with starvation or malnutrition, and putting strains on people’s budgets everywhere. Along with soaring labor, water and fuel costs, increasing fertilizer costs have been draining farmers' savings and will probably lead to higher prices for fruits and vegetables to go with separate increases in meat, poultry and dairy products. More than 90 percent of the potash fertilizer used in the U.S. is imported. The U.S.imported about 57 percent of its nitrogen fertilizer last year and the price has been increasing due to increased natural gas prices, the major feedstock for nitrogen fertilizer.  These along with increases in imported oil and other fuels and the rapid price increases have added to the continuing federal trade deficits and been a factor in the increased U.S. debt and falling value of the dollar. (12,13).  Programs and support for using more locally grown vegetables and meat and low till, low energy, water efficient methods can greatly improve these problems. 


World fertilizer prices surged by more than 200 percent in 2007, as farmers sought to maximize corn production for ethanol, according to the InternationalCenter for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development (IFDC). IFDC notes that from January 2007 to January 2008 diammonium phosphate (DAP) prices rose from $252 per ton in January 2007 to $752 (U.S. Gulf price); prilled urea rose from $272 to $415 per ton (Arab Gulf price); and muriate of potash (MOP) rose from $172 to $352 (Vancouver price). At the same time the price of 1 metric ton of corn rose from $3.05/bushel to $4.28/bushel.  Corn hit a record price of above $7 a bushel for July 2008 delivery on the Chicago Board of Trade after the government cut its forecasts for the 2008 yield by 3%. (12,13)


According to USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service, fertilizer prices in May 2008 were 69 percent higher than they were in May 2007. And the 2007 prices represented an increase in costs of 158 percent compared to May 2000.    Officials estimate that nitrogen prices might increase as much as 50 percent in 2008 due to rising costs of natural gas, the main ingredient in nitrogen, and increased export demand.

(12)  High levels of mercury in sewage is a significant source of mercury in Floridawater bodies, fish, and wildlife(27a).  Over 50% of Florida water bodies, including coastal waters and estuaries, have warnings regarding high levels of mercury in fish. While emissions are a large source of mercury in water bodies, the largest source of mercury in sewers is from  dental amalgam fillings  flushed down dental office drains and toilets used by people with mercury amalgam fillings. “Silver” fillings actually are 50% mercury and people with several amalgam fillings get high daily exposures of mercury, averaging 30 micrograms per day(EPA,27a), and on average  10 times higher mercury  exposure than those without amalgams. Since mercury is a gas at room temperature, mercury from dental amalgam or other sources vaporizes continuously and people with amalgam fillings or metal crowns over amalgam base get high daily exposures of mercury. EMF from appliances and power lines also causes  galvanic currents  in metal fillings, resulting in mercury and other toxic metals being taken into the gums, jawbone, and saliva before being distributed throughout the body by the blood.  This could be one reason for adverse health effects caused by  EMF .  Several states and European countries have banned use of mercury amalgam in dentistry or require warnings of significant exposures and adverse health effects from dental amalgam. Amalgam removed by dentists must be disposed of as toxic waste, but significant mercury emissions come from amalgams in people cremated (27a). Surveys have found that over 30% of Floridians have dangerous levels of mercury, with the largest sources of exposure coming from dental  amalgam fillings fish , and for infants or those getting flu shots from  vaccinations .


(12) Inefficient transportation systems and congestion are wasting large amounts of energy.  More efficient and effective mass transportation options, park and ride facilities, more availability of bicycle and walking facilities, energy efficient community design, and electric vehicles using more efficient and long-lasting battery options recently developed can make a big difference


(1) Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection,  Integrated Water Quality Assessment for Florida: 2006 305(b) Report

and 303(d) List Update, May 2, 2006;  (summary:  www. my  )   full report: , & FDEP 2019

(2) B. Windham(Ed.), Mercury in Florida Freshwater and Saltwater Fish and People: Mercury Levels by Species, Sources,Levels in People Who Eat Fish at Least Once Per Week, etc.; 20 1 7,  www. my   ; Fish Mercury and Human Health Advisories , Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission ,2019

(3) Florida Department of Health, Bureau of Environmental Toxicology, Health Advisories for Mercury in Florida Fish 2005 & 1997; 10-15; & FDEP, Toxic metal levels in Florida shellfish, 1990 , & Fish Consumption Advisories , 2019

(4) U.S. Geological Survey, The Occurrence of Mercury in the Fishery Resources of the Gulf of Mexico; ; & D.H.Adams,R.H.McMichael, Florida Marine Research Institute, Technical Reports, Mercury Levels in Marine and Estuarine Fishes of Florida; & FFWCC, ; & Mercury in Groupers and Sea Basses from the Gulf of Mexico : Relationships with Size, Age, and Feeding Ecology , September 2012 , Transactions of the American Fisheries Society  

& B. Windham, Dental Amalgam wastes in sewers is a major source of mercury in fish , 2018, Clues to High Mercury Along the Gulf Coast , 2019

(5) Mobile Register, Mercury Series(Aug 2001 to Mar 2002): Mercury Taints Seafood,

(6)Thomas D. Atkeson, FDEP Mercury Coordinator, South Florida Mercury Science Program,MERCURY IN FLORIDA'S ENVIRONMENT, ; & Lethal mercury in the Everglades exceeds EPA standards , 2020

(7) Florida Marine Research Institute,  ; &

(8) Florida Wildlife Federation ; & Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida


(9) U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, John Heilprin The Associated Press, SeattleTimes Sept 23 2002 ; &

U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy | Oceanography , 2015

(10)  Florida algae crisis: Red tide causing dead zone off SW FL coast

& NOAA forecasts very large 'dead zone' for Gulf of Mexico ... 2019

, & Marine life can't live in the Gulf's growing 'dead zone' -- and it's largely our fault ; 2019 (11) Scientists Find the Key to Bringing Dead Zones Back to Life ; & Bringing life back to dead zones, 2018

& Bringing life back to dead zones in the water -

(12) International Center for Soil Fertility and Agricultural Development (IFDC), 2007; & USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service, 2008. 

(13)  The State of  World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA), 


&   New steps toward sustainable trade in fish

(14) THE THREATS TO OUR OCEAN FISHERIES: Overfishing, Bycatch and Marine Habitat  Loss , National Coalition for Marine Conservation, 2008                                              &    NCM C Positions on Current Fishery Management Issues,    

& Overfishing , a major threat to the global   marine   ecology


(15)   Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary &

 (16)   Southeast Florida Coral Reef Initiative, 


(17) | Science for a changing world ,


Salt Water Intrusion , 2019 U.S. Geological Survey,

 (18) B. Windham(Ed.),  " Dioxin & Other   Organochlorine and Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals-     Summary of Health Effects, Areas Affected , and Sources" 20 18         

(19) B. Windham(Ed.), Adverse Health Effects of Pesticides , 20 1 6; 

(20) B. Windham(Ed.), "Public and Private  Wells   and  Surface  Waters   Contaminated by Toxics in Florida- Incidence, Chemicals Involved, Sources, etc." 1999; 

(21) B. Windham,"" Increase in Children''s Neurological and Immune Conditions due to exposure to mercury and other toxic metals: autism, schizophrenia, ADD, allergies, asthma, eczema, lupus, etc. 2017;  www. my

(22) B. Windham(Ed.), " Cognitive & Behavioral Effects of Toxic Metal Exposure (including effects on achievement, juvenile delinquency, crime, etc.), 20 1 7; 

(23) B. Windham, Adverse Health Effects Related to Solvents and Industrial Chemicals . 20 19

(24) B. Windham(Ed.), Arsenic exposure levels, sources, and neurological effects , 20 1 6, 

(25) Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection, Florida Environment, (see web site) & Florida's Coastline, Coastal Waters: A Pattern of Distress, By Cynthia Barnett,   Florida Trend  June 2003 Issue  & Florida Coastal Resilience Nature Conservancy, 2020

(26) U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1134, By Benjamin F. McPherson and Robert Halley ; USGS Current Water Data for Florida , 2020

 (27) (a) Environmental Mercury Levels and Effects from Dental Amalgam ,  & (b)  B. Windham,  " Mercury & Other Toxic Metals : Affected Lakes, Rivers, and Bays; Sources, Emissions, Deposition, Health Effects, & Controls" 20 18 .   

 (28) BioCycle April 2006, Vol. 47, No. 4, p. 26 & Orlando Sentinel, 2006 ; & 2017 Municipal Solid Waste Management Annual Repor t ,


(29) Scientific Studies documenting the problems of Florida Reefs, 2008,  Compilation:      &  .


  Coral Reef Restoration- Mote Marine