What Is the Everglades Nutrient Removal Project?

by Leigh Fulghum
1997; revised 2004

More Ideas for Cleaning Up the Everglades

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This month's Digest tackles an all-important article (1981) for spectators as well as participants in the Plan to build Florida's agricultural water treatment marshes. There are thousands of papers like "Biodegradation of Chemicals of Environmental Concern"(1) in university libraries everywhere. So have the people making the Plan stumbled upon this work, or haven't they?

The almost billion dollar Plan assumes that ordinary cattails (Typha) will remove excess nutrients from the water, and when their various parts die, friendly bacteria will safely rot everything into Everglades-friendly substances.

The four facts about Biodegradation which bear consideration are:

(1). Bacteria convert otherwise harmless chemicals into bio-hazardous chemicals.

(2). Bacteria convert inorganic arsenic, inorganic mercury and other metals into more toxic forms which kill wildlife, and the people who eat wildlife.

(Scientists 32 years ago began to record problems with arsenic and mercury in the everglades, before the age of everglades super-development).

(3). N-nitrosation is an activity of bacteria in both artificial and natural marshes, converting partially biodegraded molecules into carcinogens.

(4). Activities of bacteria can cause an unattractive conglomerate of chemicals in various stages of biodegradation to combine together into "residues and uncharacterized brown and black products."

The phenomenon of recalcitrance (not referring to those who are responsible for the environmental destruction of Florida to begin with) ensures that as long as the Everglades Treatment Marsh is under water, the peaty layer under the Treatment Marsh will be packed full of the recalcitrant products. Peat itself is an example of recalcitrant organic chemicals combined into a "brown product."

The good news is that in a naturally occurring cycle of drought, exposure to air will oxidate years of recalcitrants which could then be converted into Lord Knows What.

Why Not Use Clorox™?

Alas, even if the phosphorous goes down, the Plan does not promise that this idea will not end up giving the last vestiges of wildlife as we know it cancer and metal poisoning.

When the reservoir-builders start blowing up the aquifers, why not pile up the rubble into filtering-pyramids through which problem water could be pumped to the apexes and trickled down the sides. At least these if properly constructed could focus positive energy to the everglades and be economically disinfected with Clorox™ which will break right down in the bright Florida sunshine!

1. M. Alexander.1981. Biodegradation of chemicals of environmental concern. Science Vol 211 p132-138.