Intrinsic Values of Streams, Lakes and Tidal Waters
to Florida Economy
V. M. NEWTON, JR.*
Florida is a blessed land. Not only do we have the
finest climate of all the United States, but we have more
pure, fresh water than any state in the union. We have
no less than 5000 miles of rivers and an equal number
of miles of tributary streams. We have 30,000 lakes.
In addition, we have 66 major springs, the com-
bined daily flow of which averages 3.6 billion gallons-
or an amount equal to about 6 per cent of the fresh
water used daily by all American industry. We have
a vast underground system of streams. The City of
Miami is pumping from 7 to 10 million gallons a day
from a 100-ft. well. A well in Polk County is being
pumped at the rate of 7500 gallons a minute.
Therein rests part of the danger. Some people tell
us to go ahead and pump industrial waste and sewage
into our streams and lakes and into our underground
water system. They tell us that water eventually
purifies itself, that this is the easiest and safest way.
But is it?
Let me give you one small example. For many
years the City of Tampa pumped raw sewage into
beautiful Tampa Bay, rendering it useless for fishing
and swimming and causing periodic waves of odors
to sweep over Tampa's beautiful Bayshore Boulevard.
We finally built a new sewer system with modern dis-
posal plants. But Federal engineers tell us that it will
be 30 years before the contamination will be sufficiently
removed to permit safe fishing and swimming. And
periodic odors still sweep over our beautiful Bayshore
Florida's industry is booming. In 1953, for instance,
our industrial output brought in $633,684,000.
Florida's tourism is booming. Our winter and
summer visitors spend close to a billion dollars in
Florida each year, and most of them gravitate to our
beautiful shoreline and our equally beautiful streams
and lakes. Fresh-water fishing, alone, nets Florida
in excess of $30 million a year. And there is no telling
how many millions of dollars are invested each year in
new homes on waterfront sites.
All of Florida, in fact, is booming. We have a
population today of more than 3 million and I freely
predict to you that we will have 6 million within the
next 15 or 20 years. Much of Florida's industry is of
*Managing Editor, The Tampa Morning Tribune.
a chemical nature, such as phosphate, citrus, pulp and
similar products, and pure, fresh water is essential to
the chemical industry. This is certain to increase,
perhaps spectacularly, for two reasons. First, we are
living in a chemical era. Second, as I told you before,
Florida has more pure, fresh water than any other
state in the union. A pulp plant will use 25 million
gallons of water a day. The phosphate mines in Polk
County use 75 million gallons a day. Even a small
city will dump 400,000 gallons of sewage every 24
hours. And it is not unusual for a citrus processing
plant to dispose of million gallons of water in a
Using water in such quantities, Florida's booming
chemical industry must dispose of equal quantities of
waste water. There is no place else for it to go except
into streams and lakes. And some of it, the waste, will
find its way into our underground water system. One
chemical plant, pumping its untreated waste water
into a Florida stream, could achieve the following
1. Destroy the fish, in that the waste would deplete
the water of oxygen.
2. Eliminate desirable waterfront home locations,
in that the obnoxious odors would drive away
3. Eliminate swimming facilities for the same rea-
4. Last but not least, it would curtail the develop-
ment of additional industry along that stream
through the contamination of the pure water
I do not list one other important consideration,
mainly because it is on the spiritual side. But I should,
because too many of us in this rather material era are
inclined to eye only the dollar. But if we contaminate
our streams and lakes, we are certain to impair the
beauty which God gave our Florida landscape.
The lessons of the past are plain, yet they go un-
heeded. Perhaps no people in all the world's history
have so squandered their rich natural resources as
have Americans. We have ruthlessly plowed up our
forests, turned our rich plains into dust basins, and
denuded our land of its mineral resources, always
for the sake of the almighty dollar. And too late we
discover that it costs far more to recoup those resources
than the selfish dollar which we originally reaped from
In recent years, with the development of our chemi-
cal era, we are, for the sake of the same quick selfish
dollar, in the process of ruthlessly depleting our supply
of pure, fresh water. And again we are discovering,
too late in most cases, that the cure is far more
costly than the precaution.
Because of stream pollution, the City of New York
has been forced to spend $5 million a year for the last
20 years to bring in a supply of pure drinking water
from a great distance. But this $5 million a year is
only a very small fraction of the real cost of the pol-
luted streams to New York. Economic experts esti-
mate the loss in billions from industries which were
unable to locate in the area because of a lack of pure
water for plant operation.
After surveying New York afd other water-blighted
areas throughout the nation, the United States Public
Health Service puts a finger on the problem with this
statement, and I quote: "The economic losses from
water pollution are enormous."
The problem has become so critical in the Ohio
River Valley that eight states-Illinois, Indiana, Ken-
tucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and
West Virginia-have banded together in a sanitation
commission to combat it. This commission has re-
ported to the people that because of polluted streams,
many of them murky and stinking, the area has lost
and is losing industry, homes and tourists.
Florida, the first and last state pioneered in our
union, is far from this critical stage in water pollution.
Yet there are disturbing signs over our sun-kissed pen-
insula, and need I point out that the South has not
yet reached the zenith of its long-delayed industrial
revolution and evolution?
Peace River, in South Florida, presents our No. 1
problem. This beautiful stream has been seriously con-
taminated by the sewage from several towns and the
refuse from seven phosphate mining and processing
plants, 21 citrus processing and by-products plants and
eight canning plants.
Another key problem is the Alafia River, in the
Tampa area. Here again sewage from several towns
and the refuse from 20 phosphate mining and pro-
cessing operations and from' canning plants and a
slaughterhouse have contaminated God's gift to his
Fish die periodically in these two streams and
nauseous odors float over their banks. Do you think
this will be appealing to Florida's future home-
There are the same pollution, odors and fish-killing,
this time from pulp mill operations, in the bays, bayous
and creeks in the Fernandina and Pensacola areas, as
well as in the Fenholloway River near Perry.
Two counties-Nassau and Taylor-already have
written off all of their streams and rivers and permit
the dumping of anything into them which will not
The St. Johns River near Jacksonville-one of the
most beautiful streams in all America-today is nothing
more than an industrial sewer. So much sewage and
industrial waste have been dumped into its waters
that it, too, has been written off by the officials of that
area for public use.
These officials have justified their action on the
grounds that the heavy, fast flow of the deep river
prevents it from becoming a health menace and that
the cost of cleaning up the pollution would be pro-
hibitive. Yet I stand before you today and, as a repre-
sentative of the free press obligated in behalf of the
free people, question the right of any public officials
to write off the public use of any of our natural
The Kissimmee River valley area is another po-
tential danger spot. There pollution has begun with
the dumping of sewage and waste from citrus and
vegetable plants. It is not serious yet, but in light of
the St. Johns River experience, it could become tragic
for the people overnight. The same applies to the
Eleven major lakes in Central Florida have been so
befouled by dumping of sewage and citrus plant wastes
that life has become miserable for nearby residents.
It would indeed be tragic if the South's industrial
evolution, as advantageous as that can be, should
eventually destroy Florida's famed black bass fishing
and its magnificent lake-side living.
There is also the menace of the drainage wells, par-
ticularly in Central Florida. I know of one citrus
plant which dug a drainage well, pumped its waste
into it, and lo and behold, a lake miles away suddenly
tossed up dead fish by the hundreds and nauseous odors
floated over its banks.
Florida's underground streams present not only
a real menace in water pollution but also a genuine
challenge to the engineering profession. For years
many Florida cities and towns disposed of their raw
sewage by the simple expedient of pumping it into
drainage wells. This so contaminated the underground
streams that the supply of drinking water for one
Florida city after another, including our University
city of Gainesville, became gravely menaced.
Public opinion is solving this problem in Florida
today, as public opinion always will in free America.
In comm unity after community, the people have voted
taxes upon themselves to eliminate this contamination
by the people of the people's streams. And I say to
you that if the people will sacrifice by voting taxes
upon themselves to eliminate water pollution, then
they will expect and demand an equal sacrifice from
In 1940, only 9.7 per cent of Florida's population
was served by adequate sewage treatment. By 1953,
this percentage had been raised to 34 per cent, despite
the doubling of the state's population during that
period. And in every case it was achieved through
voluntary taxation of the people.
During the last year, 23 new sewage treatment
plant, went into service, providing most of the state's
larger cities with adequate facilities. Miami has under-
way a $27 million sewage program, and new facilities
are under construction in St. Petersburg and Pensacola,
and a number of other smaller cities and towns have
sewage disposal plans on drawing boards.
Tampa, which a few years ago put in $13 million
worth of sewage treatment facilities, is now adding
$10 million for suburban expansion. And, it was
public protest over the pollution of beautiful Tampa
Ba\ that led to the people of Tampa assuming a huge
burden of taxes to clean up the contamination.
There are two schools of thought in the stream
pollution fight which is now being waged in the legis-
latures. courts, and research laboratories.
One, generally supported by the "quick dollar"
bo\s. holds that in modern civilization, it is futile to
attempt to keep every river and lake clean and usable
lor recreation and beauty as well as for industry. Its
proponents declare that some bodies of water must
be surrendered to serve as open sewers to take away
the wates of each area.
The other school declares this thinking is "horse
and buggy" philosophy and that it is dangerous to the
people. It holds that in this brilliant scientific age of
great engineering feats, it is positively wicked to destroy
God's great gifts to man.
Florida must take its choice. And I, as an editor
ol the Florida press representing the Florida people,
tell \ou with great conviction that all of us must line
up on the side of our scientific progress, that we must
work unceasingly for preservation, not only of Flor-
ida's great natural beauty, but of our natural resources.
There are two immediate steps we must take. First,
we iiust redouble our research and experimentation to
discover new ways of utilizing more industrial wastes
b. conversion to useful by-products, and to find new
wa\s ot cheap treatment of those wastes that cannot
be con erted.
We have already made great advances in this
direction, but we should go even further before it is
Our citrus industry, through the Florida Citrus ex-
periment station at Lake Alfred, the University of
Florida Engineering College and the State Board of
Health laboratories, has demonstrated that it not
only can be done but that it is practicable. For one
thing, it has developed from the citrus plant wastes a
molasses that is highly prized for cattle consumption.
It is now experimenting with another by-product of
these same wastes, high in vitamin content, that can be
used as a chicken mash. And there is the great field of
commercial yeasts that really has not yet been tapped.
Under prodding from the public, our phosphate
industry now is spending many thousands of dollars
in research in its own laboratories to find ways to keep
from having to dump contaminated water into our
streams. Industrial yeasts are being .made from the
wastes of pulp plants, and this may be a partial answer
to our problem of water contamination in North
Laboratories throughout the nation are spending
millions today in search for the solution of the problem
of water pollution. Out of this already has come
the discovery of a cultured microbe, which, when
dumped into treatment tanks of sewage disposal sys-
tems, neutralizes the waste many times faster than
In other words, science can conquer the problem
provided all concerned will devote the time, the energy
and the dollar to it. And I can assure you that the
people want it done.
The second immediate step that we should take is
the strengthening of our laws on water pollution.
For many years, the general question of water pollution
has been a political football in the Florida Legislature.
Too many of our legislators have used it as a trading
point to gain their selfish political ends.
Industry maintains rich and powerful lobbies at
Tallahassee and many of these have relentlessly fought
any effort to promote control of water pollution. The
people never are represented by lobbies and thus many
times in our history the people have been the victims of
these rich and powerful private lobbies.
Here again there are two schools of thought. One
holds that criminal prosecution with a fine is suf-
ficient control and punishment of those who would
recklessly contaminate Florida's streams and lakes.
This is our Florida law today, and I tell you with all
sincerity that it is not the answer, that it does not pro-
tect our natural resources, that it does not guard the
rights of all of the Florida people.
L. L. Hedgepeth, of Bound Brook, N. J., a technical
consultant and one of the nation's top authorities on
water pollution, has this to say and I urge that you
heed his words:
"The history of stream pollution shows that impositions
of fines do not correct it. Instead, they provide a sort of
licensed prostitution situation in which in the long run act-
ually more is done to impede the abatement of pollution."
Thus, under Florida law, an industrial plant may
dump its poisonous waste into a stream; be convicted;
pay a nominal fine, and then go and repeat the process
over and over. Thus, for a relative few dollars, it may
destroy the natural beauty of the stream and forever
remove it from use by the people.
What we need today in Florida is a law giving our
state health department the right to bring injunction
proceedings against anyone who pollutes a stream and
refuses to stop pollution when so directed by the
Such a law would bring the polluter into circuit
court where all the facts and figures could be brought
out and a sure-fire method worked out to end the pol-
lution in ways satisfactory to everybody, including
the polluter, who then by necessity must find a way
to dispose of his waste materials.
Such a law would give the people of Florida ample
protection of their natural resources, and I earnestly
call upon the engineers to throw their full-hearted sup-
port in behalf of this legislation. We can bequeath
to our children the same wonderful gifts that God
bequeathed to us, or we can leave them the relics of
our squandering for the almighty dollar. That is our
N t M is to be construed
as an attalili. ..t ead, it has been my
intent to s-t" s-eQple of Florida, that
we muti. Ia-CAOiNa ;resources in such a
way as to a t industry for a better
rounded oiafnlt. Lc-tteuetasary for the general
happiness of aftO' kfe*.
New .i" m tow ni.t seti out a location where
the natural- ..bicrd n despoiled. American
industry today e.p iP.ta i ro.n ig from the North to
the South, beca& te e l resources of the North
have been loot, eqn-da and despoiled, mostly
at the altar of tLhit-tc-4ollar, whereas. the natural
resources of the South a largely untouched.
The lessons of tcpast are plain. Let us in Florida
turn those lessons of the past into a modern formula
to preserve for posterity both our natural resources
and our industrial wealth. So, in conclusion. I leave
with you a four-point program dedicated to preserva-
tion of our natural resources, to development of our
industn, and last but not least, to our children:
I. Give our State Board of Health the laws it needs.
2. Encourage our universities to expand and in-
tensify experiments in waste reduction, and develop-
ment of the by-products of citrus, phosphate, pulp,
and other industries.-
3. Encourage our cities and towns to put in sewage
4. Encourage industry to subsidize more experi-
ments in developing by-products from waste materials.