Environmental

We need help with our waterways! Costa’s Story

We need help with our waterways! Costa's Story

We need help with our waterways! Costa’s Story

by Ashley Guzi (Costa’s mom)

I  know this is a really long post, however if you live near water or know someone who does, please share and tell them about this story.

In 2008, our coastal town was voted most beautiful in Florida. We are fortunate to live near such a biologically diverse ecosystem combining the Indian River/Indian River Lagoon and the St. Lucie River. Our waterways are home to dolphin, manatees, snook, river trout, oysters, and sawfish. They were (and should) be filled with seagrass to provide habitats to many others organisms.

Now fast forward 10 years and the once pristine waterways have continuously been contaminated with blue green algae (cyanobacteria). The river which was so full of life now barely has fish in it. For those of us that live or visit the waterways, we have had a serious issue due to the filthy water discharge from Lake Okeechobee.

In the last two weeks, there has been 6 dogs that have been exposed to this cyanobacteria, either by escaping a fenced yard, getting out of a leash, or just being typical “playful” dogs on the shores of our river. Most of the have been lured by the smell of the cyanobacteria itself or a fish that has died due to the exposure.

Our 4 year old healthy golden retriever, Costa, was exposed to some of the cyanobacteria on September 1, 2018. One hour after the exposure, she started vomiting. She continued to vomit over the next few hours. It wasn’t even a thought that the river may be the culprit. Initially, we assumed she just had an upset stomach and we kept an eye on her.

Around four to five hours after the exposure, she became disoriented and not able to stand on her feet. Her gums began to turn white. Her ears and mouth were cold. My husband scooped her up as she became limp in order to rush her to the emergency vet.

Upon arrival at the emergency vet, Costa was in shock, her heart was having arrhythmias, she had fluid surrounding her stomach, her blood was not clotting, and she was in acute liver failure. The doctors at the emergency vet began working on her very quickly. Initially, we suspected she ingested some sort of pest poisoning. My husband, who remained home, scoured our fenced property looking for anything that Costa may have gotten into. Nothing seemed to make sense. Many of our neighbors also have dogs/cats. It seemed doubtful any would be using a rat poison that could be accessible to pets.

As I remained with Costa at the vet, one of the doctors remembered two other cases she within the last week with the same symptoms and also lived in close proximity to the river. One of the other cases involved a small dog that had started eating a dead fish covered in the green mucky cyanobacteria. The vet began applying the same treatment as what appeared to help the other two dogs—consisting of IV fluids, intense medications, and blood/plasma transfusions. Costa had to remain in intensive around the clock care for four days. Finally, after the fourth day, she began to show signs of improvement.

Costa and some of the other dogs have been extremely fortunate to survive, though we have been warned that the long-term effects are not known and that Costa will likely need to be on medication and supplements for the foreseeable future.

Unfortunately not all dogs have survived. Finn, a 9 year-old standard poodle, was not able to recover and sadly passed away after being exposed. Two other golden retrievers have been exposed and their prognosis remains poor.

Our politicians have continually made promises, but the problem remains. The local politicians blame the federal government. The federal government, through the Army Corps of Engineers, blame the State of Florida and suggest it only has control of maintaining flood control with the dyke system surrounding Lake Okeechobee. The water that once naturally flowed south into the Everglades and Florida Bay has been diverted by “man.” The water continually gets polluted due to run-off and back-filling from the Kissimmee River basin to the north of the lake and agricultural land mainly from “Big Sugar” to the south of the Lake. Regardless of the finger-pointing, it is clear this is a man-made problem. The health concerns and toxicity is clear, unlike the river itself.

We need help in our town, we need help with our waterways, we need help exposing this issue.

Please help us expose this crisis in Florida. The release of the tainted lake Okeechobee water needs to stop.

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