FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. -- A clean water advocacy group kicked off a daily protest on the bridge to Fort Myers Beach, Sunday.
Members of the Southwest Florida Clean Water Movement demonstrated with signs reading messages like "Tourists beware, Toxic water," and "Say goodbye to Florida tourism." They will continue demonstrating every day at sunset, until they get the Fort Myers Beach town council to agree to regular water quality testing.
Members say the water discharges from Lake Okeechobee send polluted water to Southwest Florida when the lake begins to overflow. "Rainy season is coming and we are trying to prepare for it," said David Urich.
The group wants the town to not only test the water regularly, but also make the results available to the public. Leader of the group, John Heim, said agencies are doing a bad job getting the information out. "Act responsible, test the waters with the natural resource director on staff already, and provide that information to the general public at large," he said.
Publishing results would mean people can find out if the water is safe. Heim said he has seen what polluted water can do to people. "Not only people with rashes, not only people with outbreaks when it comes to sickness, high fevers and stuff like that, we're talking about people losing limbs."
As tourism season kicks off in Southwest Florida, the warnings may drive tourists away as they see protesters on the bridge. Heim, who's lived on Fort Myers beach for more than 30 years, says the beach's economy relies on tourism to survive, but he believes the public's well-being should be a priority. "I've been nothing but a tourism worker the whole time and I am standing up for tourism. I am not a tourism killer. I cane reassure you, everything I'm doing here is trying to save the town that I live in."
The Fort Myers Beach town council will meet Jan. 9 to decide whether to make the proposition of water quality testing and agenda item.