PBC tourism council to send letter to Gov. Scott about water quality concerns

Influx of tourists seeing brown water at beaches

PALM BEACH, Fla. - If you visit any of the beaches in Palm Beach County, you might be in for a surprise.

The beautiful, turquoise green waters have been replaced by brown, nasty-looking water.

It's raising so much concern that the local tourism council is sending a letter to Gov. Rick Scott saying this goes beyond water quality issues.

Tourist Agathe Corre is visiting Palm Beach from France.

"We're just disappointed by the look of the beach," she said.

She said she was expecting something a little different.

"We were expecting something a little more tropical," said Corre. "It looks a bit dark, especially given the weather and temperature, we're expecting bluer water that's for sure!”

The brown water tourists are seeing at area beaches can be blamed on two things, storm water runoff from heavy rains. And Lake Okeechobee discharges needed to keep communities from flooding.

As reported by WPTV in the past month, the state health department had to issue various no swimming advisories for several area beaches.

"Informing our elected officials, this is what's important to us," said Paulette Burdick, mayor for Palm Beach County.

But besides the threats of flooding toxic algae, Palm Beach County Burdick says tourism could be another affect from the discharges.

"There were 7.3 million visitors that came to Palm Beach County. That's $2 million going into our local economy," said Burdick. "But it's not just about tourism, it's about our local residents. Making sure that we have clean, affordable water.”

That's why she's helping to pen a letter to the governor on behalf of the county's tourism council.

"As mayor of Palm Beach County, I serve as the chairperson of the Tourist Development Council.  Part of our role is to bring visitors to Palm Beach County to highlight the assets and the venues that are here and to make sure our tourists have a good time," she said. 

"With state voters supporting Amendment 1, which the goal was conservation and water quality," she added. "The letter to the governor and to the leaders in the legislature was to get them to look at Florida as a whole in regards to improving the water quality. Oftentimes, leaders from particular areas of the state will draw down additional funding to support their communities. What's happening in Palm Beach County and the state needs to be recognized." 

Back at the beach, we found tourists who'd never been to South Florida and showed them pictures of what the water is supposed to look like.

"It's amazing. It's really amazing how beautiful it is," said Martina Masut -- who is visiting from the southern France. "It doesn't look tropical at all for us so it's a disappointment for us in that way. The problem is that we expecting blue water, something a little bit more tropical. So it was surprising and brown and gray."

As the dry season is expected to push the brown water away, Burdick is hopeful the letter to the state will push for change when the legislative session begins in January.

"It's important throughout the state we recognize that it will be a long term effort to improve the water quality here," she said. "So we have a long way to go. It'll take the vision and the dedication of our elected leaders in Tallahassee to do that. Government doesn't make change. It's about the civic participation from our communities, informing our elected officials that this is what is important to us."

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