JENSEN BEACH, FL (WFLX) - It was standing room only as Treasure Coast residents made an impasioned plea to leaders about how billions of gallons of discharges from Lake Okeecobee and rain run-off are creating a toxic mess along the St. Lucie River and Estuary. Thus forcing them out of the water, and there's no timetable of when it will be safe to swim in or fish again.
"If you think it's not a problem, or think it's not your problem, you don't belong here," said Anne Scott to the Water Resources Advisory Commission Thursday morning.
Scott is a Martin County Commissioner who is frustrated over the pollution of the St. Lucie River, Estuary and the Indian River Lagoon. "If this is a look into the future, we've done terrible things to ourselves."
Environmentalists believe it's the combination of the massive Lake Okeechobee discharges and rain run-offs that's led to the high bacterial levels and toxic algae blooms.
The combination of the two has forced people out of the water due to health risks.
People, like Crystal Lucas, a marine science teacher at Jensen Beach High School, who had to scrap her lesson plans this year and cut field trips for her students. "I can't take those kids into the water of our lagoon that I have fought six months to put in place, and that is absurd."
Others worry about their livelihoods. How to keep their businesses afloat when this water threatens to sink them. "If you don't have good quality water, you're not going to have a good fishery."
Charter boat captain Danny Barrow depends on the water to make a living. Barrow' drove up from southern Palm Beach County to speak during Thursday's meeting.
His charter boats sails from Boca to Ft. Pierce. Now, his space for fishing is getting much smaller due to the toxins in the water. "This is an ecological jewel, and it's being destroyed. It's dying, and, I hate to use this word, but it's being murdered."
Those who spoke out during Thursday's meeting hope their words will cause something to change that'll help the waterways, but say it's not something that can be fixed overnight.
The Army Corps of Engineers say the massive discharges from Lake Okeechobee will continue as the lake remains at a concerning level.
Right now, the lake is measuring at 16-feet. Efforts to reduce the level are not working. The discharges are merly maintaing this level.