A Discussion on the Importance of the Environmental Protection of the St Johns RIver

Categories: Water Quality

The St. Johns River runs through 18 of Florida’s counties during its 310-mile journey from start to finish and is one of the select few rivers in the United States that flows north, rather than south (“St. Johns River – Fast Facts”). The river has been home to a wide variety of animals, and host to a large number of recreational opportunities for humans, but in the last decade, 20 areas of the river have been labeled “impaired” by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (“St.

Johns River: Water Quality).

This impairment is the result of an overabundance of dangerous bacteria, sedimentation, and salinity, all of which are caused by humans. The largest threat to humans in the river’s surrounding counties is the bacteria known as Fecal Coliform or Enterococcus Coliform – E coli. This bacteria comes from human and animal feces and is entering the St. Johns River through tributaries that feed the river its water.

These tributaries are introduced to the bacteria by broken sewage pipes or septic tanks, wastewater treatment plants, and animal feces. In 2008, the amount of E. coli bacteria in the river spiked, when one area was recorded to have 3985colony-formingg units per 100ml of water (“St. Johns River: Water Quality”). E Coli is dangerous to humans and makes animals caught in the river unsafe for consumption. If the bacteria enter a cut or wound in the body, humans are at risk for blood infections and possibly death. If consumed, the E Coli bacteria can cause symptoms such as abdominal cramping, diarrhea, loss of appetite, vomiting, fatigue, and fever (Mayo Clinic).

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For this reason, during many points in the last decade, signs have been posted at the river’s shores warning potential swimmers or fishermen about the presence and high concentration of the bacteria.

Another issue that the river faces daily is sedimentation. As developers build closer and closer to the shorelines of St. Johns, the topsoil and debris from construction zones are washed into the river. This construction run-off buries natural aquatic life, decreases the clarity and quality of the water, and impairs the food chain (St. Johns Riverkeeper). One need not know much about the ecosystem to know that an impairment in the food chain can be detrimental to every living creature in that chain. This kind of break in a food chain can lead to a crisis for all of the animals in the river and the surrounding areas. Sedimentation causes another ripple effect:

Dredging. The buildup of sediment along the river’s bed makes the river too shallow and therefore creates the need for humans to step in and dig it deeper again. 

The act of dredging the river causes another great problem for the creatures in the St. Johns River. Dredging the river causes the salinity levels of the river water to increase. Certain areas of the St. Johns River are used for commercial shipping purposes. Huge freight ships require depths that the river either doesn’t naturally reach in those areas or has been impaired by sedimentation. This means that for the ships to be able to access the river, it needs to be dredged. Dredging introduces salt water to what is normally a freshwater environment.

According to scientists Radha Pyati and Lucinda Sonnenberg, saltwater can upset or harm fisheries and endangered animals who are extremely sensitive to changes in water salinity (“Pollutants Down, But Salinity Up in St. Johns River”).

Generally speaking, humans have done very little good, and in fact, have had an increasingly negative effect on Florida’s St. Johns River. With problems such as an overabundance of harmful bacteria due to human and animal waste, sedimentation because of construction run-off, and dredging for the sake of commercial industry, the St. Johns River has fallen victim to human progression as so many other rivers have. These issues have now taken their toll on both humans and animals alike: causing human illness, limiting recreational activities in the water, making anything caught in the water unsafe for consumption, burying whole species under sediment, breaking food chains, and exposing endangered freshwater animals to saline water. While some progress has been made to change the contributing factors to these problems, there is much more work to be done to save the St. Johns River. As Edward Abbey wrote “In any case, when a man must be afraid to drink from his country’s rivers and streams that country is no longer fit to live in.” (“Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness”)

Works Cited

  1. Abbey, Edward. Desert Solitaire; A Season in the Wilderness. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968. Print.
  2. “St. Johns River: Water Quality.” Lake County Water Atlas. Web. 12 Mar. 2016. <http://www.lake.wateratlas.usf.edu/river/waterquality.asp?wbodyid=1025>.
  3. Mayo Clinic. Web. 12 Mar. 2016. <http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ecoli/basics/symptoms/con-20032105>.
  4. “St. Johns River FAST FACTS.” St. Johns River FAST FACTS. Web. 12 Mar. 2016. <http://www.nbbd.com/godo/StJohns.html>.
  5. St. Johns Riverkeeper. Web. 15 Mar. 2016. <http://www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org/issues#bacteria>. 
  6. “Pollutants Down, But Salinity Up In St. Johns River.” WJCT News. Web. 15 Mar. 2016. <http://news.wjet.org/post/pollutants-down-salinity-st-johns-river>.

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A Discussion on the Importance of the Environmental Protection of the St Johns RIver. (2022, Jul 23). Retrieved from http://envrexperts.com/free-essays/essay-about-a-discussion-on-the-importance-of-the-environmental-protection-of-the-st-johns-river

A Discussion on the Importance of the Environmental Protection of the St Johns RIver
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