Editorial: Turning the Toxic Tide: Florida is at historic crossroads; its leaders must act decisively

Turning the Toxic Tide is a series of editorials published collectively by the six editorial boards of USA TODAY Network-Florida, with the goal of providing an environmental road map for the state's next governor, legislators and congressional delegation. This is the first in the series.

As they have for decades, the real estate brochures and tourism campaigns continue to tout Florida as a sun-kissed Shangri-la, blessed with clear blue waters and pristine beaches that look like paradise.

Those of us who live here know paradise is in trouble.

Even as North Florida struggles to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Michael, a more persistent, insidious problem has been brewing for decades.

Florida has become the land of sunshine and environmental crisis. Gorgeous vistas are fouled by the smell of blue-green algae, sandy beaches defiled by dead fish washed ashore, casualties of red tide.

The crisis extends well beyond our coastlines. Aging sewage systems and septic tanks threaten vulnerable inland waters; nutrients from treated sewage, or biosolids, spread on agricultural lands find their way into nearby lakes and tributaries and befoul them.

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