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Red tide occurrences Sept. 16-23, 2021 / FL Fish & Wildlife Commission

FL - Florida's environment took a beating in 2021. Could 2022 be even worse?

The list of environmental disasters that befell Florida's lands and waters in 2021 was as long as a tarpon killed by red tide. The headlines blasted across media platforms last year made tourist development council directors more nervous than a Florida panther in a room full of rocking chairs.

So as the calendar turns to 2022, all those terrible events will be lost in our rearview mirror, right?

If only.

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Looking ahead into 2022, and considering how little was resolved in 2021 that might have resulted in real change, expect this year to look, feel and smell a lot like last year.

The list of assaults on the fragile environment seems endless: biosolids, wildfires, invasive species, coral bleaching, aquatic herbicides, Everglades destruction, oil drilling/fracking, lack of biodiversity, and sea level rise, king tides and erosion.

As if that's not enough, here are some of the biggest environmental eco-disasters the USA Today Network of 17 news sites in Florida will be watching next year:

Piney Point phosphate mine

Florida is a special place surrounded by water, filled by water and where its residents live, work and play on a giant bubble of water located deep under our feet. Yet for 100 years, we have allowed the destructive practice of phosphate mining — just to provide the mineral for fertilizers, detergents and other chemicals.

In April 2021, the Piney Point phosphate mine began leaking toxic wastewater produced by the mining process. Over 215 million gallons of contaminated water leaked from containment ponds into a Manatee County tributary that flowed into the southern end of Tampa Bay. Two month later, a massive red tide bloomed in Tampa Bay. Were the two events linked by cause and effect? You can bet on it.

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