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Red Tide could ruin bay's oyster season

By Wire services
Published September 24, 2003

TALLAHASSEE - Red Tide has forced the closure of a large portion of the oyster harvesting area along Apalachicola Bay, home to the biggest oyster industry in Florida.

Red Tide, a higher-than-normal concentration of a microscopic algae, usually Karenia brevis in gulf waters, produces a toxin in shellfish that can cause someone eating them to suffer tingling in the mouth and fingers, loss of coordination, hot and cold flashes and diarrhea.

If Red Tide is still present when the winter oyster harvesting season begins Oct. 1, the effect could be staggering, according to David Heil, bureau chief in aquaculture environmental services at the state Department of Agriculture.

"In some ways, this Red Tide could not have come at a worse time," Heil said Monday. "When the winter season starts there will be a much bigger area opening up for harvest, which will cause a much bigger impact."

Cancer victims to sue, blame two UF landfills

GAINESVILLE - Two college roommates who have developed cancer plan to sue the University of Florida for dumping hazardous lab chemicals in two landfills near a mobile home they shared more than two decades ago.

Gay Webster of Tallahassee says chemicals were dumped a few hundred yards from the well that supplied their mobile home with drinking water in the 1980s. She was diagnosed in 1990 with tumors in her abdominal wall. Her roommate, Catherine Duncan of Sugarloaf Key, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1991.

A third roommate, Genie Anderson, is not involved in the legal action, but had surgery in 1988 to remove tumors in her uterus.

James Alves, a Tallahassee lawyer, has notified the university that he plans to sue it for running the landfills and not cleaning them up.

The university said in a statement Tuesday that it "has been diligent in reviewing and evaluating the site and has fully cooperated with the state in its evaluations over many years. As a result of the years of cooperation, we do not believe there is any basis for liability."

Phillip S. Collis, associate director of UF's Environmental Health and Safety Office, said it's highly unlikely that the landfills caused cancer in the women. Monitoring wells were set up to test the immediate groundwater, and most of those tests found only relatively small traces of contaminants and only small violations of Florida water standards, he said.

Broward may modify or ditch touch screens

FORT LAUDERDALE - Broward County commissioners, concerned that their new $17-million electronic voting system may not work properly, are exploring possibilities for changing it before next year's presidential vote.

Commissioners on Tuesday ordered their staff to explore retrofitting the touch screen voting machines to print copies of each ballot, or ditching the machines in favor of paper ballots read by optical scanners.

The ATM-style touch screens replaced the punch card ballots that were banned in Florida after the 2000 presidential election recount. But critics complain electronic voting could be prone to tampering and is impossible to recount if an election is disputed - which is why commissioners want paper copies available.

"There is no confidence in the equipment and no confidence that it will work properly," Commissioner John Rodstrom said. "We were rushed into making a decision, and now we need to figure out a better way because there is no way to go back and recount."

Florida election officials have not certified the use of printers with the touch screen machinery, so commissioners plan to lobby the Legislature to allow it.

[Last modified September 24, 2003, 01:34:33]


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