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 August 24, 2016
Hillary Clinton: Floridians deserve clean water

 Water is life. Clean water sustains our health, our families, our agriculture and our businesses. Clean water is a basic right of all Americans, and Floridians deserve for their water to be safe to drink, their beaches to be safe to swim and their waterways to be safe to fish.

But recent years have seen Florida facing one environmental crisis after another. Rising sea levels are already causing the streets of Miami Beach to flood at high tide, and saltwater is intruding on drinking water wells. Wildfires in the Everglades have burned thousands of acres and sent smoke spiraling over South Florida, limiting visibility for drivers and endangering public health.

And this summer, the toxic algal bloom on Florida's Treasure Coast has drawn national attention. The algae has closed beaches, forced residents to stay indoors and cost the economy millions in lost tourism and fishing dollars --- and not for the first time.

This is a recurring problem for the Treasure Coast and other parts of the state, and it deserves a long-term solution.

Meanwhile, on Gov. Rick Scott's watch, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has pursued fully 70 percent fewer enforcement cases than before he took office --- and 88 percent fewer cases aimed at keeping drinking water clean. Unless past violators have dramatically changed how they do business, that means Floridians' health is unnecessarily being put at risk. Just a few weeks ago, the Scott administration quietly pushed through changes to water quality criteria that, if they are allowed to stand, would dramatically increase the level of carcinogens permitted in Florida's water.

And even though working to restore the natural flow of water through the Everglades south of Lake Okeechobee is one of the most important steps we can take to reduce wildfire risk, protect South Florida's water and reduce the likelihood of algal blooms, last year Scott's administration canceled a long-planned purchase of tens of thousands of acres of agricultural land south of the lake to help filter and store water and direct it through the Everglades.

The governor's friend and preferred presidential candidate Donald Trump shares his view that climate change is a hoax. All Trump could say about the toxic algae oozing along the Treasure Coast was "it's very sad" and that he was "looking at it."

Floridians deserve better. You deserve a president who will secure clean water for every American --- and combat climate change so our children and grandchildren can live in a safe environment that has not been damaged beyond repair.

I have been outspoken throughout this campaign about the need to upgrade our drinking and wastewater infrastructure, from big cities to small towns. Nationwide, our aging drinking water systems leak six billion gallons of water per day --- meaning that roughly one-sixth of our water is lost to leaks.

From lead in the water in Flint to cancer-causing chemicals in the water in Ohio, we need to improve monitoring and enforcement of our public health standards. Unlike your governor and Trump, I believe we need to do more to prosecute violations of our bedrock environmental laws that expose communities to harmful toxins and pollutants. Commonsense environmental regulations are absolutely essential to protecting the health and well-being of families.

I know that in Florida, protecting clean water means restoring the Everglades. One of my husband's proudest accomplishments was signing a bipartisan bill in 2000 that finally committed to restoring the flow of fresh water through the Everglades and securing reliable clean water supplies for agriculture, businesses and families. The Obama administration has made progress, but we are far from achieving the robust restoration that the Everglades need and that Floridians deserve. As president, I would double our efforts to restore the Everglades and protect clean water --- because a healthy Everglades is essential for a healthy Florida.

And we must do more to tackle the urgent threat of climate change. That's why I have a plan to invest in the technologies of the future, make America the world's clean energy superpower and create good-paying jobs from coast to coast in clean energy, energy efficiency, advanced vehicles and resilient infrastructure. Donald Trump's backward-looking energy plan would set the world on a path toward at least six feet of sea level rise by the end of the century---an existential threat for Florida, where one in eight homes totaling more than $400 billion in value would be underwater as a result.

Clean water is not a luxury --- it is a fundamental right, and our rights do not change between ZIP codes. No one should be exposed to toxins or hazardous wastes because of where they live. No one should get sick as a result of their governor's negligence. And we can't elect leaders who don't believe in science. That's a risk Americans --- and Floridians --- just can't afford to take.

Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee for president.

Editor's note: Hillary Clinton wrote this guest column for Treasure Coast Newspapers and its digital editions, TCPalm. We contacted Republican nominee Donald Trump's campaign, extending an offer to publish a guest column from him on this topic, but did not receive a response.