I am an avid user of TikTok and often find interesting things, funny things and sometimes topics to write about. CleanTechnica over there. Last week, I found some videos from people in Tampa Bay on my For You (FYP) page, which is the app’s version of a home feed area where the algorithm picks videos it thinks you’d like to watch.
I’m sharing the story of TrashCaulin, who documents his work on TikTok and other apps. Caulin is an environmental advocate who often cleans up trash and documents pollution. The first video I saw wasn’t just his, but from EcoLogicalChris, who explained in his video that Caulin was in Florida trying to raise awareness about what was happening in Florida.
I reached out to Caulin on Instagram, who agreed to be interviewed by phone. Colin explained that in April 2021, the state of Florida allowed a phosphate plant known as Piney Point, owned by HRK Holdings, to discharge toxic polluted sewage into Tampa Bay. This was an attempt to prevent a dam from collapsing into the reservoir that prevented wastewater from entering the bay. (This was in national news at the time, so you might have picked it up.)
In May , Tampa Bay Times She stated that pollution levels may have decreased but preliminary results showed that the impact of the release was contained in an area of lower Tampa Bay. “We are fortunate that we have not seen such a long-term, widespread impact on this ecosystem,” said Thomas Fraser, dean of the University of South Florida’s School of Marine Sciences.
From my conversation with Caulin, it is clear that this He is It certainly has a long-term and widespread impact on this ecosystem – and possibly the surrounding ecosystems.
“Back in April 2021, there was a site called Piney Point, which is a sewage treatment plant located on the Manatee County side of the Tampa Bay area. What happened was that this treatment plant was not maintained and over time it became very structurally sound. The foundation of one of the puddles started to crack and they spent two days figuring out what to do about it.
“Instead of letting the entire foundation crack and seep into the bay, they decided they were going to drain roughly 173 gallons of sewage. It’s called phosphate gypsum and phosphate and it’s basically phosphate runoff from agricultural farming and things like that. So they took a 173 gallon-layer Only supreme – and they threw it into the ocean.”
A perfect storm for the red tide
“By doing this, there is already an anticipation of the damaging red tide of 2021, but with all that phosphate added to the bay, it’s allowed the algae to pick it up and thrive more powerfully — along with the warm water we’re in” this year. It was kind of the perfect storm for this red tide.
“This was in April 2021, and when that happened, everyone was really afraid that this red tide was going to be really bad. So, in the last week or so, I’ve really started to show how wide it is compared to other red tides. And it’s only been 20 days. “.
What Caulin saw
Caulin shared that although he was born in Florida, he lives in California, and once he learned what was happening in Tampa Bay, he traveled to document it.
“The first beach I stepped on—I didn’t even have to try to find the spot—I went up to the first beach and it was along the shoreline. I’m talking, maybe like hundreds of fish piling on top of each other, and as the waves crash you can see them shove into it—it’s just crazy.
“They’re out there swimming in the water. They’re out there on the beach. Million-dollar homes have seas of dead fish in backyard views of the water. And what happens is there’s smaller fish, bigger fish. Goliath Grouper was taken out of the water – they had to use heavy machinery to get it out.” Many dolphins are affected by this.”
It affects more than just fish
“I think over 800 manatees, this year, died from the red tide, which is a record. An entire sea turtle drifted ashore on the beach this morning. It affects more than just fish – even so, if you’re exposed to the water for too long. You may experience eye puffiness and throat irritation due to this.
“People don’t realize it’s a bigger problem than just killing fish.”
Editor’s note: When you’re near red tide, it feels like you’ve got a cold.
Why did Florida decide to dump toxic wastewater into the ocean?
I really wanted to understand why the state government, whose job is supposed to be concerned with the safety of its citizens, would choose to poison their bay. Caulin shared his thoughts.
They have already started taking action after the point of return. I think they are still under investigation. The owner of Piney Point was responsible for keeping the facility on a par. Instead, take a lot of shortcuts and a lot of breaks, and the Florida government is very lenient with what you’re allowed to throw in the water.
“They kind of prioritized the company’s profits over pollution – and that’s what seems to happen. It got to the point where it started to crash and there wasn’t anything else they could do. I remember making a video of it at the time thinking their best option was Dump the water. It’s very ridiculous and infuriating because it could have been stopped up to that point. But when it came to this point, it was too late.”
Editor’s Note: I live in Manatee County, and I remember an alert on my phone warning that toxic waste could start rolling through part of the county at any moment. “Fortunately,” the alternative worked – dumping toxic waste into the bay.
Message to Florida
Not only is this a horrific act, but the state of Florida – the government, not the citizens* – must certainly take its part in creating this environmental disaster. The state’s pollution tolerance echoes other red states where state governments prioritize profits over people and our planet. Caulin has a letter to the state government:
“Stop making profits on pollution and prioritizing conservation. Stop downplaying the seriousness of what’s going on here just to save tourism. Florida depends so much on tourism for the money that generates its economy. Tourism will stop if we continue to treat our state as a dumping-free land for all.”
(*Editor’s Note: As a Florida citizen, I believe the blame falls squarely on the citizens as well. The country has been electing far-right Republicans for years. In fact, the former Republican governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, is now a Democrat because the party has long since abandoned its sense of the good and pushed itself toward total disrespect for American democracy, the health of its citizens, and the basic public policy that the vast majority of people support, keep things in check. That makes Florida great. More citizens should have noticed by now and drained the swamp of Republican corruption.)
Those responsible must be held accountable
Another TikTok user, Chastenation, shared her video and appeared in my FYP after I interacted with Caulin and his friend’s videos. “Our fisheries are dying!!! And she wrote in her comment to the “elected officials” that we hold them accountable. Her location was the shore opposite Tampa Bay and she explained that the sewage intrusion combined with the red tide was what was killing the fish. She hunts for a living.
In her video, she’s walking along the beach with dead fish in the background as far as the eye can see. “The whole beach is covered,” she said, pulling a dead grouper out of the waves and adding it to a heap with other dead fish.
“We need to hold these elected officials accountable because this is where we live, and I’ll be honest – but I don’t want to live like this. This is how I make my living and everything is dead.”
As a writer who cares about this planet and our impact on it, I felt it was my duty to raise the voices of Colin and anyone else trying to raise awareness. This is a huge crisis in Florida and it seems that no one is taking it seriously or is being severely underestimated by those in charge. TikTok even reports Caulin’s videos as “containing sensitive material.”
We need to stop killing our planet. No, let me paraphrase: those in power who have the power to run countries and states need to stop destroying our planet in the name of corporate greed.
You can watch all of Caulin’s videos here.