Pesticide Contamination in the Region of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon


Muck from the SLR/IRL region. Public photo.
Muck from the SLR/IRL region. Muck holds pesticides and other chemical residue. Public photo.

When I got up this morning, I saw a Facebook post by Delta Gamma sorority sister, Katie Schwader. Katie, who runs a page entitled “Love Your Neighbor,” had posted: “As September wraps up, I encourage all to join the Support Peyton McCaughey Facebook page. ” (

Most of us are familiar with the tragic story…

Peyton McCaughey…the 10-year-old Martin County, Palm City boy who lost 90 percent of his motor skills after exposure to chemicals and pesticides used to fumigate his family’s home for termites. (

According to TC Palm reporter Paul Ivice: “...the three-bedroom house was fumigated for termites by Terminix in August 2014, but the termites returned. “Under the direction of Terminix, the home was re-tented and fumigated” on Aug. 14 by Sunland…Zythor was used..Sunland didn’t use the proper dosage…and “didn’t properly ventilate what was pumped into the home to kill the termites…”

Now this 10 year old child is “not able to walk, or even lift his own head,” according to Ed Gribben Jr., the brother of mother and Martin County Hight School assistant principal, Lori Ann McCaughey. 

Is there any greater nightmare than this? I cannot imagine…We all must support this family.

Family photo of Peyton Mc Caughey as shared on the Facebook page for his families' fundraiser.
Family photo of Peyton Mc Caughey as shared on the Facebook page for his families’ fundraiser.

Fundraiser this weekend: (


Ten Mile Creek sits in a passive operating state.
An altered Ten Mile Creek watershed… (JTL 2014)

Chemicals and pesticides are very dangerous. And many of them are lurking in our river…

Image from USGA DEP report, 2003.
Image from USGA DEP report SLR pesticide contamination, 2003.
Cover of USGS/DEP Report
Cover of USGS/DEP Report, 2003.

High levels of pesticides also exist in areas of our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon, and many of us are not even aware of this. Most of the chemicals end up in the sediment or “muck” at the bottom of the river, so even if issues of contamination are addressed, the river bottom remains poisonous.

The following is an excerpt from a the “Water Resources Investigations Report Occurrence and Distribution of Pesticides in the St Lucie River Watershed” prepared by A.C. Lietz, of the US Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, in 2003. I wonder how much has changed in just over ten years? I could not find a follow-up report.

An excerpt reads:

“The St. Lucie River watershed is a valuable estuarine eco- system and resource in south- central Florida. The watershed has undergone extensive changes over the last century because of anthropogenic activities. These activities have resulted in a complex urban and agricultural drainage network that facilitates the transport of contaminants, including pesticides, to the primary canals and then to the estuary. Historical data indicate that aquatic life criteria for selected pesticides have been exceeded. To address this concern, a reconnaissance was conducted to assess the occurrence and distribution of selected pesticides within the
St. Lucie River watershed.” –A.C. Lietz, USGA, 2003

Full report: (

If you take a look at this write-up, you will see the pesticide contamination and locations  listed, and the “BMPs,” Best Management Practices, recommended to correct the situation. These pesticides have killed and distorted many fish and other species that used to live at the bottom of this area of the river. As the river bottom remains full of chemicals and grasses can’t grow, many animals and fish never came back. Some that remain have been reported sick and malformed.

The second publication we should all be familiar with is the 1995 DEP report “Pesticide Contamination in 10 Mile Creek” by Gregory A. Graves and Douglas G. Stone. This report is about the agricultural contamination of Ten Mile Creek, the headwaters of the north fork of the St Lucie River, in St Lucie County—- this creek runs south into Martin County. Believe it or not, the North Fork of the St Lucie River is  a state designated “aquatic preserve.”

An aquatic preserve! Sometimes things just don’t make sense, do they?

Conclusion from report:

” Fourteen separate pesticides were detected in the water and sediment of Ten Mile Creek, several at concentrations exceeding applicable water quality standards. Some of these concentrations appear to be the highest found anywhere in Florida surface waters (Storet). ….The true scope of the adverse impact upon the resident biota may be underestimated due to unobserved events. Ten Mile Creek is classified by the State of Florida as Class III waters. As such, these waters are presumed suitable for “recreation, propagation. (FAC 62-302.530). The contamination and resultant biological impairment documented constitutes a loss of Class III function for Ten Mile Creek waters.”

(This link below was removed by the Florida Dept of Environmental Protection in 2016. When I asked why they said they were archiving. At least I saved a quote. This info should always be made available to the public JTL)

The full report is here:

How was the situation resolved? The report states:

“Several State of Florida biological and chemical water quality standards were violated. Recommendations include application of best management practices (BMP), review of pesticide use within the basin, regional water management and expanded study of the implications of pesticides entering the North Fork St .Lucie River OFW. (Outstanding Florida Waters). A cooperative panel including local agricultural concerns is recommended to resolve this situation with minimal conflict.”

That’s nice they resolved this terrible situation with “minimal conflict,”but I do hope the situation has been resolved; I would like to get my hands on a follow-up report that is easy to access on-line…


28 thoughts on “Pesticide Contamination in the Region of the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

  1. The use of chemicals, across the board, are just so harmful. Laws allow or do not discourage use of horrible chemicals. Once cases like this pop up, only then is there action to ban them.
    If only we lived in a proactive society that addressed actual problems rather than wasting our valuable time with squabbles of semantics and minor position changes. What made someone a “sellout” last year has now become the Old Guard’s talking points.
    It is not WHO thought of it, but it HAS been thought of and implemented.
    It is a sad commentary I our society that so many have to suffer until that ONE tipping point death that sways the majority.
    Keep posting, Jacqui….. Your voice carries far.

  2. The air we breath is 80 % nitrogen and only 20% oxygen. Nitrogen is totally inert and pestisides are dormant in an inert environment. . Old people sometimes breath oxygen and they have to be real carefull of fires in their house. They should also be real carefull about using pesticides because in an oxygen environment they are probably getting much more because the oxygen probably increases the reaction 3 fold. Our lagoon used to be a self cleaning environment. I read—-Environmental laws are not like ordinary laws—they are laws for surviveal. I believe our state thinks an environmental disaster is when the air conditioner goes out.

  3. As I walked into the door of the childrens hospital I am working on I saw the word MORGUE and an arrow showing the way. I wonder how many parents saw the same arrow and how deeply their hearts sank.I don’t think anything could be more sad. I am sure a Department of Environmental Protection that is totally submissive and bought off like the one we have now is, will keep this morgue and many others like it full up for many years to come

  4. What makes me cringe is everyday when I drive Narcosee Road to work in Orlando I see retention ponds every quarter mile or so This road runs just east of Orlando International Airport. Knowing what I know now I can just visualize all the pesticides —and toxic chemicals being washed off the roads and apartment complexs into these pond. The water being heated by the blacktop to remove the oxygen. What a poison brew all the people who still drink well water that was once very healthy to drink. I would love to put calcium sand in but I know if I did herbicide trucks would line the shore pumping poisons that would kill all the life that would come. They are also KILLING PEOPLE

  5. I lived 0n a dead end street in Melbourne when I graduated from high school , I left and 20 years later came back and visited a girl who babysitted for everyone on this street .As we walked down the street she would tell how many people in each house had died of cancer, Just about every house had one person and many had 2 that had died of cancer, These retention ponds need to be filled up to be no more than 3 foot deep to allow the water to filter through sand slowly so the h2o2 in rainwater can break down the chemicals

  6. All these houses on this street were there before I moved , H2O2 can be a powerfull tool in cleaning up our runoffs before they go down into our aquifer , What we have now is poisoning our aquifer , I believe people are going to pay a heavy price for the destruction of their drinking water , Once again it is not in the governments best interest if everyone has good ,clean—FREE—drinking water

  7. Correction—I think they are already paying a heavy price, If people were not all dieing of cancer—just think how much money the hospitals would loose

  8. What I think happened on this street (Lucille Lane) is they get their drinking water from lake Washington, They spray tons of herbicides on this lake every year , Herbicides are preserved in a low oxygen environment, At the water treatment plant their main focus is removeing oxygen from water so no bacteria can survive , They do this by adding Clorine and posably other chemicals, When people drink the water the herbicides are reactiveated when they enter a oxygen rich environment(the human body), I believe this is a National Problem and the only way to solve this problem of removeing atoms(ions) of deadly chemicals is with the cleaning power of H2O2 In Atlanta their are 8 lanes of traffic going around the city , 4 main runways at Atlanta Internatioal Airport, The problem of hot pavement removeing oxygen from rainwater could be solved with stormdrains with calcium in the dirtlegs I talked about——The period symbol does not work on my laptop so I used commas,

  9. Jaqui—If you are elected county commissioner will you continue on your current belief that fresh water runoff is killing the lagoon or will you grab the bull by the horns on some very REAL problems

    1. I will stay the course Brent. There are many things damaging the lagoon and too much fresh water is one of them in my opinion. Everyone is allowed his or her opinion so please keep yours and please keep explaining your point of view. This is the American way. Thanks.

  10. every thing I read says microwave energy is safe but after all the manure I have read about the lagoon I am beginning to wonder. Alfa –beta and gamma rays have wave bands close togather and its said they have more energy than waves that are farther apart. Acording to what I am reading microwave energys waves are farther apart than visable light waves. What makes me question this is visable light can be blocked with a piece of cardboard and my cell phones signal (that uses microwave energy) can go through 8 foot of concrete. Go figure. Could this be blasting through our DNA and causeing cancer? I would bet cell phone companys could come up with a billion dollars worth of people who would scream NO as loud as they can.

  11. The American way to break a horse is to get on him against his will and sink your spurs into his side and let him know you are going to be in charge or bad thing are going to happen to him., I think todays american politics are the same, The Indians way was not actually breaking the horses will but was a joining togather of different personalitys and rideing like one creature., The American Indians were outstanding on horseback and they rode without saddles!!! This his how we became 18 trillion in dept

  12. Miles and miles of mullet—mullet for all the creatures to eat—even the bobcat. White pelicans have arrived and are waiting on menhaden minnows. ALL the creatures depend on restoreing the lagoon to the way it was before Henry Flagler and others destroyed it. There are no hard facts to support what many special interest groups are saying is killing the lagoon.The hard fact is ALL the Calcium was removed from the shores of the lagoon to pave roads and make cement for construction . What was left of the SOFT coquina was pulled out and left to harden making it useless for netrilizing acids..

  13. Fresh water runoff with nutriants has been and allways will be absolutely vital for the life of all the creatures in the lagoon. Many people have said what we need is a new inlet to flush everything out. Salt is a preservative and salt in water will STOP the age old process of nutriants being broken down by bacteria and baby creatures. What is missing to complete this process is the millions and millions of tons of calcium that has been removed from the lagoon. For you to stay on the same course as county commissioner would be for the lagoon to stay on the same course of DEATH

  14. I am starting to wonder how deep this problem goes—The state destroying things then lieing about it and blameing people then giving themselves millions of dollars to FIX the problem. I was watching Commisioner Adam Putnam on the Florida Channel. It was telling about how viruses like the HLB virus was comeing from other countrys and wreking havoc on Florida’s 10 billion a year citrus industry. They were saying the citrus industry could easily afford 200 million to RESEARCH the problems. Sound familer with whats going on with our lagoon? I would bet they could pin point the problem by giving some university professors lie detector test then checking the DNA of the virus to tell EXACTLY where it came from. Then just connect the dots of which professors were lieing and what villages they have been visiting over seas

  15. Picture Perfect Property Management of Jensen Beach was observed with multiple trucks and many employees with large tanks of chemicals, spraying with pressurized nozzles, large amounts of chemicals in a community on the St Lucie River, and with a boat ramp accessing the St Lucie River. Employees were spraying these chemicals very close to the waterway. When asked what they were spraying, a man who identified himself as the owner of this chemical spraying company replied, “It is Round-Up and it is perfectly safe.”
    This is an example of why this community is not resolving these severe water issues.
    Shame on Jack Krivanek.

  16. Has the condition of the Indian river lagoon improved since 2015? Do residentially used pesticides also affect the Indian river lagoon?

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