ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Steven Sanders couldn’t believe it when he saw it. He’s lived in Florida all of his life and he’s never seen the red tide this bad.
“It’s frustrating, bro,” said Sanders. “I mean I see something sitting out there in the water and I’m thinking I hope that’s not another giant fish.”
Eight On Your Side featured Sanders in a story in March. He’s a retired Air Force Veteran who criss crosses the state replacing tattered American flags with new ones. He’s paused that mission to take on a new one: red tide.
In a news conference on Wednesday, Gov. Desantis told reporters that he didn’t believe the Piney Point spill had a major impact on how bad the red tide is this year and believes Tropical Storm Elsa blew the bloom into Tampa Bay making the ongoing situation much worse. Sanders does not agree.
“Forest fires are natural until you pour gasoline on them and that’s what this is, is an ocean forest fire,” said Sanders. “We’ve just poured gasoline on it using Piney Point’s failure. “
The situation prompted Sanders to organize a beach cleanup this weekend at Fort Desoto Park in southern Pinellas County. It’s taking place from 8 a.m. till 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. He says it’s short because he doesn’t know how long people will be able to tolerate the heat and the smell.
Michael Minardi, a Tampa attorney, has already answered the call and is encouraging others to join in the cleanup effort.
“It’s not the government’s and city’s job to do this. We are part of this community as well,” said Minardi. “And there’s still so much left to do, so I think the least the community should do is care about our beaches and care about our community and get out there and help.”