Organization spotlight: Emerald Coastkeeper

By Morgan Givens
Staff writer

When asked why she works every day to keep our local environment clean, Emerald Coastkeeper’s Executive Director Laurie Murphy summed it up well.

“Just because we don’t have an oil spill, that does not mean we have an alarming pollution problem,” she said.

Founded in 1999, Emerald Coastkeeper is a grassroots organization that is part of 320 others in the Waterkeeper Alliance. The nonprofit alliance, founded by Robert Kennedy Jr., was created in response to hazardous pollution taking effect on lakes and rivers to the extent that some bodies of water would catch on fire.

Emerald Coastkeeper and the other waterkeeper groups are backed by the Clean Water Act, enacted under the Nixon administration in 1972. Their mission is to enforce and uphold the CWA with their key message: We fight for your right to have swimmable, drinkable and fishable water.

Laurie Murphy has been working to clean and conserve the environment for more than 30 years, and even attained degrees in sciences and oceanography, as well a master’s degree in geographic information systems. Murphy said that her organization does many operations which include water samplings and larger scale watershed cleanups and restorations.

The bulk of Emerald Coastkeeper’s problems and tasks comes from stormwater discharges, Murphy said. This is where stormwater that flows over roads and other impervious surfaces picks up trash and other harmful waste and washes into bodies of water.

Another source of harm to bodies of water, according to Murphy, is construction and development operations. Before building, construction contractors and operators are issued a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit (NPDES). The pollution problems arise when corners are cut, and these construction operations neglect their NPDES permit, resulting in runoff water being discharged incorrectly, causing more sedimentation and erosion.

“Every nine out of ten times,” Murphy said, “I’ll go to a water area being managed by developers and there are pollutants from mismanagement and cutting corners.”

Murphy said construction developers coming from Tampa and other locations out of the area are more likely to neglect their environmental practices since they do not have a local community to face. If managed correctly, there could be more effective flood control and improved conservation of vital water sources.

Although Murphy leads Emerald Coastkeeper, she cannot do it alone. Murphy, who is also a University of West Florida graduate, advocates for more college students to learn more about keeping our local environment clean as well as getting involved.

“I would like students to become more involved,” Murphy said, “and to understand what we do, and give back to their community in some way shape or form, as well as become more environmentally conscious.”

Emerald Coastkeeper works with other local environmental groups, such as Keep Pensacola Beautiful, and coordinates cleanups and other activism events. Members can also become educated and even certified to report illicit discharges and assist municipalities to keep their water bodies clean.

“It doesn’t take a tree hugger or someone from the environmental department to make a difference,” Murphy said.

Want to get involved? Email Laurie Murphy at laurie@emeraldcoastkeeper.org, text or call at (850) 292-5960, follow Emerald Coastkeeper on social media and keep up with their newsletter.

One Response to Organization spotlight: Emerald Coastkeeper

  1. John Whitescarver says:

    LAURIE MURPHY . what a great asset for her community and for all of us who care about protecting our environment. Thank you Laurie!

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