The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this morning issued its proposed limits for phosphorus and nitrogen in Florida lakes and rivers -- a move anticipated by industry and environmental groups alike.
Springs, lakes and rivers have become choked with algae, fed by the nutrients phosphorus and nitrogen, scientists say. Potential sources of nutrients include stormwater runoff from cities, sewage treatment plants, farms and fertilizer use.
The EPA last year said specific numeric limits are needed to replace Florida's narrative standard that prohibited discharges that created an "imbalance" of fish and wildlife. In response to a lawsuit filed by environmental groups, the agency in August agreed to set limits for the state -- despite protests from utilities, agriculture and industry groups.
Florida is the first state to receive federal numeric limits statewide for nutrients, according to the EPA. Don't Tax Florida, an industry and utilities umbrella group, criticized the proposal today while the nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice praised the agency's action.
In its proposal today, EPA is dividing the state into four regions and is setting total nitrogen and total phosphorus limits for waterways in each of those regions. The EPA also is setting separate nitrate-nitrogen limits for clear streams and rivers.
Don't Tax Florida issued a statement saying that the proposed new standards represent a fundamentally-flawed approach by the EPA that will cost utilities an estimated $50 billion to comply with.
"It simply makes no sense to force Florida to spend billions of scarce dollars in excess of what is necessary to meet an arbitrary federal regulation," Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement from the group.
David Guest, managing attorney for Earthjustice in Tallahassee, said in a statement that the most cost-effective way to reduce pollution is to deal with its source. His firm represents the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, St. John’s Riverkeeper and the Sierra Club.
“These standards aren’t as stringent as we would like, but they are a huge improvement,” Guest said. “All you have to do is look at the green slime covering lakes, rivers, and shorelines during our warm months to know it is worth the investment to reduce fertilizer runoff, control animal waste better, and improve filtration of sewage.”
Representatives of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Agriculture Commissioner Charles H. Bronson, who has spoken out against the federal government rather than the state issuing the standards, said they had just begun their review of the EPA proposal today.
The public has 60 days to comment on the proposed limits. Workshops have been scheduled for Tallahassee on Feb. 16, Orlando on Feb. 17 and West Palm Beach on Feb. 18. For more information, go on the Web to http://www.epa.gov/waterscience/standards/rules/florida/ .
(Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and FloridaEnvironments.com. Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)