Measures don’t meet Clean Water Act requirements
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Watchdog grous are characterizing a proposed Florida water quality plan as a give-away to polluting industries, creating even more loopholes to spew sewage, manure, and fertilizer into Florida waters, according to watchdog groups who sued the state and federal government in 2008 for their failure to set pollution limits, as required by the Clean Water Act.
“We have record numbers of dead manatees washing up on southwest Florida right now, in the prime of our tourist season,” said Earthjustice attorney David Guest. “Where is the leadership? This is an absolute sell out. This bogus plan gives deep-pocketed polluters even more loopholes. And what do we, the public, get? More gross, slimy algae in the water.”
Earthjustice said the plan was developed in a shady backroom deal without public input, and pointed out that a federal court has to review the plan under the terms of an earlier settlement agreement.
Critics say the plan fails to set enforceable limits on pollution, especially in South Florida and the ailing Everglades.
“These pollutants spark slimy outbreaks which are harming Florida’s tourism business, contaminating drinking water, killing wildlife, and threatening public health. Red tide and algae outbreaks are worsened by runoff containing sewage, manure and fertilizer – so-called “nutrient pollution,” Guest said.
“Obviously, the environmental regulators are bending to politically powerful polluters instead of protecting the public’s right to have clean water to drink and healthy places to fish, boat and swim,” he added.
The flawed plan also comes at a time when Gov. Rick Scott’s Administration is firing experienced DEP staffers and replacing them with people who come from polluting industries.
The EPA first began working to set pollution limits for Florida in 2009 – part of a settlement in a 2008 Clean Water Act suit filed by Earthjustice in the Northern District of Florida on behalf of the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, St. John’s Riverkeeper, and the Sierra Club. The suit challenged the decade-long delay by the state and federal governments in setting limits for the pollution.