Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas County to sue EPA over new water rules

CLEARWATER — Last January, the Pinellas County Commission banned residents from using certain fertilizers in the summer, warning that tougher federal water pollution limits were coming and the county needed to protect its waterways.

A year later, the County Commission unanimously decided to sue the federal government to soften those limits. The regulation could cost the county millions of dollars, they said Tuesday, and is based on bad assumptions.

"The levels being proposed are cost-prohibitive for all governments. Recession or no, they're outrageous," said commission chairwoman Susan Latvala, who spearheaded the fertilizer ban.

Taking effect in 2012, the new regulations by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will force Florida cities and counties to do a better job of keeping contamination out of rivers, streams, lakes and drainage ditches that feed water supplies.

The EPA estimates that cleanup will cost $130 million to $200 million statewide. Critics put the price tag in the billions, prompting requests from state politicians and business leaders asking the EPA to back off.

Pinellas doesn't have a specific estimate of its costs, watershed management director Kelli Levy said.

In Pinellas, 75 percent of the waterways already are considered impaired. County officials say they're willing to accept tougher limits, but they need to be cost-effective.

"A 'one size fits all' approach is never going to work," Levy said.

Florida sued to stop the limits in December. The Florida League of Cities asked a federal court Monday to do the same, joined by an association of utilities. Pinellas will file its own lawsuit soon, County Attorney Jim Bennett said.

In a statement Tuesday, the EPA expressed "disappointment" that the lawsuits happened before the groups allowed built-in flexibility in the rules to play out. The EPA expressed confidence the regulations will withstand court challenge.

"These water quality standards are based on the law and strong science," the agency said, adding they are "necessary to protect Florida's waters and the health of Florida residents."

Pinellas environmental officials said the EPA regulations don't take into account how much phosphorous naturally occurs in Pinellas soil, for example.

The EPA statement didn't address Pinellas specifically.

But nutrients have become the state's most common source of pollution in the past three decades, blamed for algae blooms and fish kills. The agency already delayed enforcing the limits for 15 months to give governments more time to respond.

Phosphorous also is part of the county's summertime ban, though it focused more on nitrogen in fertilizers, Levy said.

Pinellas officials said fighting the pollution limits and imposing the ban on fertilizer are distinct issues, though they involve the same problem, nutrient pollution.

The county blames runoff from fertilizer for part of the pollution of its waters, and tens of millions in bills to restore places like Lake Seminole and Lake Tarpon.

"Pinellas County has a very long history of progressive environmental management. That has not changed," Bennett said.

The commission spent hours into the night discussing the ban last year. Without debate, the County Commission needed fewer than 40 seconds to vote to sue Tuesday.

"I find it sad that we have to spend what few resources we have at the county level fighting ourselves," said Cathy Harrelson, a Sierra Club leader in St. Petersburg, She compared it to disagreeing "how much the fire is burning down the building."

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8779.

Pinellas County to sue EPA over new water rules 01/11/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 11:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bucs' Doug Martin relying on strength from drug rehab to power his return

    Bucs

    TAMPA — He would not talk about the drug he abused. He would not identify the rehab facility he entered in January or how long he was there.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin participates in an "open OTA practice" at One Buc Place, the team's training facility, in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, May 23, 2017.
  2. NCAA: Former USF basketball assistant gave improper benefits

    Colleges

    TAMPA — Former USF men's basketball assistant coach Oliver Antigua provided impermissible benefits, including lodging at his home, for two prospective student-athletes while they received on-campus tutoring, according to findings reported to the school by the NCAA.

  3. Assault charge may not sway voters in Montana election (w/video)

    Nation

    BOZEMAN, Mont. — Republican multimillionaire Greg Gianforte won Montana's only U.S. House seat on Thursday despite being charged a day earlier with assault after witnesses said he grabbed a reporter by the neck and threw him to the ground.

    People fill out ballots for the special election to fill Montana's only U.S. House seat at the Montana Pavilion at MetraPark on Thursday in Billings, Mont. [Associated Press]
  4. Quiet college dropout turned bomber: Who was Salman Abedi?

    World

    LONDON — He was quiet and withdrawn, a college dropout who liked soccer — and, some say, showed alarming signs of being radicalized years before he walked into a pop concert at Britain's Manchester Arena and detonated a powerful bomb, killing himself and 22 others.

    Salman Abedi was identified by British authorities as the man behind Monday’s attack.
  5. Soldiers launch attacks in besieged Philippine city

    World

    MARAWI, Philippines — Backed by tanks and rocket-firing helicopters, Philippine troops launched "precision attacks" Thursday to clear extremists linked to the Islamic State group from a city that has been under siege since a raid that failed to capture one of Asia's most-wanted militants.

    Soldiers fire at enemy positions Thursday while trying to clear the city of Marawi, Philippines, of armed militants.