Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Feds agree to limit nutrients polluting Florida waters

CLEARWATER — Ten years after acknowledging the problem, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to limit how much nutrient pollution is allowed to foul Florida's waterways, a move likely to change everything from how suburban lawns are fertilized to how stormwater runoff and sewage are treated.

"Each and every neighborhood along the Gulf Coast is going to be affected positively by this," said Cris Costello of the Sierra Club during a news conference Friday, during which an agreement was unveiled that environmental groups hope will set a national precedent.

But the state's top environmental regulator said he was "frustrated" by the EPA decision, and warned it will likely cost millions to clean up what now flows freely into lakes, rivers and estuaries.

"It is going to affect you and I as Floridians," said Mike Sole, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen flow into waterways from fertilized lawns, golf courses, leaking septic tanks and malfunctioning sewer plants.

In the past 30 years, nutrient pollution has become the most common water pollution problem in the state. It feeds the increase in algae blooms like the one now spread out over some 14 miles of Tampa Bay, as well as causing toxic blooms that kill fish and cause respiratory problems and infections among swimmers, boaters and beachgoers.

Yet the state's rules for how much nitrogen and phosphorous are allowed in Florida's waterways are only vague guidelines, said Colin Adams of Earthjustice, one of the environmental groups announcing the settlement. The EPA itself said in January that the rules were inadequate.

The EPA told all states in 1998 to set limits on nutrient pollution, and warned it would do it for them if no action was taken by 2004, said David Guest, also of Earthjustice. But 2004 passed with no action. So last year, Earthjustice joined Sierra Club, the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida and the St. Johns Riverkeeper to sue the EPA.

But the DEP has been working since 2001 on updating the state's limits, Sole said. Florida's thousands of waterways "all have different demands," he said. "The state has been spending thousands and thousands of hours so we can support a numeric nutrient limit," Sole said.

The environmental groups said Florida's waterways couldn't wait any longer. "They should have done this forever ago," Guest said.

Under the settlement, the EPA has until Jan. 14 to propose the new pollution limit for Florida's lakes, rivers and creeks. It has until October 2010 to finalize those rules. The agency then has until January 2011 to propose a limit for the state's coastal and estuarine waters, with a deadline of October 2011 to finalize the rules.

The settlement isn't a done deal. Agriculture and industrial interests — including the Florida Pulp and Paper Association and the Florida Cattlemen's Association — intervened in the suit and could try to persuade a judge to reject the agreement. Their attorney, Terry Cole, said Friday that he could not comment on what might happen next.

Last week, though, a coalition of Florida water and sewer utilities notified the EPA it intends to sue the agency for not following to the letter the requirements of the Clean Water Act in determining the need in January that there should be a numeric nutrient limit.

To read the Earthjustice press release on the case, click here: http://www.earthjustice.org/news/press/2009/epa-agrees-to-set-limits-on-fertilizer-and-animal-waste-pollution-in-florida.html

Feds agree to limit nutrients polluting Florida waters 08/21/09 [Last modified: Friday, August 21, 2009 11:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. State shuts down Hollywood nursing home where 9 died in scorching heat

    State Roundup

    HOLLYWOOD — The Hollywood Hills nursing home that became a sweltering deathtrap for nine seniors after Hurricane Irma was shut down Wednesday.

    Dawn Schonwetter stops to look at a memorial of flowers and messages left on the sidewalk of the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017. Nine residents of the nursing home died in the wake of Irma, including one who was added to the death toll on Tuesday. [AL DIAZ | Miami Herald]
  2. Tampa woman identified in fatal I-4 crash that sent car into canal in Plant City

    Accidents

    The Florida Highway Patrol has identified a Tampa woman killed in a crash on Wednesday morning in Plant City.

  3. Police identify woman they say beat and stole from a 69-year-old in St. Petersburg

    Crime

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tips from the public have led police to identify the woman they say followed and beat up a 69-year-old woman at her home as 34-year-old Leslie Broadfoot.

    Police have identified Leslie Broadfoot, 34, as the woman they say beat up a 69-year-old after saying she would help her unload hurricane supplies from her car. (St. Petersburg police)
  4. Gradebook podcast: The 'Is Hurricane Irma finally over?' edition

    Blogs

    Schools across Florida began preparing for Hurricane Irma long before it ever arrived, its veering path creating anxiety for just about every Floridian at one point or another. Cafeteria workers, teachers, custodians, bus drivers, administrators and others jumped into action, often putting civic duty ahead of personal …

    The Hillsborough County school district created a video celebrating its employees as heroes of Hurricane Irma.
  5. After sheltering thousands, Hernando schools are back in business

    Education

    BROOKSVILLE — As Hurricane Irma bore down on Hernando County, more than 5,000 people and 700 animals huddled together seeking shelter inside six local schools.

    Volunteers serve lunch on Sept. 10 at Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics, one of the Hernando schools that opened as a public shelter during Hurricane Irma.