Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

State, environmental groups continue to wrestle over water cleanup plan

TALLAHASSEE — A lawsuit-fueled four-year battle over safety and health standards for Florida waters inched toward a possible resolution in the Legislature Tuesday.

A House committee unanimously accepted a proposal by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to bypass stricter federal water pollution rules and instead apply its own state standards.

The proposal — which proponents say attempts to balance environmental concerns against additional burdens on businesses and homeowners — still must be approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and withstand a legal challenge from a statewide environmental advocacy group .

At issue is fertilizer runoff from farms and lawns combined with waste from old, faulty septic tanks. Those and other contaminants, such as sewage and manure, can lead to water with high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous, known as nutrients.

Waters with high nutrient levels can suffer permanent pollution and bloom enough toxic algae to harm wildlife and cause epidemics such as Red Tide.

"We can ask farms to implement best-management practices, but the real challenge today is urban runoff," said Rep. Matthew Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres. "How do you regulate every single person's yard?"

Environmental groups say the current standards are weak, and the proposed changes would make them weaker. Even the Tampa Bay area, which has made more water restoration gains than most other parts of the state, sees yearly consequences.

As recently as August, a slimy, brown algae covered a large swath of Tampa Bay north of the Howard Frankland Bridge.

"If you see a brown, red spot where the water should be blue … that's algae that consumes oxygen and kills fish" said Frank Jackalone, Florida staff director of the Sierra Club.

Earthjustice, which represents a coalition of environmental groups, has sued to block the proposed rules, saying they require that Florida waters reach a dangerous and potentially toxic level before they are deemed unsafe. A ruling is expected in March.

Another 2010 lawsuit filed by Attorney General Pam Bondi on behalf of the state is also pending. That suit contends that federal regulators are asking the state to do too much too soon to clean up Florida's waterways — to the possible peril of Florida businesses, local governments and utility companies that manage waste.

Tuesday's debate before the Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee rang of an issue that has dragged on too long.

Environmental groups testified that the state's rules don't address downstream waters or adequately protect drinking waters.

Yet, the debate among lawmakers — who seemed determined to accept the proposal and move on — was short.

"When this issue first came up, I made the comment, 'How can we resolve this issue without succeeding from the union?' " said Rep. Rich Glorioso, R-Plant City. "We obviously found a way to do that."

State, environmental groups continue to wrestle over water cleanup plan 01/24/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 10:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Estuary wins pier design contest for the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway extension

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — And the winner is… Estuary.

    Voters overwhelmingly supported a pier design called Estuary for the $200-million extension of the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway in Tampa.
[Courtesy of AECOM]
  2. What to watch and listen to this week: Halloween offerings, best spooky podcasts

    Blogs

    Halloween is all about scary stories. The holiday itself is based on a compilation of creepy tales from history going back thousands of years.

    The Halloween kids classic The Nightmare Before Christmas airs this week on Freeform.
  3. Fennelly: Would you take Jameis Winston over Cam Newton?

    Bucs

    Factoring out futures, it wouldn't be a short list if I picked NFL quarterbacks I'd take right now over Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston.

    Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston (3) calls a play during the first half of Sunday's game. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. Man faces charge of abuse after 2-month-old injured

    Crime

    ZEPHYRHILLS — A 2-month-old child was taken to All Children's Hospital with multiple skull fractures Saturday afternoon, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, and a 24-year-old man has been arrested.

    Jacob Brattain, 24, of Zephyrhills is charged with aggravated child abuse and was arrested Sunday. According to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, a 2-month-old child suffered multiple skull fractures under his care.
  5. Amazon receives 238 proposals from places eager to become its 2nd headquarters

    Business

    NEW YORK — Amazon said Monday that it received 238 proposals from cities and regions in the United States, Canada and Mexico hoping to be the home of the company's second headquarters.

    Earlier this month, an Amazon employee gives her dog a biscuit as the pair head into a company building, where dogs are welcome, in Seattle. Amazon says it received 238 proposals from cities and regions hoping to be the home of the company's second headquarters. 
[AP Photo/Elaine Thompson]