Unless you just like a little extra cancer-causing chemicals in your fish and shellfish, you may want to pay close attention to a decision that will be made Tuesday morning in Tallahassee.
At its headquarters at 9 a.m., the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, better known as "Don't Expect Protection," will ask for final approval from the Environmental Regulation Commission to increase the amount of almost two dozen carcinogens that polluters can dump in our waters used for drinking, fishing and swimming.
Yes, you read that correctly. It is hard for me to believe as well, even though I have been fighting this effort for the past five years and I know they are dead serious. Why in the world would a state agency want to increase the amount of carcinogens and toxic chemicals in our waters? Does anyone think this is a good idea? Does anyone want a little extra Aldrin in their grouper sandwich? DEP wants permission to let polluters dump almost 500 percent more of the insecticide Aldrin than the federal EPA thinks is wise. What about Bis(2-Ethylhexyl)Phthalate? DEP wants to let chemical dumpers in Florida put 600 percent more of that carcinogen in our water than EPA recommends.
The list goes on and on and includes almost 90 toxic chemicals — both cancer-causing and non-cancer causing, but still toxic to our bodies and capable of causing birth defects, kidney and liver disease and worse. For some of these chemicals, DEP is just now getting around to setting any limits at all. After all, they haven't updated the state's regulations on human health toxics since the early '90s. If there are no regulations, polluters can dump all they want. How convenient for them.
But there is federal law that requires at least minimal protection for humans that may use Florida's waters for drinking water supplies, shellfishing, swimming and fishing. The Clean Water Act says that states (or EPA if states don't comply) must maintain some bare minimum level of protection for these uses. I think most of us expect that too, and most people have no idea what a lousy job our state is doing.
If you read the papers or watch the TV news, then you know much of Florida is in a panic over massive toxic algae outbreaks, caused by too much pollution from agriculture, septic tanks, wetlands destruction and stormwater run-off. It's harming human and animal health, costing jobs and hurting the economy. Some damage from these algal blooms will never heal — not in our lifetimes. In light of this serious crisis, it is hard to believe that our own state government wants to allow even more toxins in our waters and eventually in our bodies. But it does. You can speak out and object, but you need to act quickly. Remember, the meeting begins at 9 Tuesday morning.
Linda Young has been the executive director of the Florida Clean Water Network for 22 years, working to protect water quality and helping citizens have a voice in decisionmaking that affects their community waters. For more information contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and learn more about this issue at: floridacleanwaternetwork.org.