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EPA Sets Limits for Florida Waters

PHOTO: The federal Environmental Protection Agency will set new, strict standards for Florida waters that are expected to have an impact nationwide.
PHOTO: The federal Environmental Protection Agency will set new, strict standards for Florida waters that are expected to have an impact nationwide.
December 3, 2012

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - New pollution standards are being called a giant step forward for Florida water quality and beyond. Late Friday the EPA agreed to immediately propose strict, enforceable limits to reduce the water pollution that causes toxic algae and slime. It did so after a Florida federal judge failed to grant an extension to reach a decision.

Environmental advocates had been pushing for the strict standards for the past four years, and David Guest, attorney for Earthjustice in Florida, says the limits will have an impact nationwide.

"This sets the gold standard for the United States. These contaminants can and will be limited. Standards can be set and the problem can be stopped."

The new numeric pollution standards will impact 100,000 miles of Florida waterways and 4000 square miles of estuaries. Currently, Florida and most other states have vague standards when it comes to how sewage, manure and fertilizer runoff is handled.

Guest says the new EPA limits will take effect within a year and will prompt changes across the state in the public and private sectors.

"Sewage treatment plants will have to be updated, cities will have to have better source controls on the pollutants that get into water, and farmers are going to have to clean up their act."

The pollutants released by sewage plants, industries and farmers cause issues such as red tide, which poses a public health hazard and has been known to prompt the closing of Florida beaches. Algae concentrations are becoming a problem in other states as well and Guest says the new EPA standards will ultimately curb the problem around the nation.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - FL