How many contaminants are in Florida’s waterways? The EPA says it’s unclear.
st. Johns County, Florida — Florida does not protect its own waterways or residents.
This is a message the federal government sent a few weeks ago, state water pollution standards are 30 years old and horribly outdated.
The federal review was sparked by a group of environmental advocates led by Matanzas Riverkeeper here on the First Coast.
Florida waterways. We play with them, eat with them, and earn a living. Someone is responsible for protecting them, right?
Enter Jen Lombark, River Keeper of Matanzas of St. Augustine.
“I am currently chairman of the Florida Waterkeepers,” she said.
Waterkeepers Florida and the Environmental Defense Alliance said the state has not adequately tested for contaminants in waterways.
“State agencies don’t have the resources and manpower to do all the necessary tests,” Lomberk said.
Her group and the Environmental Defense League then took the issue to the Federal Environmental Protection Agency. And just a few weeks ago, the EPA sent them a letter of agreement.
“They said, ‘Yes, Florida is not currently in compliance with the Clean Water Act,'” said Lombard.
“Florida has 37 contaminants that should be regulated simply because it doesn’t have water quality standards, and 40 more contaminants are on the books, but they were adopted 30 years ago. said Lomberk. explained. “So they’re horribly outdated.”
In other words, “There are a lot of things on our waterways that are not regulated by the state that could hurt you.”
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has 12 months to develop stricter standards. And if pollution exceeds these levels, “the calculations will start to figure out how much pollutants are allowed to discharge into these waterways,” he explained Lomberk.
Now that the federal government is cracking down on DEP in Florida when it comes to water testing, how will DEP do more when it’s resourced and understaffed?
Lomberk pointed out that there are two parts to the response.
“We need to allocate additional resources to the DEP, so we need to fund more staff to run the programs we already manage,” said Lombark. DEPs need to stop taking additional liability for not having the bandwidth to run.”
first coast news We received the following statement from DEP:
Following the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decision on December 1, 2022, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is now evaluating next steps to further protect Florida’s water bodies.
Florida has long recognized the need and has worked to update its standards. We look forward to working with EPA and our stakeholders as we move this process forward.
The department remains committed to a transparent disclosure process as it works to update the state’s human health standards.