Water Quality
December 10 2012

New Controls on Nutrient Pollution in Florida

by Mara Dias

Photo Credit:  Florida Slime Tracker

On November 20th, 2012, the EPA announced their approval of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's rules for protecting waterways from nutrient pollution.  This approval, however, included two federally-set numeric criteria for controling nutrients polluting coastal waters and streams.  The EPAs announcement comes after years of back and forth between the feds, the State of Florida, politicians at all levels, polluters and the environmental and recreational communities.  Read EPAs press release or media coverage of the new rules.

The targeted pollutants are the nitrogen and phosphorus found in fertilizer, sewage and animal manure that trigger algae outbreaks in Florida’s lakes, rivers and bays.  These often severe algal blooms wreak havoc on coastal ecosystems and create major public health impacts. A recent study released by the Stockholm Environment Institute at Tufts University,  Valuing Florida's Clean Waters,  finds that algae and red tide outbreaks caused by water pollution cost Floridians between $1.3 billion and $10.5 billion each year due in large part from associated health costs and recreational opportunities lost.  Down load the white paper here.

The new numeric criteria set specific measurable limits to nutrient levels in waterways.  Think of a 25mph speed limit here rather than a warning to 'drive with care'. While the federal standards are not perfect, Surfrider is pleased that the EPA did not capitulate to political pressure as the State's proposal for was much weaker and allowed way too many loopholes for polluters to keep on polluting.