News Feature | May 27, 2016

Water Agency Defends Proposed Pollution Limits

Dominique 'Peak' Johnson

By Peak Johnson

Environmental groups in Florida are not happy with The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The groups believe that the DEP’s proposed new pollution limits for the state’s surface waters are “weakening standards.” 

The Tallahassee Democrat reported on May 15 that Florida wants to weaken its restrictions on roughly two-dozen cancer-causing chemicals that it will allow in its surface waters.

DEP Secretary Jon Steverson said the coverage "inaccurately and unfairly" depicted the agency's proposal.

"The state has some of the most comprehensive water quality standards in the country, including the most advanced numeric nutrient criteria in the entire nation," Steverson told The Tallahassee Democrat. "We will continue to coordinate with EPA to adopt standards that will ensure our residents and natural resources enjoy clean and safe water." 

Florida is supposed to update its standards periodically under the Clean Water Act, and is in the process of doing so, however, the state has not updated the standards since the early 1990s. 

The DEP is updating human-health criteria for 43 dangerous chemical compounds it currently regulates and adopting standards for the first time for another 39, reported The Naples Daily News

Of the 82 toxic substances, a majority would have lower standards than recommendations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). And of the 43 chemicals that are currently regulated, a couple of dozen would see limits increased above what is allowed.

Based on risk and factors of food consumption, the DEP said that the new standards would let Floridians eat safely and drink local tap water. They say the concentration of pollutants in the water wouldn't pose any type of risk to the average Floridian's health. 

However, environmental groups have said that the new standards would increase the chances of people “becoming sick” or “developing cancer” from the contamination in seafood and water. 

"The DEP should be pushing for even more stringent criteria than what we have now rather than trying to weaken them," Dr. Ron Saff, a Tallahassee allergist and immunologist told The Naples Daily News. "Your job is to protect Floridians, not to poison us."