News Feature | February 23, 2018

Florida Drops Controversial Water Regs

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,
@sarmje

everglades reg new

Florida officials are going back to the drawing board in the effort to create water pollution regulations for the state.

The standards governing how much pollution can go into waterways had drawn opposition from environmental groups, Native American tribes, and local governments, The Tampa Bay Times reported. State regulators have pledged to start from scratch and to take input from critics.

The Department of Environmental Protection “has identified an opportunity to partner with the Seminole and Miccosukee tribes to gather additional data as we move forward to protect Florida’s water," agency spokeswoman Lauren Engel said, per The Tampa Bay Times.

“The pollution regulations that are being withdrawn marked the first update to the state’s water quality standards in 24 years. When they were first unveiled in 2016, critics said they would allow polluters to increase the level of toxic chemicals they dump into Florida bays, rivers and lakes. Those most at risk would be children and people who eat a lot of seafood,” the report said.

Meanwhile, the Florida Legislature is considering legislation to making it easier to build on wetlands, raising concerns about how the bills will affect waterways.

"The state’s program is much weaker than the federal program [for protecting wetlands],” said Manley Fuller, president of the Florida Wildlife Federation, per The Tampa Bay Times.

Among Florida’s deepest water challenges is a fight against toxic algae.

“The algae blooms of 2013 were so severe the event became known as Toxic Summer. And [2016’s] outbreak has so thoroughly spread through delicate estuaries on both coasts that Florida officials declared a state of emergency in four counties. Toxic sludge has killed fish, shellfish, and at least one manatee and has sickened people who have touched it,” National Geographic reported.

Image credit: "Everglades NP in Florida," Reinhard Link © 2013, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/