Environmental Protection

Floridians Get More Time to Comment on Water Quality Standards

Pete Silva 

Pete Silva, assistant administrator, EPA’s Office of Water

In an effort to ensure that Florida residents' voices are heard, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is extending the comment period for the agency’s proposed water quality standards.

The comment period is being extended for 30 days and will now end on April 28. The agency will hold three more public hearings to obtain additional input and comments on the proposed rulemaking. Planning for the additional hearings is under way and the hearings are targeted for mid-April in several cities across the state. In February, EPA held seven public hearing sessions on the proposed standards in Tallahassee, Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The proposed water standards will protect people’s health, aquatic life and the long-term recreational uses of Florida’s waters, a critical part of the state’s economy.

EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson announced the extension on March 4 in a meeting with senior agency officials and members of the Florida’s Congressional delegation.

“Clean and safe waters are central to people’s health and Florida’s economic growth, which is why EPA is proposing this rule to curb the impacts of costly nutrient pollution,” said Pete Silva, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “We are extending the comment period and having additional hearings to ensure there is more time for Floridians to offer their comments and ideas.”

The proposed action also introduces and seeks comment on a new adaptive management regulatory process for setting standards in a manner that drives water quality improvements in already impaired waters. The proposed new regulatory provision, called restoration standards, would be specific to nutrients in the state of Florida.

In 2009, EPA entered into a consent decree, approved by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, with the Florida Wildlife Federation to propose limits to pollution. The proposed action, released for public comment and based heavily on state data and science developed in collaboration with the state, would set a series of numeric limits on the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen, also known as “nutrients,” that would be allowed in Florida’s lakes, rivers, streams, springs and canals. The proposed standards aim to make it easier and quicker to address the economic, environmental and health issues of nutrient pollution. For more background information, go here.

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