Environmental Protection

SAB to Review Science for Florida's Coastal Water Quality Standards

To ensure the use of the best available science and robust public participation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will send its underlying data and methodologies to support development of coastal water quality standards, also known as nutrients criteria, to the Science Advisory Board (SAB) for peer review.

The process also will allow the public to comment on the science.

Nutrient pollution can damage drinking water sources and exposure to nutrient pollution can cause rashes, dizziness, nausea and possibly even damage the central nervous system. These proposed water standards aim to protect people’s health, aquatic life and the long-term recreational uses of Florida’s waters. To learn more about the standards, visit www.epa.gov/waterscience/standards/rules/florida/.

“By using the best science, we can set standards that protect people’s health and preserve waterbodies used for drinking, swimming, fishing and tourism,” said Peter S. Silva, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “The challenge today is in finding a way to move beyond Florida’s slow, contentious and costly case-by-case approach to developing pollution standards. An independent scientific peer review by the SAB will ensure that the best available science is our guide in developing clean water standards for Florida’s coast."

With the agreement of the litigants, the agency is extending the timetable by 10 months to propose nutrient criteria for coastal and estuarine waters, downstream protection values, and flowing waters in the south Florida region (including canals). In August 2009, EPA entered into a consent decree with Florida Wildlife Federation, committing to propose numeric nutrient criteria for lakes and flowing waters in Florida by January 2010. The underlying data and methodology supporting the rule proposed in January for lakes and flowing waters has undergone independent peer review and is on schedule to be finalized in October. The decree required EPA to propose numeric criteria for Florida estuarine and coastal waters in January 2011 and to finalize those criteria by October 2011.

The extension of the deadline for coastal waters allows EPA to hold an SAB review in October of the data and methods that will be used in developing criteria for estuarine and coastal waters, downstream protection values, and criteria for inland waters in the south Florida region (including canals). EPA will incorporate comments and revise the proposal to reflect scientific input from the SAB, and finalize the criteria by August 2012.

This action only impacts criteria related to coastal waters, downstream protection values to protect those waters and criteria for south Florida flowing waters. In October, the agency will finalize proposed standards for lakes, streams and springs, which have already undergone peer review.
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