Agency Schedules More Hearings for Florida Water Comments

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is holding three additional public hearings in April to receive more input from Floridians on the agency’s proposed Florida water quality standards.

The agency held three public hearings in Florida in February on the proposed standards. The standards will protect people’s health, aquatic life and the long-term recreational uses of Florida’s waters, which are a critical part of the state’s economy.

EPA is accepting public comments on the proposed standards through April 28 and is holding public hearings on the proposed rule in three additional Florida cities to obtain input and comments on the direction of EPA’s rulemaking. The additional hearings are scheduled for:

  • April 13: Fort Myers, Harborside Event Center, 1375 Monroe St., Fort Myers, Fla. 33901, noon to 4 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m.
  • April 14: Tampa, Hilton Tampa Airport, 2225 North Lois Ave., Tampa, Fla. 33607, noon to 4 p.m. and 6 to 9 p.m.
  • April 15: Jacksonville, Clarion Hotel Airport Conference Center, 2101 Dixie Clipper Dr., Jacksonville, Fla. 32218, 1 to 5 p.m. and 7 to 10 p.m.

In 2009, EPA entered into a consent decree with the Florida Wildlife Federation to propose limits to this pollution. The proposed action, released for public comment and 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.

Nutrient pollution can damage drinking water sources; increase exposure to harmful algal blooms, which are made of toxic microbes that can cause damage to the nervous system or even death; and form byproducts in drinking water from disinfection chemicals, some of which have been linked with serious human illnesses like bladder cancer. Phosphorus and nitrogen pollution come from stormwater runoff, municipal wastewater treatment, fertilization of crops and livestock manure. Nutrient problems can happen locally or much further downstream, leading to degraded lakes, reservoirs, and estuaries, and to hypoxic “dead” zones where aquatic life can no longer survive. High amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus in surface water result in harmful algal blooms, dead fish, reduced spawning grounds and nursery habitats for fish.

The proposed action also introduces and seeks comment on a new adaptive management 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.

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