Wave Maker’s News: Florida Failing on Nitrogen and Phosphorus Pollution

This article is excerpted from Wave Maker’s News, our quarterly update on all things water in the Gulf of Mexico, check out the full newsletter here.Picture taken off of Sanibel Island, FL. For more pictures of polluted Florida waters, visit http://goo.gl/N7kVI.In November 2011, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted unanimously to protect tiger and hammerhead sharks in state waters. Commissioner Bran Yablonski stated that “sometimes the appropriate measures of conservation are the problems we avoid, not the problems we have to fix.” That’s a great sentiment. If only the Florida Department of Environmental Quality (FDEP) would follow this advice.The FDEP recently released some proposed numeric nitrogen and phosphorus water quality standards that simply will not be adequate to protect Florida’s waters from threats like harmful algae blooms or nasty green slime. As the proposed rules stand, before a waterbody is considered to be “polluted,” it would have to violate the criteria for two years. In other words, a waterbody could be unnaturally covered in potentially toxic algae for a year and would not violate criteria. Additionally, the rule does not do the necessary analysis to determine if these criteria are suitable for boating, swimming, or even for drinking water!Despite the many problems with Florida’s proposal, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has praised the FDEP and very well might approve it, even though it is not as strong as their own criteria, which were adopted last year.Perhaps more than any other state in the Gulf, Florida’s economy depends on vibrant, clear Gulf waters. Florida’s proposal has not yet been approved by the Florida Legislature or EPA, but if it is, Florida’s waters will simply not be protected from harmful algae blooms, green-tinted springs, and rivers that are covered with green slime.Matt is Science and Water Resources Director for GRN.

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