Activists demand Clean Water Act enforcement statewide
Green slime in Florida waterway. (Richard Solveson)
Clean water activists showed up in force today at the first of two EPA meetings in Tampa to discuss setting limits on water pollution that comes from fertilizer, animal waste and sewage effluent. These “nutrients” feed toxic, slimy algae outbreaks. Toxic slime can kill fish and make people and pets sick.
View our collection of Florida slime photos.
After years of legal wrangling, the EPA agreed last November to establish limits that protect 85 percent of Florida’s waters, with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regulating the remaining 15 percent. But the EPA has recently hinted they may turn the entire job over to the state—thus the outrage.
Today, the EPA heard from Floridians who want the Clean Water Act fully enforced statewide.
Florida Wildlife Federation President Fuller said, “The state’s rules are ineffective, convoluted and never result in enforcement. Meanwhile, pollution of Florida's waterways continues to worsen.”
Andrew McElwaine of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida said Sarasota County recently removed 4.5 tons of rotting fish from its public beaches due to red tide, which is worsened by this pollution. In addition, Sanibel Island had to cancel a youth fishing tournament, green slimy algae keeps shutting down a drinking water plant for 30,000 people, and the state has banned shell fishing in some areas.
Sarasota County work crews remove hundreds of dead fish littering the public Blind Pass Beach
on Manasota Key, Jan. 3, 2013. (Charlotte Sun-Herald photo by Steve Reilly)
Frank Jackalone, Sierra Club's Florida staff director said, “Governor Scott and DEP Secretary Vinyard are crippling clean water enforcement and doing the dirty work of polluters. Theirs is the reign of red tides and green slime.”
Gov. Rick Scott’s Administration recently began firing experienced DEP staffers and replacing them with people who come from polluting industries.Here’s how the Miami Herald (Editorial: Foxes guard the henhouse) explained the situation:
The purge got rid of regulators who had the backbone to say 'No' to politically connected developers and engineers. With them went decades of experience and commitment to DEP’s mission, basing their decisions in science and research. Now, the department is being populated by administrators who come directly from the industries that regularly seek the DEP’s favor. It’s telling, disturbingly so, that most of the employees dismissed were in the compliance and enforcement divisions.
Records show that enforcement cases against environmental lawbreakers have plummeted at the Florida DEP.
“We need EPA’s enforceable numbers for 100 percent of the state’s waters,” said Earthjustice attorney David Guest, who represents the Florida Water Coalition in court. “We know that polluted water is a job killer for everyone who relies on the tourism industry here in Florida—and that’s pretty much all of us.”