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Florida Passes Legislation Related to Water Pollution and Toxic Algae Outbreaks

Statement by Earthjustice attorney David Guest
February 9, 2012
Tallahassee, FL —

Statement by Earthjustice attorney David Guest:

Warning sign on Caloosahatchee River in June 2011.
(Mike Dove) View photo slideshow.

“It is a shame that so many Florida lawmakers are beholden to the state’s polluters. This legislation was written by polluter lobbyists. This is a slap in the face to Floridians, who are dealing with the public health threat and economic devastation from these nauseating toxic algae outbreaks on our rivers, lakes, springs and beaches.

"This pollution hurts people who work in restaurants, hotels, beach concessions, the fishing industry, the boating industry, the dive industry, and the real estate sales and rental markets. What tourist wants to come to Florida and see green, slimy water and ‘No Swimming’ signs? How can it possibly make sense for the Legislature to keep allowing unsafe amounts of sewage, manure and fertilizer in our water?

"The public wants this pollution cleaned up. Several environmental groups issued a grassroots call to action during the past month, and, so far, more than 16,000 people have written to the White House supporting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency limits to combat this serious water pollution in Florida—the so-called “nutrients” phosphorus and nitrogen, which come from sewage, manure and fertilizer.”

Background:

The toxic algae outbreaks breaking out around Florida can cause rashes, breathing problems, stomach disorders, and worse. Health authorities have had to shut down drinking water plants, beaches and swimming areas. Toxic algae can kill fish, livestock and pets.

Pictures of this health threat are available at Photo Slideshow: Images of Florida Nutrient Pollution and Algae Outbreaks and Map: Florida Slime Crime Tracker.

View Florida Slime Crime Tracker in a larger map.

After years of seeing toxic algae on Florida tourist beaches like Sanibel Island and at fishing destinations like the St. Johns River, Earthjustice filed a Clean Water Act federal lawsuit in 2008 in the Northern District of Florida on behalf of the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, St. John’s Riverkeeper, and the Sierra Club. In 2009, the EPA set numeric limits for the phosphorus and nitrogen that comes from sewage, fertilizer and manure in the water.

Earthjustice is now challenging the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s weak standards for nutrient pollution in an administrative law trial which begins Feb. 27.

Contacts

David Guest, Earthjustice, (850) 681-0031

About Earthjustice

Earthjustice is the premier nonprofit environmental law organization. We wield the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. We are here because the earth needs a good lawyer.