EPA Moves Against Florida's Green Slime

Limits on nutrient pollution will quell waterways scourge

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The EPA has taken a historic first step toward cleaning up Florida’s waters by proposing limits on pollution which costs the state millions of dollars and triggers toxic algae outbreaks. Every time it rains, phosphorous and nitrogen run off agricultural operations, fertilized landscapes, and from septic systems.

The poison runoff triggers slimy algae outbreaks which foul Florida’s beaches, lakes, rivers and springs more each year, threatening public health and closing swimming areas.

The proposed limits on nutrient pollution aren’t as stringent as we would like, but they are a huge improvement. All you have to do is look at the green slime covering lakes, rivers, and shorelines during our warm months to know it is worth the investment to reduce fertilizer runoff, control animal waste better, and improve filtration of sewage. The most cost-effective way to handle this problem is to deal with it at its source.

This is the first time the EPA has been forced to impose such limits on a state.The change in policy comes more than a year after Earthjustice filed a major lawsuit to force the EPA to set strict limits on nutrient poisoning in public waters.

A rogue’s gallery of the worst polluters in Florida and in the United States have been doggedly fighting any limits on their pollution. Aided and abetted the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, they claim that better sewage filtration, reduction in wasted fertilizer and keeping manure or farms will cost $50 billion. In fact it will be about $125 million, a per-Floridian cost equal to a screw-top bottle of pink chablis.

The costs of continuing to pollute are much worse. With the tourist industry stalled by the recession, we don’t need toxic green slime coating our lakes and rivers, or any more red tide outbreaks. The Clean Water Act is strong medicine and its about time we took it.

David Guest worked at Earthjustice from 1990 to 2016, as the managing attorney of the Florida regional office. His countless legal battles were, in one way or another, all about water. His motivation to protect Florida’s water came from years of running boats in the state’s rivers and lakes, which convinced him that waterways are many people’s spiritual connection to nature.

The Florida regional office wields the power of the law to protect our waterways and biodiversity, promote a just and reliable transition to clean energy, and defend communities disproportionately burdened by pollution.