December 1st, 2009
Dear Friends of Florida’s waters:
Since you last heard from me on the Florida DEP’s plans to create new categories of water classifications, a few important things have occurred. Most importantly, many of you signed onto our letter that we will be sending and those of you who have not, please get back to me immediately with your group’s contact person and permission to add you to the long list of organizations who want to maintain our goals to make all of Florida’s waters clean enough for fishing and swimming.
On November 18th, FDEP held a public meeting in Tampa to discuss their proposed revisions to Florida’s water quality standards as related to the creation of new designated uses (non-fishable and/or non-swimmable). There were a few notable things discussed that you should be aware of:
* FDEP clarified that it is their intention to not have pre-set criteria for the new water classes (non-fishable and/or swimmable). Rather, they would set the criteria on a case by case basis as the waterbodies were downgraded. So, if they are successful in changing our water quality standards, we will not know how much nutrients would be allowed, or how low the dissolved oxygen could legally be, etc. until FDEP and/or the polluter/s that request the downgrade decide on how much slack they need.
* FDEP said that EPA can approve new designated use categories with no concurrent associated water quality standards. When we pressed EPA on this issue, EPA was vague as to whether it could approve as such - but only kept repeating that it could review it as such. When Wildlaw attorney Matt O’Malley pointed out the passage of the CWA that expressly says that EPA cannot approve new DUs without concurrent WQ standards, EPA suggested FDEP put the question formally in writing for EPA legal staff to review and
prepare a written response to. DEP was clearly concerned about the legality issue that was raised by Wildlaw and attorney Tom Reese and seemed a little flustered that the state may not be able to simply set criteria for newly downgraded waters on a case by case basis as they plan to do.
3. When FDEP was asked about whether there would be new mixing zones (areas where water quality criteria do not apply) where the downgraded waters meet a water with higher protection levels, Jerry Brookes (division chief at FDEP who is driving the train on this issue) said that he would not rule that out. Previously at earlier meetings, FDEP staff told the public that it is FDEP’s intention to use new mixing zones to transition waters with more pollution into cleaner waters. FDEP also stated at the November meeting that there is always mixing going on and that nobody tests the water to see if it is clean enough to enter a higher quality waterbody, so maybe it wouldn’t even be an issue. That was an interesting statement, to say the least.
4. FDEP claims that their new classifications would also allow for some high quality waters to be upgraded and received more protection (don’t hold your breath). However, in order for that to happen, the person or group proposing this change would have to have a Use Attainability Analysis done (big bucks here) and that analysis would have to document that all six criteria for an upgrade would have to be met, but in order to down-grade a water, only one of the six criteria would have to be met.
There are many other issues with this proposed change to Florida’s water quality standards, that will be posted on our website – shortly. You can also go to our website (<http://www.cleanwaternetworkfl.org>www.cleanwaternetwork-fl.org) to quickly send a message to FDEP Sec. Mike Sole about this issue. The comments to FDEP are due by Dec. 4th. They expect to bring this before the Environmental Regulation Commission by February 2010. So, this is on a fast tract right now and needs your immediate attention.
Please let me know by COB Thursday if your organization can sign on to our letter. It will go to FDEP on Friday. That doesn’t mean that we can’t keep sending messages to them. In fact, we need to keep the messages flowing until this proposal is dead, but now is the time to take action. PLEASE HELP US PROTECT FLORIDA’S WATERS.
One final note – If you have not sent in your membership to Clean Water Network of FL yet this year, please consider doing that now and get a tax write-off for 2009. Your donations will be used to protect all of Florida’s waters. You can send your donations/membership to
Clean Water Network of FL
P.O. Box 254
Tallahassee, FL 32302
Thank you for all that each of you do to protect Florida’s waters!!!!
Linda L. Young
Clean Water Network of FL