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Environmentalists: Florida Isn't Ready to Manage Its Waterways

Dead fish in North Naples
Dead fish in N. Naples. Photo: Lexey Swall 

TAMPA, FL - Protests are planned today in Tampa in response to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) enforcement of the Clean Water Act in Florida. The federal government announced in November it would uphold strict numeric limits for 85 percent of Florida waters, after the state failed to do so. The concern now is that the EPA could hand over control of more waterways to the state Department of Environmental Protection. 

Manley Fuller is president of the Florida Wildlife Federation. He says state regulations don't go far enough to prevent pollution, and applying them to more water sources would be a mistake.

"One of the problems with the state rule is it's extremely complex and it never gets to enforcement. If there is a problem, you study it more, but they never take any enforcement action."

Fuller and others point to evidence of pollution in Florida waters, including green slime and fish kills, as evidence that the state enforcement has not gone far enough.

A major contributor to water quality problems in the state is the run-off of manure, sewage and fertilizer into state waterways. Jennifer Hecker with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida says the EPA needs to maintain jurisdiction of Florida waters because of what she calls "inadequate standards" and a lack of state staff to enforce regulations.

"There is a role for the federal government when the state has failed to do its job. We know that the state has not adequately dealt with water quality and we need EPA's involvement to bring us back on course."

Recently, Sarasota County had to remove 4.5 tons of rotting fish from public beaches after a red tide, and the state has banned shell fishing in some areas. 

Today's public meeting is from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Tampa Hotel; tomorrow's meeting is scheduled from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Links and photos added by the Observer

Photo credit: © Lexey Swall

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