No Surprise

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Even the most casual of observers of Florida government could not be surprised at this week’s approval of new water toxin rules by the governor-appointed Environmental Regulation Commission (ERC). They rubber stamped new surface water standards created by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). Surface waters means rivers, lakes and coastal waters. The new standards now go to the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for final approval.

We talked about those standards when they were released back in early May. Under pressure from the federal government’s Clean Water Act to update the list of regulated toxic substances, after doing nothing since 1992, the state finally came up with a plan. That plan went to the ERC and was passed 3-2 this week. The ERC is a bit short-handed these days as two seats are vacant, the ones that should be filled by representatives of local government and the environmental community.

It must be a coincidence that the governor has not filled those seats in time for this vote.

The new plan includes only 82 chemicals. The 25-year-old plan had 43 chemicals, so they are adding a whopping 39 toxins to the list. If you, like me think that surely there has to be more than 82 chemicals that should be regulated in surface waters, you’re right. There are several dozen other chemicals that the EPA regulates that the Florida DEP ignores. And the 43 chemicals that were on the list before, the new rules have weaker standards for about half of them and most of the 82 total chemicals will now have less restriction than the EPA recommends.

Not surprisingly, the Florida DEP claims the new rules are protecting Floridians. They also claim the new rules have nothing to do with fracking, that process whereby a “proprietary” blend of toxic chemicals is pumped into subsurface rock at high pressure to create gaps that release oil or gas that is then mined. Don’t want to limit any of those chemicals, do we?

Another interesting point in this debate is how the Florida DEP came up with their limits. The federal EPA, and all other states use one method to determine limits, recommending criteria based on local fish and water data and a cancer risk of one in a million, explained an attorney for the Clean Water Network. Florida DEP has decided to go it alone and used the Monte Carlo method, a probabilistic approach based on the roulette wheel. It looks at a range of values for fish consumption and says that most of us would have a cancer risk between 1 in 100,000 and one in a million. Higher for those in some occupations.

I’m not feeling any safer.

The public’s response to the new rules was overwhelmingly negative. Floridians said the rules would expose people and wildlife to toxic chemicals. Environmentalists fear the rules will let polluters dump too many toxic chemicals into our rivers and lakes, many of which are used for drinking water. They would harm tourism and quality of life in the state.

In response the rules for benzene were tweaked a bit and then they were passed 3-2. Those two who voted against the rules are no doubt not planning on reappointment to the ERC by Governor Scott.

All water quality in Florida is important. The unique limestone base we live on is incredibly porous. Pollutants dumped into surface water can make their way into our drinking water and find their way to the waters that residents and visitors use for recreation.

Ask any local fishing captain if he thinks the quality of the Kissimmee River water is important to our water quality here in SWFL. It’s all connected.

Tourism is our #1 economic engine. Why do our leaders in Tallahassee continually jeopardize that engine? This latest blow comes amid our summer water quality crisis and follows several years worth of strategic budget cuts and policy decisions that have harmed the environment, putting all Floridians’ lives and economic security at risk. It’s time to stop.

Tourism is critical here. We know that any threat to water quality has an immediate and drastic impact on our economic health. Allowing our own state officials to undermine our way of life is unacceptable.

Why do we continue to elect the same representatives that allow this to happen?

  

Election Deadline

The clock is ticking on the voter registration deadline for the August 30th Primary Election. If voters wish to register or change their address or party, they must do so by 5pm Monday, August 1st. You don’t have to go to one of the Elections offices, you can register at home by downloading an application from their website (lee.vote) and having it postmarked by 5pm August 1st.

Sample ballots are now available at that website and you can check your registration and request a vote by mail ballot also.

Have a say in this year’s elections, make sure you are registered to vote!

 

Missy Layfield