Drew Bartlett: Florida knows best how to protect our waters


Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 at 5:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 1, 2012 at 2:35 p.m.

Andrew McElwaine ("No room for ‘dirty water rules’," Sept. 24) 2012] accused the Department of Environmental

Protection of failing to protect Florida’s water bodies and suggested that we have willingly written ineffective water-quality standards that would allow unsafe pollution levels rather than following limits set by the U.S. EPA. This is simply not true. Consider the following:

The federal rules would actually allow increased nutrients in the Santa Fe River, which experienced severe algal blooms this summer. The Department’s rules require nutrient reductions in order to avoid such algal blooms in the future. Florida's water-quality standards are more comprehensive by requiring additional algae measurements, a parameter the EPA rules do not include in its assessment, before declaring a water body healthy.

The federal rules also conclude that the Suwannee River and Ichetucknee River are not nutrient enriched. In fact, the impairments are common knowledge among local stakeholders. The Department has proven far more capable of interpreting and responding to regional water-quality issues than any federal agency.

Also, the State standards were completely upheld in court after a week-long trial. To the contrary, the EPA’s river and stream criteria were invalidated in federal court. Beyond that, the rules developed by the Department received unanimous support from the Florida Legislature and Environmental Regulation Commission, and bipartisan support from our leaders in Washington, D.C.

Florida remains the national leader in addressing the health of our waterways. More than 30 percent of the national water quality dataset for nutrients is derived directly from the information collected by Florida scientists. Florida leads the nation in number of facilities with limits on nitrogen discharges, and ranks fourth in number of facilities with

phosphorus discharge limits. Soon, we will lead in both categories. Florida is best equipped to protect and preserve our waters. The State’s rules are the only guidelines that truly consider the complexity of Florida’s unique water bodies. These rules were developed based on substantial and thoroughly analyzed data that our scientists have

dedicated their lives to providing. Efforts to diminish or discredit their work do a disservice to our citizens and our environment.

Drew Bartlett,

Director,

Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration

Florida Department of Environmental Protection

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