EPA should control Florida water quality

This year’s elections will be important for environmentalists who are arguing with businesses over Florida’s water quality standards.

In 2008, the Florida Wildlife Federation (FWF) and four other environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for not enforcing the Clean Water Act in the state. After long negotiations, the EPA proposed new standards last month, complying with a consent decree issued by a judge in November.

This is the first time in U.S. history the EPA has intervened in a state’s water quality standards. This will give the EPA, which will regulate nitrogen and phosphorus levels in Florida’s waters, the justified oversight and authority to enforce standards.

This will be costly to Florida’s farmers, ranchers and utility companies but is necessary to ensure the quality of water in the state.

On Thursday, the EPA held a hearing for interested parties to voice concerns. This was the third and final public hearing set up by the agency to listen to public opinions in Florida. Environmentalists are optimistic about the government’s oversight, believing the move will jumpstart the restoration process of Florida’s waterways.

“I’m thrilled,” said Linda Young, director of the advocacy group Clean Water Network, to the Miami Herald. “It is something that will ultimately start restoring Florida’s waters.”

The EPA estimates the cost of regulation will be about $140 million per year. Various state organizations opposed the regulation, including the Florida Farm Bureau and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which estimate this will cost the state $50 billion, according to the Herald.

But this is just another move to intimidate the public. The director of EPA’s Office of Science and Technology in Washington, Ephraim King, said to the Herald the opposition’s proposed numbers are unrealistic.

“They’re extreme and I think they create fear,” he said. “I think they create the impression in the minds of many Floridians that you have to make a choice between the economy and clean water. You don’t.”

Cutting pollution is necessary for the sustainability of water. Whether the costs of this program are in the millions or billions, Floridians need to do anything necessary to keep waters clean.

These regulations are long overdue. According to the states’ own measurements, 16 percent of rivers, 25 percent of estuaries and 36 percent of lakes are considered impaired because of pollution.

Pollution is not only harmful to valuable fish and wildlife in Florida, but may also undermine property values, harm recreation and tourism and increase risk to public health.

Nicholas Albergo, president of a Tampa-based engineering firm, urged EPA officials at the hearing not to rush and adopt the rules, which are scheduled to be finalized in October, according to the Herald.

However, slowing down will only cause more harm to Florida’s waters. The EPA needs to act quickly in order to ensure the safety of the state.

Xhenis Berberi is a senior majoring in political science and economics.