Pollution in the St. Johns River (Pic by deadgirlsdontdance, via Flickr)

A slew of national organizations and businesses are continuing to urge EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to approve a set of Florida-specific water pollution standards drafted by the state, rather than set of rules promulgated by the federal government. In a letter sent to Jackson earlier this month, groups including The Fertilizer Institute argue that the state Department of Environmental Protection has “worked tirelessly” to develop its own water quality standards.

Currently, Florida relies on a narrative water quality standard, the wording of which (.pdf) has been criticized as too vague to be effective. A numeric standard, however, would express specific allowable concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus (nutrients which often lead to algal blooms and fish kills) in water.

A lawsuit settled in 2009 resulted in a mandate requiring Florida to implement stricter rules. Though the EPA is the federal agency mandating those rules, the agency has said it would allow the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to develop its own rules, and implement them if they are approved.

A portion of those rules was slated to go into effect earlier this month, but was recently delayed until July.

A piece of legislation directing the EPA to implement the Florida-drafted standards (in place of the rules drafted by the EPA) was unanimously approved by the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission, the Florida Legislature and signed by Governor Rick Scott.

“Florida is recognized as a national leader in implementing a sophisticated suite of water quality and technology-based nutrient management programs to protect its water bodies,” reads a letter from 48 business groups. “In fact, FDEP has spent more than $20 million during the last decade to collect and analyze data related to the concentrations and impacts of nutrients in Florida’s water bodies. By utilizing this data and analysis, FDEP has worked tirelessly over the past year to develop scientifically defensible water quality standards. While there will be significant costs associated with these standards, we believe they are technically achievable standards that our members and other stakeholders will be able to meet while working in partnership with the state.”

Earlier this month, a third-party review found that the EPA had underestimated the costs associated with implementing its criteria. In a statement released shortly after that review, The Fertilizer Institute President Ford B. West said that his organization was “not surprised” by the findings.

“The potential cost to the agricultural sector has been a primary concern for TFI while addressing this issue,” said West. “The National Research Council’s report validates the agricultural community’s position regarding the enormous cost associated with implementation of EPA’s rule.”

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