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

Speaking to the state House Subcommittee on Agriculture and Natural Resources yesterday, the Florida Department of Agriculture’s Rich Budell continued to express concern with federally mandated water pollution standards. Though the state of Florida is currently in a race to draw up its own rules before the EPA can implement its regulations, Budell said that ”the concerns are really the same” no matter who creates them.

“Florida collects more water quality data than any other state in the nation … [and] we have the most advanced reuse,” said Budell, who has criticized the EPA’s numeric nutrient criteria in the past.

Among Budell’s concerns with the EPA’s version of the water pollution rules? “The science is weak,” “we don’t think they do an adequate job considering the diversity of waters in Florida” and “many biologically healthy waters under the EPA rule would be determined impaired.”

As for claims that Florida’s agricultural industry (whose fertilizer-laden effluent often contributes to algal blooms and fish kills) wouldn’t be affected by the rules, Budell told the panel it’s an assertion that “is at best naive.”

Budell claims that point-source polluters like pulp and paper mills, dairy operations and hog farms would definitely be impacted, despite EPA claims to the contrary.

“EPA has made it very clear in other parts of the country … [and] clearly indicated the direction they are taking is to require states to implement programs to regulate agricultural stormwater flow,” he said. “The Clean Water Act may not give them permitting authority over agriculture  [but] they have other mechanisms. … That’s the connection we make from what we see the agency doing in other parts of the country.”

Though Budell himself admitted that much about the rules remains uncertain, he made clear his stance that “no sector of agriculture can comply with the … criteria as proposed.”

Budell did say that the ag industry in general supports the state’s efforts to write its own rules, which he said would be “infinitely more palatable” than the EPA’s version.

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