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

Despite objections from environmental groups, the six-member Environmental Regulation Commission unanimously approved a set of water pollution standards drafted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection yesterday.

Last week, a coalition of environmental groups announced their decision to file a petition against the Department of Environmental Protection’s “numeric nutrient criteria,” a set of water pollution standards they argue are not strong enough to fully protect Florida’s waterways.

The criteria are the result of a 2008 lawsuit that led to a federal mandate from the EPA requiring Florida to create a stricter set of water rules. Though the EPA was set to establish and implement the Florida-specific standards, the agency recently caved to demands from industry and lawmakers arguing that Florida should develop its own rules. Environmentalists say the state’s version of the rules are poor, and only acknowledges pollution after it has degraded water bodies.

In a statement released in response to yesterday’s unanimous decision, Earthjustice attorney David Guest says the rule “was basically written by lobbyists for corporate polluters” and won’t clean up state waterways “by any stretch of the imagination.”

The rules will next be submitted to the Florida Legislature for ratification.

Guest’s full statement:

The rule they passed today was basically written by lobbyists for corporate polluters. It certainly won’t clean up our waterways — by any stretch of the imagination.

We are talking about toxic slime in the water from sewage, manure and fertilizer pollution. We need to clean it up.

What we need are clear limits on the amount of sewage, fertilizer and manure that’s allowed in our water. The state Department of Environmental Protection’s rule doesn’t provide clear limits. In fact, this rule will let the toxic algae outbreaks that cover our water with nauseating green slime continue and get worse.

This is a public health threat that has gone on too long. This slime really affects our economy. The state Department of Health has had to post warning signs to keep swimmers out of the water. That’s not good. This is Florida and our entire economy depends on tourists.

People want our water cleaned up, and soon. They don’t want state leaders giving out more favors for polluters.

DEP Secretary Herschel Vinyard made a statement that this is “the right thing to do.”

That only makes sense if you think it’s right to keep letting corporate polluters use our public waters as their private sewers. We don’t think that’s right at all.

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