The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that it had issued Consent Agreements and Final Orders against 25 entities throughout the Southeast for violations of the Clean Water Act. Three Florida wastewater utilities were also penalized, for improperly disposing of sewage sludge.

As part of the settlements, the responsible parties have agreed to pay $184,317 in civil penalties and spend an additional $284,791 to come into compliance.

Ten entities were cited for alleged stormwater-related violations of the Clean Water Act, which are a leading cause of impairment to the nearly 40 percent of water bodies nationwide that are not currently meeting water quality standards.

Wastewater utilities in 14 municipalities, including Florida, were also penalized for “failing to provide biosolids reports and/or otherwise failing to comply with Section 503 of the CWA covering requirements for land disposal of sewage sludge.” Plantation, Lake City, and Starke were each fined $900 for their failure to comply.

“By taking these enforcement actions, we are sending a strong message about the importance of protecting rivers, lakes, and streams,” said EPA Regional Administrator Gwen Keyes Fleming in a press release. “By addressing the violations noted in our inspections, these entities will prevent millions of pounds of pollution from entering the environment, in addition to protecting the quality of life for families across the Southeast.”

Pollutants of concern include nutrients, sediment, oil and grease, chemicals, and metals. When left uncontrolled, water pollution can deplete needed oxygen and/or otherwise result in the destruction of aquatic habitats, as well as the fish and wildlife that depend on them. Water pollution can also contaminate food, drinking water supplies, and recreational waterways, and thereby pose a threat to public health.

A coalition of environmental groups, including the St. Johns Riverkeeper and Sierra Club, recently filed a petition against a set of water standards recently drafted by the state Department of Environmental Protection. The groups allege that the standards are not strong enough to comply with the Clean Water Act, since they allow waterways to further degrade before they are cleaned up.

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