EPA agrees to study new water standards in Florida

The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency has agreed to an independent review of federal water quality standards for Florida that were adopted last fall.

The EPA says nitrogen and phosphorus have caused algae in Florida waterways and toxic red tides along the coast. The federal numeric nutrient criteria replaces a state narrative standard that environmentalists said was too vague to be enforced.

But agriculture, industry groups and utilities along with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Attorney General Pam Bondi have sued to block the new standards.

EPA has estimated the cost of complying with the rule at $135 million to $206 million. But the Cardno Entrix consulting firm estimated the maximum costs as ranging from $3 billion to $8 billion. The firm was hired by the Florida Water Quality Coalition, which consists of agriculture and business groups and utilities.

Cardno Entrix estimates vary depending on whether the standard is applied at the end of a plant’s pollution pipe or is applied overall to waterways receiving pollution.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a letter to Sen. Bill Nelson that her agency is working with the National Academy of Sciences to conduct the review. “Because the economic impact of the rule is dominating the public discussion in Florida, I agree with you, senator, that an independent cost review of EPA’s economic analysis should be performed.

To download the EPA letter, click here.