Florida ERC tackles controversial issues today

The Environmental Regulation Commission will take up three controversial proposals when it meets Thursday in Tallahassee. The ERC will consider a proposed Florida Department of Environmental Protection rule to establish a new waterway classification system for determining water quality standards.

The Florida Stormwater Association in 2009 petitioned DEP to create a new classification so that local governments are not required to spend millions of dollars improving water quality in ditches and canals. The Clean Water Network, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Clean Water Action and the Everglades Foundation want the DEP to delay action until the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency establishes numeric standards for nitrogen and phosphorus.

The commission also will consider a proposed rule that would establish alternative criteria for transparency in the lower Fenholloway River and nearby Gulf of Mexico waters. Buckeye Florida, a pulp mill in Perry that discharges treated industrial wastewater into the Fenholloway River, requested the alternative criteria as allowed under state rules. DEP contends that the proposal would allow for sea grasses in the Gulf of Mexico that died because of the dark discharge from the mill to recover. DEP also says the proposal would have no effect on human health. In a letter sent earlier this month to the ERC, the Clean Water Network contends that the alternative criteria represent a weakening of water quality standards so that Buckeye can build a 15-mile pipeline to discharge its wastewater downstream in the river near the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico.

The ERC also will consider a proposed rule restricting the land application of sewage sludge called “biosolids.” Audubon of Florida published a report in 2009 calling on the state to protect water quality by ending the practice of spreading biosolids.

The commission meets at 9 a.m. in the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Building, 3900 Commonwealth Boulevard. To download the agenda, go to http://www.dep.state.fl.us/legal/ERC/default.htm

(Story provided by The Florida Tribune. Story and photo copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and FloridaEnvironments.com. Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained by contacting brucebritchie@gmail.com.)