Friday, July 20, 2012

National Environmental CEO's Ask EPA to Reject Florida's Nutrient Standards

American Rivers ● Clean Water Action Earthjustice Environment America Friends of the Earth Izaak Walton League of America League of Conservation Voters National Parks Conservation Association National Wildlife Federation Natural Resources Defense Council ● Physicians for Social Responsibility Sierra Club

July 19, 2012

The Honorable Lisa Jackson, Administrator     The Honorable Nancy Sutley, Chair
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency            White House Council on Environmental Quality
Ariel Rios, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.       722 Jackson Place N.W. Washington, DC 20004                          Washington, DC 20506

Dear Administrator Jackson and Chair Sutley,

As leaders of the nation’s largest environmental organizations concerned with public health and clean water, we write you on behalf of our millions of members and supporters to urge you to protect Florida’s waters from toxic algae outbreaks and disapprove Floridas proposed standards that fail to achieve that goal. This is both a regional and national imperative, as nitrogen and phosphorous pollution from sewage treatment plants, fertilizer and manure runoff, and other sources foul not only Florida’s waters but also rivers, streams, lakes, and beaches across the country.

Passage of the Clean Water Act forty years ago was one of the most important and popular environmental achievements in our history, creating a legacy of cleaner water in the United States. The growing numbers of toxic algae outbreaks in Florida and beyond demonstrates that the job of ending the pollution of the nations waters is still far from complete.  In Florida, 70 percent of freshwater springs have nutrient concentrations at least 500 percent higher than historic background concentrations.   Just last month, Northern Florida’s Santa Fe River experienced it’s first ever massive algae bloom along the most popular canoeing section of the river. Last month, Glades, Hendy, and Lee counties all issued public health advisories warning the public to stay out of the algae infested waters of the Caloosahatchee River in the southwest part of the state.

Reducing nutrient pollution is a critically important issue for the environmental community in Florida and it has been a long fought battle with polluting industries and their friends in state government to address it. EPA must act to protect Florida’s waters from toxic algae outbreaks to avoid economic impacts in addition to the environmental ones. Tourism at Florida’s famous beaches is vulnerable if swimming means risking respiratory distress from red tide toxins. Waterfront property owners are faced with Algae Alert” signs warning people not to swim in, drink, or eat fish from those waters, or even let their pets near the water. People who swam, fished, and went boating in these lakes, rivers, and streams as children are shocked by their current condition.

At issue today is whether EPA will approve Florida’s state standards. Governor Scotts administration is asking EPA to approve state rules written for the polluting industries.  While the state claims to have adopted EPA-approvable rules, it has not.  

We understand that a great deal of lobbying pressure is being applied to get EPA to approve Floridas standards.  We urge that you do not. At a minimum, EPA must look carefully at whether the state’s rules will meet acceptable pollution limits and protect Florida’s waters

As the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act approaches, EPA is asking the public Water, Is It Worth It?  We believe the answer in Florida and across the country is a resounding “Yes.”  EPA can demonstrate its commitment to clean water by ending toxic algae pollution in Florida.   We urge you to protect America’s legacy of clean water so that future generations may benefit from these important resources.

Thank you for your continued commitment to protecting our nation’s waters.


Trip Van Noppen 

Wm. Robert Irvin 
President and CEO 
American Rivers

Margie Alt 
Executive Directo
Environment America

Michael Brun
Executive Directo
Sierra Club

Robert Wendelgass 
President and CEO 
Clean Water Action

Erich Pica
Friends of the Earth

Frances Beinecke
Natural Resources Defense Council

Catherine Thomasson, M
Executive Director
Physicians for Social Responsibility

Thomas C. Kiernan
National Parks Conservation Association

Larry J. Schweiger
President and CEO
National Wildlife Federation

David W. Hoskins
Executive Director
Izaak Walton League of America

Gene Karpinski
League of Conservation Voters