Report on Hillsborough environment sees red
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06/19/08 Seán Kinane
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This morning, the Environmental Protection Commission, or EPC, of Hillsborough County received the annual State of the Environment Report and heard how the commission will trim $820,000 from its budget.

EPC Executive Director Rick Garrity presented the 2007 State of the Environment Report to EPC board members, who are also Hillsborough County commissioners. Garrity said many of the county’s waters have been declared impaired by the state or federal government, which are indicated by red in the report. “All of the Tampa Bay waters are red and it’s because of mercury.”

In addition to mercury, the impairments were due to nutrients, low dissolved oxygen or high bacteria counts, Garrity said. The estimated cost to meet state requirements for stormwater was “startling,” according to Garrity. “It’s going to cost anywhere between $22 (billion) to $52 billion.”

In order to save money and reduce waste the report will only be published online, he said. Garrity attributed the six days this year when air quality in the county was considered unsafe to more strict standards.

Rick Tschantz, from the EPC’s legal department, told the board the Citizens’ Environmental Advisory Committee is recommending the EPC moved forward with placing a referendum on November’s ballot asking voters to extend the county’s environmental land-buying program, known as ELAPP.

Two weeks ago, County Administrator Pat Bean presented her 2009 fiscal year budget recommendations to the County Commission. They included a further budget reduction of $822,000 for the EPC, on top of other recent cuts.

Tom Koulianos, director of the EPC’s finance and administration department, recommended a budget to the Board that included those reductions. Laying off those employees made up most of the reductions, Koulianos said. All the cuts had to be absorbed from the 60 percent of the EPC budget that comes from general fund revenue, according to Koulianos.

But EPC board member Jim Norman said because of the slowdown in development and construction, the cuts should go deeper.

The EPC voted unanimously to accept Koulianos’ budget recommendations. Members Kevin White and Ken Hagan were absent.

Learn more about the EPC and read the annual State of the Environment report at EPCHC.org. To get a report on the current Air Quality Index, call (813) 627-2626.

Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County

2007 annual State of the Environment report

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