How will Florida's battle with EPA over nutrient regulations affect Hillsborough?

08/18/11 Matthew Cimitile
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The state of Florida is in a battle with thefeds over water quality. Hillsborough County is affected by the ongoing dispute over regulating nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in Florida.

In 2008, a Florida Department of Environmental Protection report determine that half the rivers and lakes in Florida were impaired because of nutrients. After getting no response from the state for a plan to clean up its waterways, the federal Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, imposed numeric limits on the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus allowed in Florida waters. from nutrients. Richard Boler, environmental scientist for the Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County, said because of a local uproar over EPA’s decision, the state petitioned the EPA to abandon its move and is now beginning to create its own nutrient rules.

“The EPA told Florida DEP if you want to go ahead with rule making and get it done expeditiously we will consider those rules. So they have held public workshops and prepared drafts. Later this year those rules will go to Environmental Regulatory Commission and then hopefully ratified by the State Legislature in 2012. Assuming all that goes through, EPA will either delay implementation for another several months or defer and withdraw its numeric nutrient criteria.”

Regardless of who may implement the nutrient criteria, local agriculture, industry and government are concerned that the new rules will be costly. During today's Environmental Protection Commission meeting, EPC board member and Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner questioned Boler about how many water bodies may be impaired under any new criteria.

“Do we know the proposed metrics they are looking to institute, and if those go into effect how many waterways would be impaired here and how many would we have to start considering allocating resources to clean those up to stay in compliance?”

“Many of the water bodies in the Alafia River failed the test for nitrogen, the Alafia River absolutely fails the test for phosphorus. To meet the numbers, the entire river at this point would fail to meet the phosphorus standard.”

Hillsborough's County Environmental Protection Commission is studying what impact Tampa’s new fertilizer rule restricting summertime use of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers will have on reducing impaired water bodies in the region.

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