Florida Loosens Water Regulations

By ALEX AMENTA / Assistant News Editor

On Wednesday, September 14th, Judge Bram D.E. Canter, an administrative law judge issued a ruling that summarily dismisses the protests of several organizations: The Seminole Tribe of Florida, the city of Miami, Martin County and Florida Pulp and Paper Association Environmental Affairs, Inc. These organizations filed suits to counter the efforts of State Environmental regulators. They are trying to push legislation which will effectively increase the number of a toxic chemicals in Florida drinking water from 54 to 92 chemicals. He dismissed their concerns to this controversial law on the grounds of administrative legal law, claiming they filed their concerns under a “notice of change”, when it should have been under a “notice of correction”. Regardless, this law is in direct conflict of interest between industry giants in Florida (like oil and gas drilling companies, fracking operations, dry cleaning companies, pulp and paper producers, nuclear plants, wastewater treatment plants, and agriculture) and the interests of the people who inhabit Florida – who have to drink the water and live to see their waterways become more polluted throughout their lifetime. To environmentalists, this is a non-issue. Already, toxic algae blooms are damaging the shores of South Florida. Increasing the number of carcinogen and toxic chemicals would only lead to more environmental and health concerns.

One chemical in particular benzene (a known carcinogen) has a federal standard of only 1.14 parts per billion in drinking water. Under the new water standards being proposed by the state the new allowable levels would be 2 parts per million. Benzene is a byproduct of oil and gas fracking, and environmentalists see allowing greater levels of benzene as a way for regulators to pave the way for fracking in Florida. The current standards for allowable toxic materials in Florida’s drinking water under the EPA, only allow for enough chemicals to cause cancer in one in one-million people. Under the new standards proposed by the state this would increase dramatically to one in one-hundred thousand. Environmentalists know that the state standards are vastly less effective at protecting them from exposure to toxic chemicals in the drinking water. They estimate the new standards being pushed by the state will be 80 to 90 percent less effective than the federal regulations on allowable toxic substances in drinking water. Despite outcries from almost every conservationist and scientific authority against these new water standards, state regulators justify these new standards with a controversial, probabilistic analysis coined “monte carlo” which has been under scrutiny from environmentalists. Because monte carlo is a one of a kind scientific method formulated by the Department of Environmental protection (DEP), environmentalists question how much of it is based off real scientific fact and process.

The numerous organizations that had their case dismissed by Judge Canter on grounds of late submission of paperwork now must watch these new standards go into effect before the EPA can closely scrutinize the new toxic water standards being supported by the DEP. This translates into months that big industry polluters can dump chemicals in larger concentrations legally with the new water standards, before the EPA has time to deem the standards reasonable or unreasonable.

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