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Bronson, Environmental Groups Battle Over Water Treatment

The state's agriculture commissioner and environmental groups are at odds over a potential plan to implement nutrient standards for bodies of water in Florida.

Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charlie Bronson is intervening in a proposed settlement of a lawsuit filed by a Florida environemtnal group against the U.S. Environemental Protection Agency, saying that the proposed settlement between the two groups is “arbitrary and unreasonable.”

Earthjustice, a public law interest firm, filed a suit in the Northern District of Florida in July 2008 on behalf of the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, St. John's Riverkeeper, and the Sierra Club, arguing for stricter water standards.

In 2008, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection had concluded that half of the state's rivers and more than half of its lakes had poor water quality. The St. Johns River has experienced a toxigenic blue green algae bloom. And Tampa Bay has suffered from bacterial outbreaks as well.

In August, the EPA proposed a settlement that would compel the state to comply with strict limits on nutrient standards for the state's bodies of water. The proposal is still subject to a judge's approval.

But Bronson and the South Florida Water Management District are challenging the order. Bronson said the EPA's proposal would preempt efforts by the state Department of Environmental Protection to develop science-based nutrient standards and cost the state millions of dollars.

“These new standards would impose regulations far in excess of anything being considered in any other state, drastically increasing costs for all consumers,” Bronson said in a release. “It is important that the court understands the magnitude of this issue and the standards for controlling nutrients in our state.”

Bronson has asked the state's other four water management districts to join him in the intervention, prompting outrage from Earthjustice attorneys.

“This is shameful,” said Earthjustice Attorney David Guest. “There are toxic algae blooms all over the state, water treatment plants closing due to nutrient poisoning, and yet Bronson directs the state to work for the polluters and against the people.”

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