Everglades water permits to restore Everglades water quality OK’d by EPA

Everglades water permits to restore Everglades water quality OK’d by EPA

Permits submitted by the state of Florida under the federal Clean Water Act to improve the quality of water flowing into the Everglades will satisfy the Environmental Protection Agency’s permit objections and will meet the requirements of the CWA in EPA’s Sept. 3, 2010 Amended Determination, the agency has announced.

The submission contains a suite of projects to be built and implemented by the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) that will reduce phosphorus discharges into the Everglades.

The projects and related implementation schedule will be formalized through FDEP water-discharge permits issued to the SFWMD under the CWA and through an enforcement consent order between the two state agencies. EPA retains authority to enforce the permit requirements and will maintain an oversight role under a framework agreement between EPA and FDEP.

“The Obama Administration is firmly committed to protecting and restoring the Everglades, an extraordinary ecosystem and international treasure,” said Gwen Keyes Fleming, regional administrator for EPA’s southeastern region.

 “A healthy Everglades is vital to the well-being of Florida and contributes jobs and billions of dollars to Florida’s economy.”

In response to an order from Judge Alan Gold of the U.S. Court of the Southern District of Florida, on Sept. 3, 2010, EPA released a plan, known as the “Amended Determination,” that established a detailed blueprint for the actions required under the CWA by Florida to achieve CWA standards for reducing total phosphorus in water delivered to the Everglades.

EPA later objected to draft Florida permits for phosphorus discharges that did not meet federal requirements.

EPA gave Florida the opportunity to submit an alternative to the Amended Determination that was effective in meeting water quality goals and was enforceable. On September 29, 2011, Florida Governor Rick Scott provided an alternative plan to federal officials.

EPA, FDEP and SFWMD then engaged in extensive discussions about the Governor’s plan in which EPA recommended enhanced water treatment projects and other features to improve water quality protections and the parties developed an enforceable framework of permits and State orders to achieve phosphorus discharge limits.

Phosphorus is a nutrient that comes from both natural sources and fertilizers. Too much phosphorus causes chemical and biological changes that degrade natural systems, such as wetlands, lakes and coastal areas.

“This action is the culmination of an intensive seven-month process of discussions among EPA, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), the SFWMD, and other key federal agencies, including Interior and the Department of the Army, on the plan to clean up the Everglades,” Keyes Fleming said.

“We appreciate the hard work that all parties have undertaken to deliver this final package to EPA.”

The permits and orders submitted by the state establish for the first time a science-based protective limit (WQBEL) on phosphorus pollution discharges into the Everglades, projects to remove phosphorus to achieve that limit, a robust plan of monitoring and scientific research to confirm that the restoration is moving forward, and an enforceable framework to insure compliance.

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