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NFC: Fw: Sarasota Herald Tribune column on TMDL rule

Here is a column that was in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune yesterday about the TMDL rule.  Thanks to Brenda Bossman with Lemon Bay Conservancy for making this happen.  Linda Young

                         Cleaning polluted water as
                        easy as changing definition
                        ERIC ERNST: Comment
                        posted 12/04/00

                        It's hard to come out against
                        clean water, but by golly, the
                        Florida Legislature and the state
                        Department of Environmental
                        Protection are doing the next best

                        They're bucking the federal Clean
                        Water Act.

                        If they get away with it, they'll
                        change the definition of which
                        Florida lakes, rivers, streams and
                        bays are polluted, and, by
                        extension, which ones they have
                        to do something about. Needless
                        to say, they don't want to have to
                        do anything about any of them.

                        Federal law says a substance
                        that dirties the water is a
                        pollutant. A new DEP rule, in draft
                        form, would limit the definition
                        only to quantities that substantially
                        change the nature of a waterway.
                        And, it would exempt permitted
                        dumping from the equation.

                        This is just the beginning.

                        The DEP is couching its changes
                        under the Florida Watershed
                        Restoration Act, passed by the
                        Legislature in 1999.

                        Don't fall for the title. This act will
                        do little more than revive the dark
                        ages when phosphate
                        companies, paper mills and land
                        developers called the shots under
                        the mistaken approach that what
                        was good for big business was
                        good for the rest of us.

                        "This (DEP) rule has been written
                        by the big polluters," says Linda
                        Young of the Clean Water

                        Young's organization, the federal
                        Environmental Protection Agency
                        and 52 other conservation groups
                        (including the Lemon Bay
                        Conservancy in Englewood) have
                        pointed to a number of
                        shortcomings in the DEP plan.

                        Among them:n

                        Conditions would have to
                        preclude swimming and fishing
                        before a body of water would be
                        considered polluted;n

                        Ten samples taken over a
                        10-year period in at least three of
                        the four seasons would be
                        required before a water would be
                        judged polluted.

                        In an Oct. 24 letter to the agency,
                        Young said, "We have hired
                        attorneys, engineers and
                        scientists . to offer expert
                        opinions regarding the flaws in
                        DEP's legal and scientific basis
                        for this proposed rule. . We
                        must conclude . that your
                        overtures for public participation
                        were in fact only made in good
                        faith to the regulated community."

                        If the feds are grousing, the
                        DEP's rule must really be a sham.
                        Under the Clean Water Act, all
                        states were supposed to submit
                        a list of polluted waters by 1979.
                        Florida never did. Three years
                        ago, Earthjustice Legal Defense
                        Fund had to sue EPA to enforce
                        the requirement.

                        An ensuing list identified 700
                        Florida water bodies that over the
                        years have yielded samples of
                        pollution. Under the Clean Water
                        Act, Florida would have to define
                        the amount of pollutants a body of
                        water could carry and set a
                        schedule for cleaning up any of
                        the waters that made the final,
                        polluted list.

                        That would mean, heaven forbid,
                        that the state might have to curtail
                        some of its favorite-son polluters,
                        from citrus to phosphate.

                        And, county and city governments
                        might have to control more of the
                        diffuse pollution that comes
                        during storm runoff from sources
                        such as roads, yards and

                        The Legislature knew just what to
                        do. It ordered DEP to get to work
                        - not at cleaning up the state's
                        polluted waters but at changing
                        the rules so the pollution could

                        And, if you think none of this really
                        affects you, take the word
                        "waters" in the preceeding text
                        and substitute the words Lemon
                        Bay, Peace River or Myakka

                        The new rule will undergo two
                        hearings in January and February
                        in Tallahassee.

                        Brenda Bossman, president of
                        the Lemon Bay Conservancy,
                        says it's not too late to do
                        something, such as call local
                        legislators or contact the DEP
                        (Attn: Bruce Boler, P.O. Box 2549
                        Fort Myers, FL 33902-2549,
                        (941) 332-6975 Ext. 129.

                        "Five years down the road,
                        everyone's going to start saying,
                        "What happened?'" Bossman
                        said. "This is when we need to
                        get involved, not wait until they set
                        the rules, then complain when
                        they're not enforcing anything."