Numeric Nutrient Criteria in Florida – How it Happened and What it Means for Georgia
Hammond, Daniel G.
Durbin, Douglas J.
Robbins, Kristan N. M.
MetadataShow full item record
The US Environmental Protection Agency has promulgated numeric nutrient criteria for Florida. This unusual action was the result of a settlement in a lawsuit by environmental interests alleging that EPA was not enforcing the Clean Water Act with respect to Florida waters. Prior to EPA finalizing the criteria, Florida had spent a decade and some $20 million to gather and analyze information to set its own criteria. The nitrogen and phosphorus limits EPA has imposed on Florida are low enough that virtually all public and private sector entities with water management responsibilities have expressed serious concern over the cost and the technical ability to comply. Particularly vocal interests include local governments with MS4 stormwater permits, wastewater utilities, the agricultural community, phosphate mining interests, the pulp and paper industry, and even the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Over 3,300 comments were submitted to EPA expressing concern over scientific processes used to derive the criteria, lack of demonstrated doseresponse relationships between nutrients and biology, massive costs to build or upgrade treatment systems, inability of conventional technologies to achieve the criteria, how the criteria will be enforced at the state level, and the legal precedent established by EPA stepping in to promulgate water quality criteria for a state which was working cooperatively with the federal agency for years to establish criteria on its own. This presentation provides insight into scientific issues surrounding the new criteria, implementation and compliance issues, and the associated cost projections. These issues are relevant to Georgia because EPA has made it clear that other states will have numeric nutrient criteria. Also, Georgia has several watersheds exiting through Florida on their way to the Gulf of Mexico, some of which have already seen controversy and legal wrangling over water issues. Nutrient criteria may be the sequel to that story.