Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is proposing a rule to ease restrictions on toxic chemicals in our surface waters, and the rule will have direct impacts on our health. Now the EPA has to accept or reject the rule, and they need to hear from you.
On July 26th, the state's Environmental Regulation Commission passed this proposed rule by a 3-2 vote. In early August, the Seminole tribe challenged the rule in state court, stating that Florida had violated procedures in rushing the rule and had cut short public comment periods. Furthermore, they claim that the rule does not protect tribal communities. On September 13th, the challenge was dismissed because the tribe filed at 5:02pm, and the deadline was 5:00pm. Any day, the rule will go to the EPA to either approve or reject.
Check this out in our Miami Herald Op-Ed too.
Carcinogens, or toxic compounds that have been shown to cause cancer, include benzene, which DEP’s proposed rule changes would allow to increase by a factor of three in our water. The rule changes would also allow dramatic increases in allowable limits of perchloroethylene—the toxin implicated in the infamous Camp Lejeune Cancer Cluster, where U.S. service members developed cancer after drinking water contaminated with this carcinogen.
How and why is Governor Scott’s DEP proposing to loosen the regulations of cancer-causing agents in our waterways?
The how is simple: DEP is utilizing different models for calculating cancer risk than the methods used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and every other state in the nation. Furthermore, Governor Scott’s DEP is accepting the likelihood that more Florida citizens might develop cancer with these new exposure limits, using a carcinogenic “chemical risk calculation” that is 10 times (or sometime 100 times) higher than the current rule allows. In other words, where the existing regulations accept the risk that toxic exposure levels might cause cancer in 1 in a million people, DEP’s proposed rule changes would allow that number to rise for some risk groups to 1 in 100,000 people, or, in some cases, even 1 in 10,000.
The risk factors increase for people who eat Florida-caught seafood more than once per week, and even more so for subsistence fishermen who might eat seafood daily, because the chemicals that accumulate in fish or shellfish are passed along to humans who consume them. Aside from increasing our cancer risk, allowing higher carcinogen levels in our water, and thus in our fish, will hurt the market for Florida seafood, deterring the public from choosing “Fresh from Florida” shellfish and fish.
As for the why, many of the toxic compounds currently under review are, not coincidentally, the very same chemicals commonly used in fracking and other polluting industries. Although some 50 Florida counties and cities have banned fracking, Tallahassee has tried several times to preempt these bans.
What have we done so far?
Miami Waterkeeper has partnered with other organizations and experts in the field to submit technical comments to the EPA. These comments highlight the deficiencies in FDEP's model for evaluating risk. Check out our comments HERE and the technical assessment by our expert HERE.
For more information Miami Waterkeeper's actions to fight this rule change, you can download our press release HERE.
How can you help?
1) Send this email (below), or one like it, to FloridaHHC@epa.gov
2) Talk about this on social media and share this link
3) Sign this petition (below)
4) Call your state and federal senators, representatives, and city and county commissioners and let them know about your concerns with this rule and EPA’s decision. We also have a draft resolution (adapted from Clean Water Network) that municipalities can pass to show that they are opposed to this rule. Email Kelly @miamiwaterkeeper.org to request a copy of the resolution.
5) Donate to Miami Waterkeeper to support our efforts to keep Florida’s water clean
EMAIL TEMPLATE TO SEND TO EPA: **This letter is just a suggestion. You can use it, or even better, add more personal reasons why you oppose the rule. It means more if each letter is unique. Please be polite, and whenever possible, write clearly and formally with proper punctuation and capitalization. How will this rule affect your family? How will this rule affect your livelihood?**
Dear Administrator McCarthy and Region 4 Administrator McTeer,
I am writing to express my strong opposition to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Human Health and Toxic Water Quality Criteria (HHC) rule. I ask that the EPA reject this rule change in order to protect the health of Florida’s citizens, environment, and economy. The proposed rule change would increase the allowable limits of numerous toxic compounds that are discharged into the state’s rivers, lakes, streams and coastal waters. Such a rule change would come at the expense of Florida’s public health, economy, and environment and will put all Floridians at risk. This rule was confusingly written, fast-tracked through a vote without a full Environmental Regulation Commission board present to represent the public, and passed after only three public meetings were held – none of which were in south Florida. The public then given less than 30 days to comment on this highly-technical rule. We feel that the new rule should protect all Floridians, not just the “average” Floridian, to the highest standard, and the standard recommended by the EPA of one in a million cancer risk. This rule unduly puts our citizens, and particularly our tribal communities at risk, as well our economy, which depends on its clean water. Please help to protect us from this dangerous rule, which narrowly passed in an unfair rulemaking process that deliberately disengaged the public in multiple ways. Thank you for the opportunity to comment to you and for correcting this dangerous rulemaking effort by the FDEP. On behalf of Floridians, please do not approve FDEP’s proposed rule change to human health water quality criteria.