Florida Statewide – It’s a decision that has been over 30 years in the making. On November 30, 2023, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a proposed rule that would bring Florida’s human health criteria (HHC) for Water Quality Standards into the 21st century. 1992 was the last time Florida updated its regulations and standards for toxic pollutants. Since that time, new scientific data on toxins as well as an increased fish consumption rate have proven the need for not only revised criteria for priority pollutants, but also the introduction of HHC for 37 new pollutants that are likely to exist in Florida waters. This rulemaking is a direct result of actions taken by the Environmental Defense Alliance and Waterkeepers Florida.
In early 2022, the Environmental Defense Alliance and Waterkeepers Florida sent a petition to the EPA urging the agency to make a determination that new and revised water quality criteria are necessary to meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act, which requires state governments and the EPA to set limits on pollutants that pose a threat to human health either through the consumption of water or locally caught fish or shellfish. In December 2022, after months of dialogue, the EPA issued a determination acknowledging that Florida’s current Human Health Criteria for Priority Toxic Pollutants do not protect Florida’s people and waterways and that new and updated rules are required.
“This rulemaking is a critical step towards establishing water quality criteria in Florida that reflect the state’s rapidly changing environmental conditions and ensuring that locally caught fish and shellfish are safe to eat,” asserts Jen Lomberk, Chair of Waterkeepers Florida.
At a time when a growing number of waters are failing to meet existing state standards, it is more crucial than ever that the criteria for toxic pollutants are as up-to-date as possible not only for the safety of our waterways, but for the health of Florida residents and visitors. For Waterkeepers Florida, this determination proves the power of citizen action and further supports efforts to make the Clean Water Act’s mission of fishable, swimmable, drinkable water a reality in all parts of our beautiful state. We are proud of this great water quality win and will continue to fight for accountability from polluters and state agencies alike. Nevertheless, “we are concerned that EPA’s proposed 22.0 grams per day fish consumption rate is too low for Florida and will leave Floridians exposed to levels of toxic pollutants in fish that risk cancer and systemic disease,” says David Ludder, attorney for Environmental Defense Alliance.
The EPA is currently accepting comments on this proposal until February 6, 2024 and will be holding two online public hearings on January 23 and 24 of 2024.
For more information, please visit: www.epa.gov/wqs-tech/water-quality-standards-protect-human-health-florida