Sunday, July 20, 2008

Environmental Groups sue for cleaner water rules

The Associated Press reports that five environmental groups have filed suit against the EPA in a Tallahassee federal court. The suit was brought by the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida and the St. Johns Riverkeeper.

A copy of the complaint is available from Earth Justice here. Earth Justice describes the lawsuit as follows:

The Clean Water Act puts pollution limits on lakes and streams to protect their uses for drinking water, shellfish, recreation, and fish and wildlife habitat. Lakes and streams are required to meet pollution concentration limits to protect those uses. However, the current standard used by most states only states "concentrations that cause an imbalance in natural flora or fauna" allows states and the polluters to claim that unnatural bacterial growths, wild uncontrolled algae mats or vegetative growths, or the loss of fish is due to other causes. In fact, they are caused by pollution from nitrogen and phosphorus which fertilize the water so that a panoply of undesirable growths take place. The sources of those pollutants are animal waste, effluent from sewage treatment plants, and fertilizer from farms and to a lesser extent from urban areas. Not having a measurable limit makes enforcement of the phosphorus and nitrogen limits almost impossible. The result has been a growing number of toxic algal outbreaks in lakes and dead zones in estuaries and in the Gulf of Mexico. Drinking water sources are threatened, as are important ecosystems.

Earthjustice is seeking to force the EPA to create effective water quality standards.

The AP article also includes quotes from Earth Justice attorney David Guest:
The plaintiffs hope a favorable ruling would force the EPA to implement standards for every state, most of which have only vague limits on such pollution, said Earthjustice attorney David Guest.

The groups say rain sends the runoff, which includes fertilizers and animal waste, into rivers and lakes, contaminating waterways and nourishing algae blooms that poison the ecosystems.

"This is endemic throughout the United States," Guest said. "When you fertilize the water, it makes it so that only one instrument in the ecological orchestra can play. Where you used to have this vast ecological orchestra, now it's only the algae playing."

More on the suit is available from Naples Daily News & News-Press.

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