Tomorrow the Florida Department of Environmental Protection holds the first of six meetings to gather public input on proposed surface-water cleanup plans. At least one group plans to use the meetings to complain the state isn’t tough enough on polluters.
The environmental department will take feedback on plans for monitoring water quality and restoring impaired waters. DEP Environmental Assessment and Restoration Director Tom Frick says this is the first year the state has the ability to prioritize water cleanup based partly on input from people who are affected locally.
“This is one of a number of opportunities for stakeholders to be able to give the department information that they currently have as far as assessment of our waters and also give us information and priorities from the local level of which water bodies need to be restored," he says.
But Annette Long, president of environmental group Save Our Suwannee, says even though the department is asking for input, her group remains unhappy that state law allows industries to operate under a system of voluntary pollution reduction. She says a Save Our Suwannee rep plans to ask questions at Tuesday’s meeting in Live Oak about a measurement known as Total Maximum Daily Load, or the amount of pollutants water can hold without causing harm to ecosystems.
“What are quantifiable ways that we know we’re doing the right thing for our waters? And how will these new TMDL rules make our water better? Specifically where in the language is it? Because we just don’t see it," she says.
Long says under the current system, springs and rivers have become increasingly contaminated. Her group and others would like to see Florida return to enforcing a statewide maximum water pollution level.
The public meetings continue around the state through late March.