ST. LUCIE COUNTY, FL (WFLX) - In a 5-0 vote, St. Lucie County commissioners approved Tuesday evening a ban on the use of nitrogen and or phosphorus fertilizers on landscapes during the rainy season - June 1 to September 30.
The ordinance is designed to limit nitrogen and phosphorus runoff into the Indian River Lagoon, which can be blamed for algae blooms and some toxic conditions similar to the environmental disaster that affected the estuary this summer.
Neighboring Martin County also voted Tuesday to allow the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to lease land on the Bessey Creek Property, a storm water treatment area in Palm City, so that it can implement a new technology that combines chemical and conventional wetlands treatment to eliminate as much phosphorous as possible from the water.
The ban goes into effect June 1.
Federal judge signs off on Fla. water pollution limits
TALLAHASSEE, FL (AP) - A federal judge is signing off on Florida's water pollution rules, but environmentalists are blasting the decision and say they may appeal it.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled Tuesday that state and federal authorities can move ahead with an agreement that lets the state set rules designed to head off contamination that leads to toxic algae blooms.
It's the latest chapter in a long-running battle over the regulation of the state's lakes, rivers and estuaries and whether the rules should be developed by state environmental officials or by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and state environmental officials hailed the latest decision.
"Judge Hinkle's ruling is a testament to Florida's proven ability to manage its own water resource protection and restoration programs," Putnam said in a written statement.
But environmentalists contend the ruling means that stricter federal Clean Water Act protections will not apply to two-thirds of Florida waters.
David Guest, an attorney with the nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice, said the state's rules aren't preventing pollution.
"Florida's clean water regulations just aren't working, and we need EPA to step in and do the job," said Guest. "We have so much sewage, fertilizer, and manure contamination that we have toxic slime outbreaks happening all over the state. Hundreds of dead manatees, dolphins, fish and birds have been washing up on shores in South Florida. The Clean Water Act is supposed to prevent things like this."
When fertilizer and animal manure from farms and ranches run into waterways, they bring nitrogen and phosphorus. Those act as nutrients to algae.
The algae essentially have a feeding frenzy, resulting in the blooms that cause red tides and other slimy, smelly outbreaks
Several environmental groups took the EPA to court when it failed to enforce its own regulation requiring states to establish numeric standards for such nutrients. A 2009 agreement called on the federal government to draw up the standards, but it came under fire from industry groups and state officials as too expensive and burdensome.
Last year state and federal authorities reached an agreement to have the state take the lead in writing and enforcing water pollution rules.
Hinkle's ruling changes the 2009 agreement to allow this new arrangement to go forward. The Department of Environmental Protection in a written statement said the ruling is a "necessary catalyst to move beyond litigation and end needless delays that prevented us from applying these additional protections."
But environmental groups contend the state rules have loopholes that will continue to allow problems in major water bodies such as the St. Johns River and the Indian River Lagoon.
"This ruling, if not challenged, will reinforce the status quo of allowing too much pollution into our waterways, damaging our tourism- based economy and expecting taxpayers to pick of the tab for massively expensive cleanup projects," said Jennifer Hecker, director of Natural Resource Policy of Conservancy of Southwest Florida.