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Ruling on Numeric Nutrient Standards in Florida’s Waterways

Published: January 9th, 2013

Dennis G. Corrick

At the end of November 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took action regarding the much-debated “numeric nutrient” issue in Florida’s waterways.  During the summer, Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) forwarded state standards that it sought to implement instead of the previously issued EPA standards.  Florida’s standards, while containing many numeric standards, gave more latitude to variances between water bodies in different regions of the state.  This latitude was based on differing underlying conditions and background levels of nutrients.  The FDEP standards also exempted certain “Class III” ditches and canals and did not provide standards for estuaries.  EPA’s actions in November accepted the FDEP standards, but proposed regulations for the flowing waters (e.g., ditches) that were exempted from the FDEP rule.  It additionally proposed numeric water quality standards for estuaries and “downstream protection values” (DPV) for waters flowing into estuaries. 

The deadline to finalize the EPA estuary rule is September 30, 2013.  These estuary standards will be the subject of two public information sessions in Tampa and three webinars this month.  Information on those events, as well as background information on the EPA actions can be found at http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/rulesregs/florida_coastal.cfm.  If FDEP does not adopt standards for the previously excluded “Class III” flowing waters, then the EPA rules will go into effect August 31, 2013.  An EPA fact sheet about its actions relating to Florida waterways is attached.

Dean Mead’s Agribusiness Industry Team continues to follow the progress of discussions between FDEP and EPA, along with the development and implementation of the resulting rules.  If you have questions, please contact Dennis Corrick at dcorrick@deanmead.com or Lee Chotas at echotas@deanmead.com.

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EPA Fact Sheet on Numeric Nutrient Standards