Florida Identifies 272 Impaired Waterbodies for Cleanup

TALLAHASSEE, Florida, December 21, 2007 (ENS) – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, DEP, has identified five groups of waterbodies that are impaired and in need of water monitoring, cleanup and restoration.

In the latest round of evaluating impairments in the surface waters of Florida, DEP Deputy Secretary Mimi Drew signed a final order on December 12 targeting 272 impaired waters for cleanup in the Everglades, Indian River Lagoon, Perdido, Springs Coast and Upper East Coast Basins.

Under the federal Clean Water Act, each state must identify impaired rivers, lakes and estuaries for cleanup.

Pollution limits, called total maximum daily loads, TMDLs, are then developed for each impaired waterway. A TMDL is the maximum amount of a specific pollutant a waterbody can absorb and still meet its designated uses, such as fishing, swimming, shellfish harvesting or as a source of drinking water.

“Due to the enormous work of our scientists and staff, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has now completed its first five-year cycle to identify the state’s impaired waterways,” said DEP Secretary Michael Sole.

To target impaired waterways for cleanup, DEP divided the state into 29 watersheds.

The eastern section of the
St. Joseph Bay estuary is on
the new impaired waters list.
(Photo courtesy DEP)

Each year the state assesses groups of waters to determine which are impaired and require restoration and which need further study. Once designated, DEP scientists design plans to reduce pollutant loads and monitor progress being made to restore degraded waterbodies throughout the state.

After collecting extensive scientific data, the state established a fifth group of rivers, lakes, and coastal waters for restoration, identifying 272 additional waterbodies as impaired.

This fifth verified list of impaired waters went through the public review process at six public meetings in July 2006 and two additional meetings in October 2007.

The list will now be submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for approval.

The state has already proposed more than 200 TMDLs for impaired waterways in the Group 1, 2, 3 and 4 Basins, including the Ocklawaha River chain, the Orange Creek Basin, and Lake Okeechobee.

Currently, the state is working with federal and local governments, water management districts, public and private utilities, industry, agriculture, and environmental groups to develop, adopt and implement basin management action plans.

A blueprint for restoration, basin management action plans promote improved farming practices, increased wastewater and stormwater treatment, and better land use planning to reduce pollution.

DEP anticipates completing the list evaluation process for the waters in the Florida Keys early in 2008.

Sole says the DEP is improving water quality through long-standing environmental regulations, technical assistance, and an annual investment of hundreds of millions of dollars to build water infrastructure, acquire conservation lands and restore waterways.

DEP’s final order on December 12 started a 21 day period during which interested parties may petition the decision to list or not list a waterbody as impaired.

View the Group 5 Basin list [www.dep.state.fl.us].

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