Jun 08, 2010

EPA Begins Review of Science on Fla. Water Quality Standards

Process to also allow public to comment on the science

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans to send its underlying data and methodologies to support development of coastal water quality standards, also known as nutrients criteria, to the Science Advisory Board (SAB) for peer review. The process will also allow the public to comment on the science. By extending the deadline to allow for public and scientific review, EPA said it is reaffirming a longstanding commitment to sound science and transparency in developing standards to protect and restore waters that are a critical part of Florida's history, culture and economic prosperity.

“By using the best science, we can set standards that protect people’s health and preserve water bodies used for drinking, swimming, fishing and tourism,” said Peter S. Silva, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “The challenge today is in finding a way to move beyond Florida’s slow, contentious and costly case-by-case approach to developing pollution standards. An independent scientific peer review by the SAB will ensure that the best available science is our guide in developing clean water standards for Florida’s coast."

The agency will send to the SAB the data and methods to be used to develop water quality standards, also known as numeric nutrient criteria, for coastal and estuarine systems. With the agreement of the litigants, the agency is extending the timetable by 10 months to propose nutrient criteria for coastal and estuarine waters, downstream protection values, and flowing waters in the south Florida region (including canals).

In August 2009, EPA entered into a consent decree with Florida Wildlife Federation, committing to propose numeric nutrient criteria for lakes and flowing waters in Florida by January 2010. The underlying data and methodology supporting the rule proposed in January for lakes and flowing waters has undergone independent peer review and is on schedule to be finalized in October 2010. The decree required EPA to propose numeric criteria for Florida estuarine and coastal waters in January 2011 and to finalize those criteria by October 2011.

The extension of the deadline for coastal waters proposal allows EPA to hold an SAB review in October 2010 of the data and methods that will be used in developing criteria for estuarine and coastal waters, downstream protection values, and criteria for inland waters in the south Florida region (including canals). EPA will incorporate comments and revise the proposal to reflect scientific input from the SAB, and finalize the criteria by August 2012.

In October 2010, the agency will finalize proposed standards for lakes, streams and springs, which have already undergone peer review.