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As Florida Reviews Its Water Quality Standards, State Regulators Continue To Reject Federal Limits For Toxic Algae

Toxic algae can cause health problems to local marine, plant, and human life. Photo: Flickr Creative Commons

Parts of Florida are already beginning to battle summertime toxic algae blooms. State environmental regulators said yesterday at a public hearing that they still have no plans to adopt federal Environmental Protection Agency standards for toxic algae.

"Microcystins are the toxin found in algae blooms. And right now the state has no limits for them in Florida waters."

Dave Whiting is a deputy director with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

"In order to really get good estimates of cyano toxin risk, we have to be able to measure what's out there. And given the small number of microcystins or other cyano toxins for which standards are available, there's a lot that we don't see."

The state is required to review and update water standards every three years under the Clean Water Act.

Whiting says the EPA standards are based on outdated research. Visually monitoring water and following up on reports from citizens, he says, is a better way to protect public health.

But environmentalists say the federal standard is a better way to monitor water before blooms appear. Environmentalists have sued, demanding the state adopt the EPA numeric limits.

Jen Lomberk is the Matanzas Riverkeeper in North Florida.

"Mr. Whiting mentioned that you weren't, I think enamored was the word, with EPA's recommended criteria. And a lot of folks agree with that, myself included. There are certainly some issues with the way that EPA made those calculations. But declining to adopt any enforceable criteria because we feel that EPA's criteria are not protective enough, just doesn't really make sense. I mean, something is better than nothing. And right now we have nothing."

She says the EPA limits can be updated when they’re improved.