Dear ERC Commissioners:
My name is Randall Denker and I am a former DEP enforcement attorney. I have been practicing environmental law all over the state of Florida for nearly 40 years. One thing that I have learned over my many years of exposure to Florida’s environment and regulatory scheme is how important water is in our state. Because most Floridians are essentially living on top of limestone with a thin layer of permeable sand covering their aquifer, whatever gets into our river, streams and lakes, ends up in our groundwater and thereby our drinking water. When someone discharges a toxic chemical into the surface water, it doesn’t stay there. What is discharged into Class III surface waters can often quickly make its way into Class II shellfish harvesting waters and Class I drinking water.
At the current time, our state is already dealing with a number of troubling water issues. We are experiencing frequent toxic algae blooms. We are experiencing salt water intrusion in coastal drinking water wells. We are experiencing outbreaks of listeria.There have been cases of infection and death caused by the flesh-eating bacteria vibrio vulnificus. There have been frequent problems with enteric bacteria, a sign of fecal contamination. There have been problems with surfactants in the water and xeno-estrogens that alter fish gender. Many waterbodies have radioactive pollution from mining activities. We have many water bodies that are already not meeting the water quality parameters set for their class, e.g. Lake Okeechobee, our largest fresh water lake, and many many others are suffering. The Fenholloway River is pretty much an open sewer. Why then, when there are so many extant problems that are already making animals and people sick, closing seafood harvesting areas and beaches, and interfering with natural and commercial systems would we want to lower (not raise) pollution standards?
I know that I am not telling you something new when I say that tourism is a major source of revenue for our state and many people come to Florida for its beaches and water. Nearly 1.2 million people are employed in the tourism industry and over 105 million visitors came to Florida last year alone. 23 million of those tourists went to beaches and spent $22 billion dollars. Therefore, we have to do everything that we can to protect our water assets and be ever vigilant and endeavor to make them better, not worse. No one will pay to visit a place that is polluted or has the potential to make them sick. Look at what happened to our local water-dependent businesses when the BP Deep Water Horizon accident polluted the Gulf of Mexico. Even though most of Florida’s coastline was spared the worst of the spill, tourism came to a standstill in many places based solely on consumer fears. Can you imagine the devastation to our tourism industry, economy, small businesses and overall quality of life if our water actually was dangerously polluted all the time? This is not conjecture. There are many examples of this phenomenon happening around the world. For example, Lake Titicaca in Bolivia once brought in millions of tourist dollars but is now so badly polluted that the tourism industry has completely collapsed, along with the fisheries resource and a way of life that was thousands of years old.
Bottom line: Maybe lowering water quality standards won’t make a difference in Florida. But do you really want to experiment when so much is at stake? A true conservative wants to conserve, not play Russian roulette with irreplaceable natural resources. Water is more precious than any other resource. We can live without oil, plastic or metals (if we had to) but we cannot live more than a few days without water. To my mind, it is not worth the risk to experiment. It is simply not good policy to help one industry at the expense of other economic engines that depend on a healthy environment.
DEP’s proposed criteria will lower standards for 89 known carcinogens and/or human health-based toxic chemicals. Floridians will get weaker protection from almost two dozen carcinogens if the ERC approves DEP’s proposal. Essentially all of the chemicals would be allowed in our drinking water supplies, shellfishing areas, swimming and fishing waters at significantly higher amounts.
Our water is a resource held in trust for all of the people of Florida. Navigable lakes, rivers and estuaries are not private property. They are the common property of all of our citizens, not just the few who can benefit from lower standards for their industrial discharges. It is a sacred duty of government to protect these waters for current and future generations. Therefore, I hope that you will vote NO and not lower our water quality standards.
Thanking you in advance for your consideration. Please let me know if I can be of help to you as you make this important decision.
Denker Law Office and
Offices of Waters without Borders
552 East Georgia Street
Tallahassee, Fl. 32303
(850) 893-6753 (phone)
(850) 893-6753 (fax)