Dear Friends of Florida’s waters:
I want to alert you to two items today that need your attention.
1. Upcoming DEP workshop on toxics criteria and other pollution rules
2. Bill filed to allow oil and gas drilling in Blackwater State Forest
1. Upcoming DEP workshop on toxics criteria and other pollution rules – DEP has made even more revisions to the proposed criteria for human-health based toxic chemicals. Therefore there will be another workshop to share these with the public on February 5th at 9:00 am at the Blairstone Bldg in Tallahassee. The meeting is in the meeting room on the 6th floor of the main building. This is likely to be the last workshop, so if you can attend, it would be good to have citizens there to speak out. Industry shows up in droves and have gotten their way of course. Our attorney submitted comments in late November and I will submit another comment letter as soon as the new revision is publicized. DEP says their new draft will be available on their website next week sometime. That won’t leave us much time to review before the meeting, but we’ll do our best.
I tried to find out from DEP some details about the changes that we will be seeing in the new draft and they would not tell me anything except to say that both industry and EPA has suggested more changes. The DEP staff person said that industry has submitted nothing in writing on the proposed rule but has been weighing in on what the analysis should look like. DEP says that some of the proposed criteria will get more stringent based on EPA’s comments (also not in writing apparently). So, I don’t know much yet, but will keep you informed as I learn more.
As you remember from my previous newsletters, DEP is being forced to set new criteria for toxic chemicals that are currently not being regulated but are being discharged into Florida’s waters. These are specifically linked to human-health effects. DEP has refused to set criteria for some toxics during this rule making, such as dioxin and mercury. The criteria that they are proposing are not protective of human-health, especially for pregnant women, women (in general), young children (boys and girls) and non-white, low-income people who eat a lot of fish. Basically, they used an over-weight, white male who doesn’t eat much fish as their target for the greatest protection.
Other problems with the proposed rule is that it assumes that people in Florida either never eat fish that are caught out of state; or that the out-of-state fish that we do eat are 100% free of toxic chemicals. We know this is not true and that even fish caught in the most pristine oceans are contaminated with toxics.
Originally DEP was proposing criteria for 84 toxic chemicals, but has trimmed that back to 71 parameters. As I said above, they are not setting limits for dioxin, mercury and others. This is in spite of the fact that half of the men in America will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime and one in three women will be diagnosed with cancer.
Also during this Triennial Review, DEP is changing the criteria for dissolved oxygen (D.O.). Essentially they are creating a very complex formula for calculating D.O. As I have discussed in previous updates, the new state and federal numeric nutrient criteria are going to authorize much higher levels of nutrients in our waters. These high nutrient levels will lead to algae blooms which leads to low D.O. In order to avoid “impaired water” status caused by the low D.O., DEP is weakening the D.O.criteria for most of the state. This also means that NPDES permits can get weaker D.O. requirements. DEP explains that if a polluter has been meeting their D.O. permit limits, then there will be no weakening allowed. But if the polluter has not been meeting the state criterion for D.O., then with the new weaker limits available, the polluter can get their permit limits weakened as well.
One of the biggest problems in our opinion with regulating toxics in fish tissue in Florida is the way that the Florida Dept. of Health measures contamination in fish. This is called their “methodology.” In order to avoid issuing fish consumption advisories for dioxin contaminated fish for instance, they go to great lengths to make sure that the toxic chemical is not detected. Here are some of the ways that FL Dept. of Health hides toxic chemicals from you in your fish:
1. They let the polluters who are responsible for the contamination do the testing;
2. They require tissue from at least 12 fish but allow as many as 20.
3. They allow the fish to be tiny baby fish that have not had time to accumulate much contamination in their tissues;
4. They use only a small amount of flesh (minus skin, fat, etc. where toxins would accumulate faster) from each fish;
5. They blend all the samples up into one sample and test that.
6. THE REAL KICKER HERE IS THAT THEY SET THRESHHOLDS FOR FISH CONSUMPTION ADVISORIES HIGH ENOUGH THAT THEY KNOW THE ADVISORY WILL NEVER BE TRIGGERED.
So, consequently there are no advisories in Florida for dioxin, even though we know that chlorine-bleaching mills are contaminating our fish.
We will post more about the latest proposal by DEP as soon as they release their draft and we have a chance to review it. Watch for it on our website at: floridacleanwaternetwork.org
2. Bill filed to allow oil and gas drilling in Blackwater State Forest by State Rep. Doug Broxson- HB 431
Many of you may not realize that it has been known for decades that there is a vast oil field beneath the Northern part of Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties. The oil field extends all the way into South Alabama. This oil field has not yet been drilled (except for test wells) because there were larger oil fields in other areas that would yield more barrels. Because of the depletion of other oil fields, Fairways Exploration and Production has now set their sites on drilling this field. For nearly 5 years, they have been mapping this field all over this region. They could drill on private property that borders this forest, but for some reason Fairways seeks to explore, map, and drill in Blackwater State Forest. Local elected officials, including Rep. Broxson, are in support of this drilling and of HB 431. We can not let this bill pass. We can not let future bills like this one pass. We must protect Blackwater River State Forest!
This forest is the headwaters of the Blackwater River, an Outstanding Florida Water and it’s also one of the last remnants of longleaf pine/wiregrass forest that once covered the Southeastern United States, and a hub of biodiversity. It’s a real gem in a a state overrun with thoughtless development… and now, some want to risk sacrificing it for oil and gas development.
Milton resident Marsha Fuqua has put together a Change.org petition and Facebook community aimed at stopping Rep. Broxson’s bill. Go to the Florida Clean Water Network page to read more and link to the petition and/or visit Marsha’s page which is loaded with good information. Save Blackwater River State Forest on Facebook.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE NOW!!! Contact Representative Broxson’s office and let him know that you want his bill withdrawn immediately. That you don’t want oil and gas drilling in Blackwater State Forest. That you want Blackwater River, Yellow River, Blackwater Bay, East Bay, Pensacola Bay and all surrounding waters protected.
His contact info is:
Pensacola State College Milton Campus, Bldg. 4000, Room 4013, 5988 Hwy 90
Milton, FL 32583-1713
1003 The Capitol, 402 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300
Twitter page: @RepDougBroxson
That’s it for today. Please visit our website for lots more news: floridacleanwaternetwork.org
I have added several important postings in the past few days. You can also follow me on Twitter @ whatergirl or join our Facebook pages at Florida Clean Water Network or Clean Water Network of Florida. They are both our pages. Thank you to everyone who has sent their membership donations for 2013. These are critical to our continued existence!!! Thank you also for all of your hard work in your communities to protect Florida’s waters. Please send this to your friends and get more people involved in your efforts.
For all of Florida’s waters,
Linda Young, director
Clean Water Network of FL
P.O. Box 5124
Navarre, FL 32566