From: David Royse, Associated Press
Published October 7, 2004 12:00 AM

Activists Want Clean Water Act Enforced by Feds, Not Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Florida — Environmental groups said this week they have filed a lawsuit to try to force the federal Environmental Protection Agency to control water pollution in Florida instead of leaving the job up to state regulators.

Enforcement of the federal Clean Water Act has been delegated to Florida's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for about a decade, and conservation groups allege DEP has done a poor job.

"Ultimately the goal of this lawsuit is to take the Clean Water Act in Florida and put it in the hands of competent people," said David Bookbinder, a Washington-based lawyer for the Sierra Club.

DEP Secretary Colleen Castille defended the state's protection of water quality and said EPA delegates authority for enforcement of the federal law because it doesn't have the manpower to watch over each state's waters.

In a statement, the DEP argued that Florida's waters are cleaner and better protected than five years ago and noted that EPA has approved the state's water protection rules.

In its lawsuit, the environmental groups cited DEP's slowness in issuing permits spelling out limits on dairy farm pollution and said DEP hasn't rigorously enforced regulations of phosphate mining pond dioxins, phosphorus, and sewage, among other things.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Tallahassee by the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and Linda Young, a Florida-based clean water activist.

Castille said the agency has support in the scientific community for its clean water rules.

"We do have to go back to the court in order to more fully tell our story, but I'm not concerned about it," she said.

The Clean Water Act became law in 1972, and the EPA delegated responsibility for enforcing it to the states as they met certain criteria. Florida received that authority in 1995. More than 40 states now enforce the law within their boundaries.

Source: Associated Press

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