State Is Evading Clean Water Laws, Lawsuit Says; Groups Sue the EPA, Saying It's Not Enforcing the Clean Water Act

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Byline: DEIRDRE CONNER

Florida's water regulations are preventing cleanup of the St. Johns River and other polluted water bodies statewide, three environmental groups say in a lawsuit.

The groups, including the St. Johns Riverkeeper, sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday, saying it allows the state to circumvent the Clean Water Act and this leads to problems such as continued algal blooms in the St. Johns.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court, is part of a seven-year battle over water quality standards, including a 2003 lawsuit brought by the Clean Water Network of Florida.

Linda Young, the network's director, said that when the judge ordered the EPA to set a more realistic limit on pollutants, it did. But the Florida Department of Environmental Protection changed the regulations in 2008. The suit was filed against the EPA because it is responsible for enforcing the Clean Water Act.

"This is very contrary to what the courts told them to do," Young said, adding that none of the other 49 states has tried this.

"It's an extremely outrageous attempt by the DEP and the polluters in this state to continue to deny Floridians their right to clean water," she said.

A spokeswoman for the EPA said the agency doesn't comment on pending litigation. Florida DEP spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller said the agency stands by its rule - which, she said, is scientifically sound and consistent with federal law. …