Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

River Cleanup Plan Is Overdue, State Tells City; Delays for St. Johns Could Result in Fines, Administrator Warns in Letter

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

River Cleanup Plan Is Overdue, State Tells City; Delays for St. Johns Could Result in Fines, Administrator Warns in Letter

Article excerpt

Byline: Steve Patterson

Jacksonville is years behind on meeting commitments to tell the state how it will help clean the St. Johns River of algae-causing pollution, a state agency is warning the city.

The delays represent "possible violations of law" that could lead to pricey fines, a Florida Department of Environmental Protection administrator said in a warning letter sent last week.

The city committed years ago to big cuts in its release of nitrogen in the St. Johns by 2015, but it "has not taken the actions necessary to attain those reduction requirements," wrote Drew Bartlett, director of the state agency's Division of Environmental Assessment and Restoration.

Bartlett's letter was the first time that state has warned any city about not following through on commitments made under a river cleanup process called a basin management action plan.

Jacksonville signed onto an action plan for the lower St. Johns in 2008, joining Clay, St. Johns and Putnam counties, a series of cities and some large businesses in committing to steps to reduce pollution flowing into the river.

The steps were required to meet conditions of the federal Clean Water Act. The river has had long-term problems with algae blooms - which can kill some fish - and cutting nitrogen and phosphorus in the water would eliminate a food source that makes blooms possible.

The plan set a series of deadlines stretching to 2023 and was reviewed this year because five years had passed, said Patrick Gillespie, a Department of Environmental Protection spokesman.

The plan the city agreed to in 2008, meant to clean a basin stretching about 100 miles, required action by each community because each one contributes to the river's problems.

The total effort was expected to cost as much as $600 million, but many details about costs and specific projects were unsettled. …

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