If the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has its way, every household in the state may soon be paying an additional $44-$108 per year for sewage plant upgrades, stormwater management and septic system improvements in West Palm Beach and throughout Florida.
The EPA is targeting nitrogen and phosphorus pollution as a result of sewage, lawn fertilizers, farms and other sources that are spoiling coral reefs, killing fish and filling rivers with algae. Among many other provisions, the new rules would require substantial upgrades along West Palm Beach canals. The action stems from a 2008 lawsuit by the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club and other environmental groups and has the local government and business community up in arms.
According to a letter signed by the Florida Home Builders Association, the Florida Sugar Cane League, the Florida Golf Course Superintendant’s Association, Florida Electric Power Coordinating Group and Associated Industries of Florida – and dozens of other statewide industrial organizations – the proposed pollution limits “impose burdensome costs while not improving environmental protection.”
The fear of local governments is that the standards may be too strict for canals and coastal waters in urban areas – like West Palm Beach – and could be costly to implement. The EPA itself estimates an annual compliance cost of $313 million to $773 million.
In an interview with the Sun-Sentinel, Palm Beach County Water Utilities Director Bevin Beaudet expressed concern that the rules could interfere with the county’s highly successful program of using treated wastewater – or “reclaimed water” for irrigating golf courses and housing developments.
However, proponents of the measures maintain that they will lead to cleaner water within a few short years by encouraging modernization of sewage treatment plants and improved methods for handling stormwater runoff. They believe that the benefits of clean water and a healthy ecosystem outweighs potential costs and will ultimately have a positive impact on the state’s $5 billion-a –year saltwater fishing industry.
The EPA is scheduled to produce final rules by September 30, 2013. To learn more about the proposed regulations and submit comments on the proposal, click here and use docket number EPA-HQ-OW-2010-0222.
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