In a previous link, I mentioned a serious issue was developing with the EPA. I contacted Mr. Jeff Littrell, the Director of Water for Okaloosa County. He sent me the email down below.
I am contacting various state officials (elected and non-elected) to find out what actions they may have taken, or are considering taking, on this matter. I will report back to the Tea Party when I receive responses.
Mr. Littrell addresses several issues directly related to the core principles of the FWB Tea Party.
We are fighting these unfair new rules on many fronts. One is through our membership on the Utility Council for the Florida Water Environment Association (FWEA), which is a state chapter for the Water Environment Federation (WEF), which is the big national and international association of wastewater utilities. All of the members of FWEA have contributed funds to pay for attorneys to fight the new Numeric Nutrient Criteria (NNC) rules. FWEA has hired a law firm, Hopping Green and Sams, that specializes in this type of litigation.
We have attached a document from Hopping Green and Sams that provides some analysis of the issues involved. It is somewhat technical, so I will attempt to give you the Cliff Notes version.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was sued by some environmental groups. The litigation accused EPA of not doing enough to enforce existing federal statutes and regulations to protect surface waters in the State of Florida from contamination by nutrients such as nitrogen and ammonia. These types of nutrients can cause algae blooms which can have serious negative effects on the natural ecology of surface waters such as rivers, lakes, streams, springs, rivers, bayous and bays. The case was in federal court for a long time, but the judge made a ruling in the case one year ago which basically agreed with the plaintiffs. The court ordered EPA to promulgate new rules to protect the surface waters of the State of Florida.
1. The proposed rules only apply to the State of Florida, they do not apply to any of the other 49 states. We believe that this may be a violation of the equal protection clause of the US Constitution.
2. There is absolutely no science behind the rules. The numeric criteria provide for Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCL) which are ridiculously low and there is no scientific data to back up the extremely low MCLs for nitrates. There is also no data to support the idea that wastewater treatment plants are a significant source of nitrate contamination in surface water bodies. We believe that agricultural runoff, residential lawn fertilizers and runoff from golf courses are probably all contributing a higher percentage of the nitrate contamination of Florida surface waters and wastewater treatment facilities are way down on the list.
3. Under the rules, Florida is divided into five sub-regions. There are different NNCs depending upon the zone. The more existing impairment, the less strict the NNCs. Our region has much higher surface water quality compared to the other sub-regions. Our NNC MCLs are significantly lower, which makes them even harder to meet. In the panhandle, we are being punished for doing a good job of protecting our surface waters by having extremely strict NNC MCLs.
4. There is not a single wastewater treatment facility in Florida that can currently meet the new limits. Okaloosa County has a brand new 10 million gallons per day (MGD) plant that has only been on line for about 60 days. We are producing extremely high quality treated effluent, but this brand new $60 million plat cannot meet the new rules.
5. The cost for retrofitting every plant in Florida is estimated to be in the tens of billions of dollars. In order to pay for the enormous costs to come into compliance, catastrophic double digit rate increases for all wastewater utility customers in Florida will be required. EPA has estimated that it will cost $4 million to retrofit all of Florida’s plants to come into compliance with the new rules. This is another ridiculous number that has no scientific data behind it.
That is a start on describing this very critical issue.
Jeff Littrell, Director
Okaloosa County Water & Sewer System
Please note: Due to Florida’s very broad public records laws, most written communications to or from County employees regarding County business are public records, available to the public and media upon request. Therefore, this written e-mail communication, including your e-mail address, may be subject to public disclosure.