“Perfection is the Enemy of Progress” — Cari Roth, Chair of ERC

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Dr. Ronald Saff, one of several physicians who told the DEP how foolish they were to propose more toxins.

Ms. Cari got it totally backward, what she voted for was regression, not progress.   What she and two others voted for was to augment the amount of poisons industry will be allowed to dispense into our food and water.  This great travesty happened yesterday, July 26, 2016, at the Environmental Regulation Commission (ERC) in Tallahassee.

The vote was rigged before it began.  The supposed seven-member board lacked two members whom Gov. Scott has failed to appoint, one representing local government and the other representing environmentalists.  Thus the board was stacked to favor industry from the onset.  Repeated requests to him to postpone the meeting until a full board was was in place fell on deaf ears.

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Linda Young, executive director of the Florida Clean Water Network, has worked on this problem for years, but the ERC chose not to listen to her. Here she prepares notes during the break.
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Amy Datz is an intensive, tireless worker against fracking and pollution

To the average person it might seem incredible that educated, apparently intelligent adults would exercise their power to decide to allow additional chemicals, unquestionable carcinogens and health risks, into our food and water.   But the average person who keeps up with the trend in Florida lately, will find no surprise here.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) says the new limits won’t decrease the protection for humans, and has stated (T. Democrat, may 21) that “We will continue to coordinate with EPA to adopt standards that will ensure our residents and natural resources enjoy clean and safe water.”

This is the same DEP that has written op-eds to the public assuring them they are protecting our springs, rivers and aquifer, and that they are healthy:  the same DEP that promotes fracking:

the same DEP that, in recent years, has severely cut funding for environmental protection, and water management districts, fired long-time, competent employees of protection agencies, advocated timber and cattle industries within state parks, allowed further degradation of our aquifer and springs, denied the existence of climate change and failed to provide a long-range plan to deal with it, failed to curb carbon emissions, and fought the EPA’s Clean Water Act to protect water resources.  (Gainesville Sun)

The DEP in Florida is deliberately allowing these toxins with the obvious reason (their can be no other) to make it easier for industry to carry on their businesses here.  This action by our state is simply a license to pollute.

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Some got up very early and traveled long distances to participate in the rally on Commonwealth Blvd.
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Mary Lee Kiracofe, district director for Congresswoman Gwen Graham, read a letter from Graham to the committee. It covered all points and made total sense, but it was ignored, which made no sense.

DEP environmental administrator Kenneth Weaver gave the greatest smoke and mirrors presentation ever witnessed by your writer.  His explanations were something one might expect from an insurance agent or used car salesman.  He first presented several possible scenarios, all of which were designated as less desirable and more dangerous, and then compared them to the one the DEP was promoting, and we were told this one was much safer and less risky.  The idea was that we should be delighted with this number, because there were many reasons they could have chosen a much more dangerous one.  We could rest assured that we, the citizens of Florida, were getting a good deal.

Risk assessment was a topic discussed at great length.  The risks involved were those of how many people might be sickened or get cancer because of the toxins our DEP allows to be put into our food and water.  This is the part where we negotiate how many people are expendable in order to keep industry happy.  Where we negotiate how sick we want to be.

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Karen Chadwick, board member Putnam Co. Environmental Council, and Marihelen Wheeler, Board of Advisors of OSFR

During Mr. Weaver’s intense and detailed treatment of risk assessment, a small but clearly audible feminine voice from the rear of the room was heard to say “Sir, you can take these risks away….”   The interrupting speaker was immediately scolded by Chairwoman Roth, and Mr. Weaver, continued onward, not missing a beat.

Common sense was notably absent from the DEP and most of the ERC.

Below is an account of the meeting given by Jim Waymer, in Florida Today, July 27, 2016, which contains a quote by OSFR’s historian.

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Karen Chadwick explains an issue to Tallahassee Democrat senior reporter Jeff Burlew.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life:  once taken, it cannot be brought back-
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Florida passes controversial new water toxins rule

Jim Waymer, FLORIDA TODAY 10:30 a.m. EDT July 27, 2016

 

Some fear regulations will let polluters dump too many toxic chemicals into rivers and lakes used for drinking water.

A governor-appointed panel on Tuesday approved new, controversial criteria that some fear will let polluters dump too many toxic chemicals into rivers and lakes used for drinking water.

By a 3-2 vote, the Environmental Regulation Commission signed off on the new water quality standards for more than 100 toxic chemicals, including benzene, a cancer-causing petroleum byproduct used in hydraulic fracking, during its regular meeting in Tallahassee. The new criteria now go to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for approval.

“We have not updated these parameters since 1992, it is more good than harm,” ERC Commissioner Cari Roth, a Tallahassee lawyer who’s ERC seat represents developers, said just before the vote. “To me it would be far worse to delay.”

The parameters would impact the types of chemicals released during hydraulic fracking, oil and gas drilling, by sewer plants, paper and pulp plants, dry cleaning businesses and other industries. Those chemicals can wind up in the water we drink and the shrimp, fish and other seafood we eat.

The proposed rules sets “stringent and protective criteria for 39 chemicals that currently have no limits,” DEP asserts on its website. “In addition, this rule includes updates for 43 chemicals whose standards are more than 20 years old.”

DEP’s criteria would be stricter than the Environmental Protection Agency’s guidelines for cyanide, beryllium and several other chemicals in drinking water supplies. But most of the proposed state criteria would be weaker than EPA’s guidelines, conservationists say.

Commissioners Sarah S. Walton, a Pensacola attorney, and Craig D. Varn, a former general counsel for DEP, also voted for the new criteria.

The two dissenting votes came from commissioner Joe Joyce, of Gainesville, who represents the agriculture industry, and Adam R. Gelber, a Miami environmental consultant who occupies the science and technical seat on ERC.

Gelber questioned the methodology that prompted a recent revision that lowered the new limits for benzene. “What was it in the science that drove that change?” Gelber asked. “How would others change?”

Varn called the new criteria  net positive.

“For me, either I’m going to accept the modelling as good, or reject it,” Varn said. “Is it perfect, no, but does it err on the side of human health.”

Clean water advocates say the rules would weaken state water quality criteria for some 120 human health-based toxic chemicals, significantly increasing how much cancer-causing chemicals industry can dump in Florida rivers, lakes and estuaries. But the Florida Department of Environmental Protection insists it is not lowering standards but using more robust risk models and more Florida-specific data than the EPA.

Conservation groups worry the state will allow levels higher than EPA guidelines for compounds such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), once widely used in plastics, caulking, transformers, capacitors and other electrical equipment. Production of  PCBs was banned in 1979, and EPA calls them “probable human carcinogens.” Childhood exposure to PCBs has been linked with reduced IQ and impaired growth and motor skills.

For benzene, the new criteria would loosen the limit from 2 micrograms per liter from 1.18 micrograms per liter.

Drew Bartlett, a DEP administrator, said the benzene criteria are the result of EPA guidelines and updated science, not to ease the way for fracking.

“We don’t see a connection between this rule and fracking,” Bartlett said to groans from the audience.

One compound on the list that would see stricter criteria is a common chlorinated solvent called trichloroethylene, or “trike.” The compound and its breakdown products are known to cause birth defects and cancer.

DEP is considering tightening its criteria from 2.7 to 1.3 parts per billion for “trike” in waters classified as sources of drinking water, and from 80.7 to 15 parts per million for waters classified for swimming and other recreation.

 

Florida’s current standards were last updated in 1992. Under the federal Clean Water Act, states must periodically review standards and make changes as needed.

Last year, EPA issued recommendations for standards based on more recent science.

DEP’s proposed criteria take into account differences in “how, and how much Floridians eat seafood, drink, shower and swim,” the agency says. They set the limits necessary to protect against health effects, DEP officials said.

Since 2012, DEP has held about a dozen public workshops about the changes throughout the state.

But conservationists worry the public’s voice hasn’t been represented, because two of the seven seats are vacant on the Environmental Regulation Commission. One of the empty seats is designated to represent local governments and the other seat represents the environmental community.

The other ERC seats represent agriculture, development, a science and  technical representative, and two seats are laypersons.

“We are sitting around here negotiating how many poisons are we going to allow in our our bodies put there by our own hands. Is this common sense?” said Jim Tatum, of Our Santa Fe River, a nonprofit group.

David Kearns, of Palm Bay, a candidate for Florida House District 53, said DEP is overly influenced by industry.

“There is an appalling lack of trust in DEP science,” Kearns said, “and it’s well earned. “There is an appalling lack of trust in DEP science … and it’s well earned.”

Wakulla County Commissioner Howard Kessler said Florida should do better.

“Why not strive to have the cleanest, purest water possible rather than trying to find out how much toxins and pollutants we can put in our waters (before causing harm)?” said Kessler, an  orthopedic surgeon. “Why not stop using our waters as sewers?”

Contact Waymer at 321-242-3663 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter@JWayEnviro and at facebook.com/jim.waymer

 

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