The state of Florida, taking actions required by the US Clean Water Act, has proposed chemical regulations that set new standards for surface water pollutants. These standards have not been changed for 24 years, and the new standards both change allowed concentrations for previously regulated chemicals and also regulate chemicals not listed before in the state’s rules. The proposal from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was approved by the state Environmental Regulation Commission (ERC) on a 3-2 vote. The ERC is a seven member panel named by the state governor and confirmed by the state senate. Currently the seats designated for a member representing local governments, as well as a seat for the environmental community, are unfilled. The most recently filled seat is held by a partner in a law firm which represents clients in industries which discharge chemicals into surface water.
The proposed regulations are controversial in Florida partly because allowed concentrations of some chemicals have been increased, in some cases above federal EPA standards for water quality. Some have seen this as favoring industrial activities such as hydrofracturing in oil production. The DEP used a probabilistic modeling technique to arrive at its standards. Inputs to this model are meant to represent environmental conditions and the exposure of people who are at greater risk from chemical exposure (pregnant women, children) or who consume large amounts of Florida seafood. The models are a move away from a former policy of compounded conservatism, where a factor of safety is applied to each critical variable with the result being a policy that is effectively ‘overbuilt’ or perhaps more restrictive than is required to protect the average citizen who has little direct exposure to surface water, no special risk factors, and consumes only an average amount of seafood.
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