TALLAHASSEE, Fla.- The first update to the state’s water quality standards in 24 years could come Tuesday. A state panel will vote on whether to allow polluters to increase the level of toxic chemicals they dump into Florida rivers and lakes.
The rule, proposed by state regulators, would increase the number of regulated chemicals allowed in drinking water from 54 to 92 chemicals. It would also raise the allowed limits on more than two dozen known carcinogens from levels that are 20 percent to 1,100 percent higher than they are currently. A carcinogen is a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue. The agency is going to be reducing the allowed limits on 13 regulated chemicals; two of those are carcinogens.
The chemicals are released by oil and gas drilling companies (including fracking operations), dry cleaning companies, pulp and paper producers, wastewater treatment plants and agriculture.
Environmentalists say the proposal is an “unacceptable no-brainer.”
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection proposed the rule using their own new model for determining cancer risk and say the measure is a long-overdue update required under the Clean Water Act. DEP spokesperson Dee Ann Miller told the Miami Herald that the agency last updated the list of regulated toxic chemicals in 1992 and began a new proposal in 2012.
The draft rule uses new methods to determine the amount of toxins that post a threat to human health. It will also impost new regulations on 39 chemicals that the agency currently does not limit. Cyanide and beryllium are among the chemicals that DEP would impost new limits on.
Environmentalists that view this proposal as unacceptable believe the new criteria will weaken current guidelines, allow higher toxin levels than the federal standards, impose no regulations on dioxins, and believe Floridians will be exposed to a higher cancer risk.
However, the agency says it developed the new “probabilistic analysis” to be more Florida-specific. It claims the new rule is stricter than federal standards. Environmentalists argue that assumptions in the state rule underestimate how much seafood Floridian’s actually eat. Toxins accumulated in fish and shellfish are passed along to the human that consumes them. With that being said, cancer exposure will increase for people who eat Florida-caught seafood more than once a week.
According to EPA standards, the allowed toxin levels that could cause cancer in 1 in a million people, under the Florida methods increase the risk to 1 in 100,00 people or for people who eat fish daily, 1 in 10,000.
2,700 people have signed a petition across the state urging the agency to reject the rule. The petitioners want agency to protect public health and the environment.
Even with the public’s pleas the vote has been moved up to Tuesday, July 26 from the original vote date in September.
With the voting being moved up, some are beginning to wonder, is fracking coming to Florida?
Several of the chemicals that are on the increase in the new rule are related to benzene and are said to be used in fracking.