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Associated Press: House approves water pollution bill

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Florida lawmakers on Wednesday wrapped up legislation authorizing the state’s Department of Environmental Protection to start enforcing rules to reduce water pollution.

The bill (SB 1808) passed the House on a 103-13 vote and now goes to Gov. Rick Scott. It cleared the Senate earlier.

State and federal environmental authorities agreed recently on “numeric nutrient criteria” — how much fertilizer and other pollutants should be allowed in Florida waters.

The idea is to let Florida eventually enforce water pollution rules without federal intervention. Environmental groups have complained the rules aren’t strict enough.

Fertilizer and animal manure from farms and ranches run into waterways and carry nitrogen and phosphorus. Those act as nutrients to algae. The algae have a feeding frenzy, resulting in blooms that cause red tides and other outbreaks.

On Wednesday, the Associated Industries of Florida praised lawmakers for passing legislation that the group said “will finally bring resolution to the long-standing debate over how to best protect our state’s water bodies from nutrient pollution.”

The industry group said the Department of Environmental Protection has developed “a sound, science-based approach” in implementing the rules to reduce water pollution.

Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, said during the debate that the bill didn’t go far enough to protect people, pets, livestock and wildlife.

She unsuccessfully tried to amend the bill on Tuesday. One provision of her failed amendment would have required reporting of illnesses occurring within 10 minutes of exposure to an algae bloom. Another required reporting of how many manatees and seabirds died within 20 days of exposure.

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