Tampa, Fla.– Industrial facilities dumped excessive pollution into Florida’s waterways 270 times over 21 months, the tenth worst total in the nation, according to a new report by Environment Florida Research & Policy Center. However, the facilities rarely faced penalties for this pollution. Environment Florida Research and Policy Center is releasing its Troubled Waters report as the federal government tries to weaken clean water protections and slash enforcement funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the states.
“All Florida waterways should be clean for swimming, drinking water, and wildlife,” said Jennifer Rubiello, state director with Environment Florida. “But industrial polluters are still dumping chemicals that threaten our health and environment, and they aren’t being held accountable.”
In reviewing Clean Water Act compliance data from January 2016 through September 2017, Environment Florida Research & Policy Center and Frontier Group found that major industrial facilities are regularly dumping pollution beyond legal limits set to protect human health and the environment, both in Florida and across the country.
"Florida’s environmental health is directly tied to our economic health," said U.S. Representative Kathy Castor. "That means clean water, clean beaches, a beautiful and clean Tampa Bay, and a clean Gulf of Mexico. Our state and federal agencies need to do more to curb pollution, and that includes having a strong EPA to ensure we get the water quality we all deserve and depend on.”
After ranking the top ten polluters statewide, public officials, conservation advocates, students, professors and community leaders are joining in an effort to raise the alarm for stronger permits, enforceable limits, and more funding for clean water programs.
“Hillsborough Bay, Clearwater Harbor, and the Alafia River, three of the waterways on the receiving end of polluted water in our region, are designated for recreational use,” said Andy Hayslip, Executive Director of the Tampa Bay Waterkeeper. “That means these industrial facilities are dumping toxic pollutants in places where people regularly fish, swim and boat.”
Troubled Waters shows that polluters, who are spewing everything from fecal matter to heavy metals to oil and grease into the water, rarely face penalties.
"The Clean Water Act was passed in 1972 with the goal of making all of our country’s waterways safe for fishing and swimming," said Dr. Chris Meindl, Director of the Florida Studies Program and Associate Professor of Geography at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. "This report shows that Clean Water Act enforcement continues to suffer and must improve if we want water we can trust."
In response, the report recommends several measures to ensure stronger enforcement of, and protection for, clean water.
"Repeat violators should not be allowed to operate in our region," said Jaclyn Lopez, Senior Attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. "State and federal agencies should be doing everything they can to protect Tampa Bay’s wildlife, fisheries, and economy."
Unfortunately, the state legislature passed bills earlier this month that could soon make the pattern of pollution worse.
“Statewide, we know that more needs to be done to hold these polluters accountable when they violate their permits,” Rubiello said. “This is a call to action, and the report is where we can begin.”
# # #