|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
OCTOBER 5, 2004
|CONTACT: Sierra Club
Karen Mulcahy (727) 824-8813; Annie Strickler, (202) 675-2384
Court Rules Bush Administration Failed to Protect Florida Waters
Failure left Florida Communities at Risk from Mercury & Other Pollution
TAMPA, Florida - October 5 - A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that the Bush administration did not meet its obligations to protect Florida waters from pollution. Specifically, the Bush administration failed to require the State of Florida to clean up the state's most heavily polluted rivers, lakes, and coastal waters.|
"The health and safety of Florida communities depends on cleaning up these waters polluted with mercury, fecal coliform and other dangerous toxics," said John Swingle, Sierra Club Florida Conservation Chair. "We need our federal and state leaders to do their jobs."
"Sadly, the Bush administration seems to care more about protecting polluting corporations from pollution laws, than Florida communities from pollution," added Swingle. "By failing to require the State of Florida to clean up contaminated waters, the administration threatened public health, our waters and wildlife."
In April 2001, Florida passed a regulation, known as the "impaired waters rule," reducing the number of polluted waters in the state that would be cleaned up. Under the Clean Water Act, the Bush administration had a duty to ensure that the new rule did not put Florida's water quality at risk. Following suit by environmental groups, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday ruled that the Bush administration failed to protect Florida's water quality.
By failing to act, the administration allowed the state to omit from its pollution clean-up list more than 100 waterbodies with fish consumptionadvisories due to mercury. Mercury is a toxic pollutant known to causeserious health effects to people, including damage to developing brains and neurological systems in fetuses and children. Among the waters with fish consumption advisories that are not included for clean up are Tampa Bay, Lake Kissimmee, Peace River, Escambia River and the Ochlockonee River. All of Florida's coastal waters and more than 100 of its rivers, streams, and lakes are under fish consumption advisories for mercury.
"The Court today confirmed what we already knew: that the Bush administration and Florida pollution cops were not on the beat," said Frank Jackalone with the Sierra Club in Tampa. "The Bush administration is failing to enforce the laws that protect the waters that flow throughout Florida and sustain our economy."
The federal appeals decision yesterday sent the case back down to the federal trial court to identify specific Florida waters that have wrongly been removed from the mandatory clean-up program. The environmental groups that prosecuted the lawsuit were the Sierra Club, Florida Public Interest Research Group, Save Our Suwannee, and Friends of St. Sebastian River alongwith Florida resident Linda Young. These plaintiffs were represented inCourt by the Mid-Atlantic Law Center at Widener University.
The full decision by the 11th Circuit is at: http://www.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/ops/200313810.pdf
In a separate case, the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and Linda Young today filed suit today in Tallahassee demanding the Bush administration Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) take over the water pollution control duties of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
"By asking that EPA take control of the situation, we are hoping to hold all parties accountable for enforcing the Clean Water Act. Both Bush administrations should be protecting the waters that Floridians use for fishing, swimming and drinking," said David Bookbinder with the Sierra Club legal team.
For information, please visit: http://www.sierraclub.org/cleanwater/.