The EPA has accepted the state of Florida’s revisions to a CWA permit the state intends to issue to the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) to build additional stormwater treatment areas (STA) and undertake other projects to reduce phosphorus discharges to the Everglades. EPA’s action appears to resolve a lengthy dispute with the state over how to control agricultural releases north of the Everglades, which have caused biological and chemical degradation of an ecosystem recognized as unique in the world.
Florida developed its permits and restoration plan as an alternation to an EPA plan, which the EPA developed under a court order. The EPA objected to a number of provisions developed by Florida and invited the state to provide revisions. Florida, the EPA, and SFWMD have worked cooperatively to ensure that the state’s plan and permits achieve the phosphorus discharge limits.
According to the EPA, Florida amended the following aspects it its permit:
- Included a provision to ensure that the total phosphorus water quality-based effluent limit (WQBEL) becomes and remains effective and fully enforceable upon the date of issuance of the permit.
- Resolved a conflict between the definitions of diversion and bypass at the SFWMD treatment works to disallow the use of diversions to meet the phosphorus WQBEL. Also ensured the reporting to the EPA of the reasons for diversions and require monitoring and reporting of the flow volumes and phosphorus concentrations in diversions to the Everglades.
- Revised reporting requirements to meet the EPA’s concerns regarding the frequency of reports in which the state provides the EPA with information on – STA inflow volumes and total phosphorus loads relative to the anticipated operational envelope; whether the STA operated inside or outside the operational envelope; and source control implementation, performance, and, if needed, schedules and strategies for further source controls.
- Revised the permit to require reporting of mid-year early warnings that an annual FWM is likely to be exceeded, an assessment of the circumstances that contribute to anticipated phosphorus concentrations above the WQBEL, actions taken since the mid-year early warning to address the exceedance, and a recovery plan to re-establish achievement of the phosphorus WQBEL.
The EPA retains authority to enforce the permit requirements and says it will maintain an oversight role under a framework agreement with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP). The Agency adds that it intends to explore with the FDEP and the SFWMD opportunities to accelerate work called for in the plan so that the WQBEL might be achieved more quickly.
The EPA’s response to Florida’s revised permit is at http://www.epa.gov/region4/water/documents/everglades/everglresponse-06132012.pdf.