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Martin County Challenges New Water Standards

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Pointing to concerns about increased chemicals going into Lake Okeechobee and nearby waterways, Martin County has filed a legal challenge to controversial new state water-quality standards.

The case, filed this week at the state Division of Administrative Hearings, is the fourth challenge to the standards, which were developed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and approved last month by the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission.

Other challenges have been filed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the city of Miami and Florida Pulp and Paper Association Environmental Affairs, Inc.

The standards, which are technically considered a proposed rule, involve new and revised limits on chemicals in waterways. The Department of Environmental Protection has said the plan, which remains subject to review and approval by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, would allow it to regulate more chemicals while updating standards for others.

But Martin County pointed, in part, to concerns about additional chemicals going into the St. Lucie Estuary, which has been designated by the state as an "impaired" water body.

Martin County recently has grappled with algae blooms that are a result of polluted water being released from Lake Okeechobee into other waterways.

"The relaxation of standards that FDEP (the Department of Environmental Protection) and ERC (the Environmental Regulation Commission) are proposing is … going in the wrong trajectory of what the state of Florida requires the county to do and is opposite for what is needed for the county's already impaired water bodies," the Martin County filing said.