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Pollution Notification Rule Faces Industry Pushback

Proposed notification guidelines for pollution are raising hackles among the state’s major industries.  The rule changes come after millions of gallons of contaminated water were spilled at a Mosaic phosphate plant.

Under a new proposal, businesses would have 24 hours to notify the department of environmental protection, local officials, and the broader public in the event of a spill or other pollution.  But major industrial interests like Florida Power and Light are criticizing the proposal for shifting too much of the burden to businesses.  Mike Sole is vice president for the state’s largest utility.

“If I’m a three person metal plating shop my expertise in pollution risk is probably not significant,” Sole says.  “But this rule obligates that reporting party to establish what the risks are.” 

“That obligation, candidly—I think, rests with the department.”

A sinkhole opened up at a Mosaic phosphate plant in August, and spilled contaminated water for weeks without any report to the local community.   The incident spurred Governor Rick Scott to direct the Department of Environmental Protection to begin work on new notification guidelines. 

Despite comments from Sole and others, Monticello resident Bill Sagues says even if the draft needs tweaking, improving notification is too important to ignore.

“As a person that lives in a rural community that gets my water from the groundwater there’s a lot of concern with myself and my neighbors and we would like to know when something like this happens and how it would be reported,” Sagues says.

The agency is accepting written comments on the proposed rule through five o clock Wednesday afternoon. 

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Nick Evans came to Tallahassee to pursue a masters in communications at Florida State University. He graduated in 2014, but not before picking up an internship at WFSU. While he worked on his degree Nick moved from intern, to part-timer, to full-time reporter. Before moving to Tallahassee, Nick lived in and around the San Francisco Bay Area for 15 years. He listens to far too many podcasts and is a die-hard 49ers football fan. When Nick’s not at work he likes to cook, play music and read.