Fla. Water Cleanup Suit Goes Back To Court

A federal appeals court ruling Monday revived a two-year-old lawsuit by environmentalists challenging how state authorities list polluted Florida waters.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit sent back the lawsuit to district court in Tallahassee, ordering it to consider unresolved factual issues. The district court previously had dismissed the case, granting a motion for summary judgment made by the defendants – the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

A is suing the Environmental Protection Agency, hoping to force it to clean up Florida's water.

The coalition of groups including the Sierra Club want EPA to take over water pollution control duties currently handled by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

The lawsuit challenges the state Impaired Waters Rule, adopted by the Florida DEP in April 2001. The environmental groups assert that the rule violates the federal Clean Water Act of 1972 by changing the state's water quality standards.

The environmental groups believe the new rule was created as a way of weakening standards, making it more difficult to list waters.

Linda Young of the Clean Water Network says Governor Jeb Bush and the DEP are "more interested in protecting corporate polluters than our state's waterways." She notes paper mills in Florida are operating under permits that expired over a decade ago.

The suit says unpermitted pollution from industrial mining pits in Charlotte and Hardee counties has seeped into surface waters. It says the spillage has killed fish and caused algal blooms.

The Associated Press and The Tampa Tribune

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