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Florida DEP sought little public input about plan to allow more toxins in state waters

By Francisco Alvarado, FloridaBulldog.org

everglades

everglades

With minimum public input, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has been working for four years on a proposal that could let more cancer-causing toxins be released into the state’s surface waters. Most Floridians have been kept in the dark regarding the plan that will cause great harm to the state’s aquatic environment, residents and visitors, according to activists and some elected officials.

Critics told FloridaBulldog.org that DEP officials hope the lack of public scrutiny will allow them to push through changes to increase the amount of hazardous chemicals that can be allowed in the discharging of industrial waste into the state’s rivers, streams, canals, lakes and coastal waters. The proposed rules would go into effect in September if approved by the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“This is deliberately being cloaked in secrecy,” said Joanne Oyen, a Pembroke Pines Democratic Party activist. “They are trying to push through something that is wrong and corrupt. There should be a public outcry about this.”

The DEP is recalculating the parts-per-billion limits for 43 chemicals designated as health hazards, as well as adding 39 toxins that are not currently regulated. For example, the cap on benzene, a carcinogen that can cause vomiting, convulsions and loss of consciousness to people exposed to high levels, would increase from 1.18 parts per billion to 3 parts per billion under the new criteria. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency limits benzene at 1.14 parts per billion.

Department spokeswoman Dee Ann Miller insisted the new rules would protect Florida’s waterways. “DEP’s nationally recognized scientists have worked diligently since 2012 to develop the proposed Florida-specific human health criteria,” Miller said. “They have been calculated based on the best science available, guidance from EPA and a scientific peer review panel and input from the public.”

Yet, DEP has conducted very little public outreach. Between May 2012 and February 2013, the department held eight public workshops and presented its proposal at two public hearings, including one in front of the Environmental Regulation Commission. The only workshop in South Florida — home to two national parks and a preserve in large bodies of water — took place in West Palm Beach on May 15, 2012. None took place in 2014 and 2015. Last  month, about three weeks before the deadline for public comments, DEP held workshops in three cities in a 72-hour span. 

But none took place in 2014 and 2015. In May of 2012, about three weeks before the deadline for public comments, DEP held workshops in three cities in a 72-hour span. The only workshop in South Florida — home to two national parks and a preserve in large bodies of water — took place in West Palm Beach on May 15, 2012.

Moreover, Miller said the public workshops and hearings were advertised only in the Florida Administrative Register and DEP websites, as required by state law. Aside from the online public service announcements, the department sent emails to more than 1,000 individuals and organizations that had signed up for updates and notifications, Miller added.

The department did not engage in any radio, television, or newspaper advertising. And there was no social media campaign. Not surprisingly, the department has received comments about its proposed new rules from only 115 people.

Considering the new rules will impact Florida’s 19 million residents and the state’s 100-million-plus visitors, DEP should have held more hearings and taken more measures to inform the public, Oyen said. When the department held three workshops last month, the closest location to South Florida was in Stuart, an hour-and-a-half drive from Pembroke Pines.

‘A very serious public health issue’

“This is a very serious public health issue,” Oyen said. “Eleven workshops since 2012 equates to less than three workshops per year in our huge state. Is anyone starting to get the picture that the DEP does not want anyone to know of their toxic intentions?”

Oyen took her complaints to U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and State Sens. Kristin Jacobs and Eleanor Sobel, all of whom recently wrote letters to DEP officials expressing their concerns about the lack of public involvement and increasing the caps on toxic chemicals.

“FDEP should maximize the opportunity to maintain higher levels of protection through more stringent regulations of chemical compounds released into our environment,” Jacobs wrote DEP Manager Eric Shaw on June 6. “I urge the Department to select the method which will offer the most protection for both Florida residents and our precious resources.”

Three days later, Graham weighed in. “Contamination of our waters threatens the health of our communities, our economy and our environment,” the congresswoman wrote DEP Secretary Jon Stevenson. “I urge you to give these concerns your full and timely consideration and to reconsider any proposal that would weaken Florida’s water quality standards.”

On June 13, Sobel suggested to Shaw that the DEP should hold more public workshops. “While we can debate the issue of the water quality standards themselves, I am also concerned about the process through which the public was notified regarding the workshops,” Sobel said. “I am aware of only three workshops held across the state this year addressing this issue with the nearest location being Martin County … This is completely unacceptable.”

However, Miller was noncommittal about allowing for more public discussion. “DEP is now considering all comments and will update its proposed rules as necessary,” Miller said. “If substantial changes occur, another round of public workshops will be held.”

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Latest comments

  • Come on FDEP! Time to make this widely known to Florida residents, do many, many more well-advertised Public Hearings throughout the state and extend the comment period greatly. You worked on this four years, now you can spend a decent amount of time to get this completely out in the open. If what you’re doing is so great, you’d be glad to let everyone know why. This is far too important an issue for Floridians to be uninformed and uninvolved. Water is life. If you don’t know that, you don’t belong in the FDEP.

  • DEP’s actions prove they are interested in one thing ONLY –paving the way for fracking in FL by tripling the major fracking chemical, BENZENE and greatly increasing other cancer-causing agents in FL waters — many of which are specific to fracking. Benzene, by the way causes leukemia and other cancers!

    This amounts to nothing but selling out the people of FL by DEP officials who are well paid to protect our environment –and the lives of all Floridians.
    Truly DEP is risking the lives of their own children and grandchildren by increasing poisons in FL waters!! This is on same level with what that Flint Governor did when he ignored the pleas of families to stop the lead poisoning which permanently damaged many children’s brains due to the Gov. waiting so long to react after the harm had happened.. That is unconscionable and immoral AND should be illegal, just like fracking and adding more poison to our water supply is immoral.
    ..
    What DEP is doing now is also premeditated as they’ve proposed increasing the bad carcinogens for years now. I attended their April, 2013 hearing where DEP officials tried to double the Benzene and other carcinogens just as fracking hearings began in the FL House. Making their motives very obvious. While DEP “deferred” their bad plan back then, now they are planning to triple the Benzene amount that could be discharged using their concocted “Monte Carlo” method, which even a retired math professor from FSU who attended their May hearing said he couldn’t decipher/ What DEP is doing is playing Russian Roulette with our lives!! That is what I gathered from their May “Workshop” to push the bad chemicals!!
    DEP has had these chemical increases in the works for years while helping oil companies write bad bills which, if enacted, would VOID all local bans on fracking (to ensure fracking goes forward, even against the will of the people!!.) Those bad DEP approved fracking bills allow Trademark Secret Chemicals and thousands of gallons of dangerous chemicals and millions of gallons of our scarce water to be injected directly through metal pipes in our aquifer –while the bad bills also PREEMPT to the State all local control of every issues related to oil and gas all over FL. Immoral.

    How is this different from poisoning people while tying their hands behind their backs?
    Fracking would be extremely harmful to our economy, to agriculture which must have a steady supply of clean water to sustain crops, to our health and the health of our next generation. And to FL Tourism which depends upon clean clear water and clean air. Florida’s water supply is already seriously endangered. Why would DEP officials work so hard to make it immeasurably worse? If you wonder WHY people have lost faith in this extremist government, perhaps this is why!! And candidates running for House & Senate should consider that and take note!!
    Many chemicals on DEP spreadsheet to increase are endocrine disruptors and would cause great harm.
    Johns Hopkins studies prove that pregnant women who live near fracking sites have a 40% higher chance of having a premature baby –a leading cause of infant death. Studies show cancer rates are rising around frack sites. People are losing their water wells and their health as well as their property values!!

    Anyone with a conscience would resign rather than sign onto such horrendous proposals which would increase cancer-causing agents in our water supply.. It is clearly immoral.

    It is also completely immoral for DEP to side with oil companies to promote fracking in FL when we are all now well aware of the great harm caused by fracking in other states. No secret now –as even EPA now admits fracking often contaminates the water supply.

    One million Florida AFL-CIO workers asked for a ban on fracking this year due to the many gas workers deaths and injuries from this industry which has been exempted from all the rules all other industries must follow! FL Medical Society wants a BAN as does PSR and many other groups.

    Over 75% of Floridians live in Counties or Cities with fracking Ban Ordinances or Resolutions to Ban fracking. The people of FL are adamantly opposed to fracking..They overwhelming voted for Amendment One for Legislators to spend money to RESTORE Florida’s dangerously polluted waters. INSTEAD, many lawmakers are doing the exact opposite by proposing to further contaminate our scarce water supply and let frackers waste millions of gallons of scarce water to be filled with even more dangerous carcinogens!!

    Our next wars are being fought over water as FL is engaged in battles with GA right now for taking too much water from our Apalachicola River, voted “the most endangered river in America’ this yr. YET in that same river region, oil companies want to frack, a procedure that should never happen in FL with our fragile karst geology.

    How outrageous to put at risk our sole source aquifer and the health and well being of FL citizens and their children– and their future –for MONEY, Mary Ellen Klas reported over 80 million went into the pockets of corrupt politicians in the last Legis. Session. This corruption and growing corporatocracy IS ruining Florida’s already endangered environment and has the potential to greatly harm our children future.

    Don’t DEP officials have any concern for their own families when they are tripling poison in FLorida’s waters? Or their own lives? I attended a DEP “Workshop” in May and I saw no sign they care! If someone from another country came in and dared to double or triple poisons in FL waters, someone would call Homeland Security. WHO do you call when it is your own Government?
    Just curious!!

  • So what’s this Florida Inland Protection Financing Corp that our SFB governor is an officer for in tandem with his puppet sideshow, Pam the Blondi? Is this required, or is the man who could not attest to his own signature on one more gold mine adventure for himself while leaving his usual wake of thick slime to clean up after, gratis the everyday sucker as he apparently sees all other life forms other than himself? And why is this any surprise given the ruthless sociopath is our governor, elected by by the poor slobs too ignorant to see the carnage he intentionally imposed upon them and their children? This “Teflon Governor” is of course behind this. Where is he mentioned? Dig Bulldog, dig!

  • We 300 000+ IMMEDIATELY DEMAND firing of Miller and his crew!
    IMMEDIATELY DEMAND DE-FUNDING OF DEP and CLOSING OF THAT “AGENCY”

    WE DEMAND DEMAND THOSE NOW before the benzene floods residents’ bloodstreams.

    NOW NOW NOW!

    DEMAND THAT TAXPAYERS WILL NO LONGER SUPPORT UNSAFETY MEASURES AGAINST THE PUBLIC BY DEP AND CREWS. IT IS OUR RIGHT!

    Sandy Oestreich, St Petersburg. Nurse Practitioner for 35 years and Prof. Emerita, Adelphi U., NY; former elected official; Co-author, internationally distributed pharmacology ref. text; fmr activist successful in implementing renewed garden water and for removing unConstitutional religious influence over Bayfront Medical Center, etc.

  • This litany of daily bad environmental news has me sick. I almost can’t take the barrage of environment-destroying efforts of Tricky Dick Scott and his band of politician scum. Is anyone really listening or paying attention to what is happening to our state?!

  • The DEP is holding a Public Hearing in conjunction with the Rick Scott-appointed Florida Environmental Regulatory Commission (FERC) on July 26th at 9 am in Tallahassee at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Building in Tallahasse, 3900 Commonwealth Blvd. Let it be known that FERC has not met in two years and has two of its 7 member seats vacant.

    We are asking the Public, scientists (especially toxicologist), doctors, and environmental attorneys to attend and speak out against these disastrous plans.

    When I called the Chair of the Florida Environmental Regulatory Commission, Cari Roth, several weeks ago to express my concerns about these dangerous chemicals and known carcinogens (and listed some of them by name with associated serious health risks), she said to me “If you have a beef, call the DEP.” I responded by saying that I called her because she is the Chair of the Environmental REGULATORY Commission. Cari Roth’s phone # is (850) 999-4100. Please bombard her with phone calls!

    Today I called the DEP Secretary (Jonathan Steverson);s office and was given a bunch of spin from a fellow named Russell Budell. He insisted that what they are proposing “is all within the range of EPA limits.” He claims that he is working with a 150 page scientific chart.

    These two Rick Scott appointed groups will be voting on these proposed changes to our water quality standards in early September. If they have their way, the toxins and carcinogens will be increased in our waterways starting at the end of September. As other commenters have said, this is all calculated to pave the way for fracking.Let it be known that Benzene (used in fracking) causes dizziness, vomiting, convulsions, and leukemia. We must not let this happen!

  • More Benzene equals more cancer especially Leukemia. Cancer is now the number one cause of childhood death due to disease as published by the CDC. More chemicals equals more cancer. What we need to get across to the DEP is that while they are focused on increasing the allowable amount of chemicals in our surface water = drinking water, Big Food is busy getting approval from the FDA to increase the amount of carcinogenic chemicals allowed in our food, and then whatever agency, if any, controls our air quality is busy increasing the amount of chemicals being sprayed for geo-weather engineering. The list of new chemicals for household items is endless and untested for human health. The net effect is cancer rates dramatically increasing and our health care cost hitting unsustainable levels bankrupting our country. It has to stop. Enough is enough.

  • Here is e-mail sent to DEP

    DEAR SIRS:

    I JUST LEARNED OF YOUR SECRET LITTLE PLAN TO INCREASE TOXINS IN FLORIDA WATER SUPPLIES. I WOULD LIKE A LIST OF ALL CHEMICALS YOU PLAN TO ALLOW TO HAVE HIGHER LEVELS IN THE WATER SUPPLY. I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW THE SOURCE OF THESE CHEMICALSAND I WOULD LIKE ANY AND ALL DOCUMENTATION YOU USED TO MAKE THIS DECISION.

    GOVERNMENT IS NEVER TO BE TRUSTED, ESPECIALLY WITH BACK DOOR DEALS LIKE THIS WHICH ARE OBVIOUSLY DONE TO BENEFIT ONE OR MORE INDUSTRIES WHO DISPOSE OF THE CHEMICALS YOU ARE NOW ALLOWING TO INCREASE IN STATE WATER SUPPLIES. I HOPE YOU AND YOUR FAMILIES ENJOY THE NEW POISON LEVELS ALONG WITH THE REST OF US WHO ARE NOT EMPOWERED TO STOP THIS TRAVESTY.

    PLEASE SUPPLY THE REQUESTED DOCUMENTS.

    IT IS APPARENT THAT GOVERNMENT IS HERE TO SERVE ITSELF AND THE CRONIES WHO OWN IT WHILE THE PUBLIC IS LOOKED AT WITH CONTEMPT.

    FIRST GOVERNMENT ALLOWS ITS MONEY BUDDIES TO DESTROY OVER HALF OF THE EVERGLADES FOR PROFIT, AND NOW YOU ARE POISONING OUR WATER EVEN MORE THAN IT ALREADY IS. THE ONLY MOTIVE IS PROFIT FOR THOSE WHO PRODUCE OR USE THE CHEMICALS YOU WILL NOW ALLOW TO INCREASE IN OUR WATER SUPPLIES WITH NO PUBLIC INPUT

    YOU PEOPLE ARE LIKE THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT AFTER FUKISHIMA. THEY REFUSE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE INCREASED RADIATION LEVELS AND INSTEAD “RESET” THEIR “ACCEPTABLE SAFETY LEVELS OF RADIATION IN THE ENVIRONMENT” TO MEET THE POLITICAL DESIRE TO SAVE FACE AND LOOK GOOD AND MOSTLY, TO HOLD ON TO POWER.

    YOU ARE JUST AS GUILTY AS THE JAPANESE. HISTORY REPEATS THESE TRAVESTIES OVER AND OVER. ALWAYS THE WORST OF HUMANITY RISES TO POSITIONS OF POWER BECAUSE ONLY THE WORST MOST DYSFUNCTIONAL PEOPLE EVER WANT THAT KIND OF POWER TO COMPENSATE FOR FLAWS IN THEIR UPGRINING THAT HAVE SKEWED THEIR PERSONALITIES. I HOPE YOUR CHILDREN DRINK THE SAME WATER AS THE REST OF US, OR DOES THE STATE ISSUE SPECIAL FILTERS TO THOSE “IN THE KNOW”

    IT IS CORRUPT THINKING LIKE THIS THAT, THROUGHOUT THE HISTORY OF HUMANITY, HAS LED TO THE DOWNFALL OF ALMOST EVERY CIVILIZATION ON THIS PLANET. HISTORY INDEED REPEATS ITSELF. YOUR ACTIONS ARE JUST ONE STEP IN THE PROCESS OF SOCIETAL DESTRUCTION. HOPE YOU ARE HAPPY JUSTIFYING THIS ACTION IN YOUR MIND WITH ALL THE RATIONALES YOU PEOPLE COOK UP TO MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD ABOUT YOUR ACTIONS.

    YOU TOOK ALL THE AUSTRALIAN PINES OUT OF JOHN U. LLOYD PARK YEARS AGO BECAUSE THEY WERE “NON-NATIVE”, IN THE PROCESS YOU KILLED THOUSANDS OF ENDANGERED SEA TURTLE HATCHLINGS DUE TO THE BRIGHT LIGHTS IN PORT EVERGLADES HITTING THE BEACH. THE PINES BLOCKED THE LIGHT BUT YOU POWER AND CONTROL FREAKS COULD CARE LESS ABOUT CONSEQUENCES OF YOUR ACTIONS BECAUSE NOBODY HOLDS YOU ACCOUNTABLE.

    THE LIGHTS FROM THE PORT MISDIRECTED THE HATCHLINGS WHO WERE KILLED BY CARS IN THE PARKING LOT, EATEN BY PREDATORS, WOUND UP IN THE CANALS AND NEVER FOUND THEIR WAY TO THE OCEAN.

    NOW THAT IS WHAT I CALL PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT. FUNNY HOW GOVERNMENT ALWAYS NAMES AGENCIES THAT DO THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF WHAT THE NAME SUGGESTS. SICKENS ME THAT EVEN A PENNY OF MY HARD EARNED TAX DOLLLARS GOES INTO YOUR POCKETS.

    WHAT WILL YOU KILL, POISON OR OTHERWISE DESTROY NEXT? CAN’T WAIT TO FIND OUT. YOU ARE EXPERTS IN YOUR MINDS AND “ONLY” IN YOUR MINDS, JUST LIKE ALL POWER DRUNK DICTATORS THROUGHOUT HISTORY.

    YOU PEOPLE ARE DESIPICABLE. http://www.floridabulldog.org/2016/06/florida-dep-sought-little-public-input-plan-allow-hazardous-chemicals-state-waters/

    DR. STEVEN ROSEN
    DAVIE, FLORIDA

    CC: DAVE FLESHLER, SUN-SENTINEL NEWSPAPER

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