TAMPA, Fla.– Today, in an effort to increase protections for waterways like Tampa Bay and the Hillsborough River, Environment Florida helped deliver over 100,000 public comments and letters nationwide to the US Environmental Protection Agency, all calling for increased protections for waterways like Tampa Bay and the Hillsborough River.
The comments support EPA’s report, Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters, which makes the scientific case for EPA to close loopholes in the Clean Water Act that nearly 30% of Florida’s streams at risk of unchecked pollution, many of which feed and filter Tampa Bay and the Hillsborough River.
“Whether we’re kayaking on the Hillsborough River, fishing in Tampa Bay, or just drinking the water that comes out of our tap, all Floridians have a stake in clean water,” said Jennifer Rubiello, Field Associate with Environment Florida. “With the drinking water for close to 2 million Floridians at risk, it’s time for the EPA to act to protect Tampa Bay and all of Florida’s waterways.”
Florida’s public comments were among more than 100,000 collected across the environmental community during a short 45-day comment period and represent just a fraction of those across Florida who are concerned about the health of Tampa Bay and the Hillsborough River.
The comments urge EPA to follow through on the science of the report, which Floridians that polluting smaller streams and wetlands that are not currently protected by the Clean Water Act has a demonstrable effect on waterways downstream like Tampa Bay and the Hillsborough River. In September, the agency announced that it is moving forward with a formal rulemaking to close loopholes in the Clean Water Act and ensure that the streams and wetlands that feed and filter Florida’s iconic waterways are protected.
“More than 100,000 people have made their voices heard: all of Florida’s waterways deserve our protection, from Tampa Bay to the Everglades,” said Rubiello. “The science here is common sense. We can’t protect even our most iconic waterways without protecting the streams and wetlands that feed and filter them.”
The comments came from everyday people who depend on Florida’s waterways for drinking water and use Tampa Bay and the Hillsborough River for recreation, scientists who know the importance of protecting all of Florida’s waterways, and Florida farmers who rely on clean water for their livelihood.
The delivery marked the end of the public comment period for the report, which will be reviewed at a public hearing in Washington, D.C. in mid-December. A draft rule to close loopholes in the Clean Water Act is expected to be formally proposed by the EPA in the coming months.
“We thank the EPA for moving forward with the sound science and taking steps to protect Florida’s waterways,” Rubiello said. “We urge them to move forward with a formal rulemaking to ensure that places like Tampa Bay and the Hillsborough River get the protection they deserve.”
Environment Florida is a state-wide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization working for a cleaner, greener, healthier future. For more information, visit www.EnvironmentFlorida.org.