Florida gambles with children's health -- approves hike in levels of toxic chemicals in state water
Black girl drinks from water fountain (Shutterstock)

Members of the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission voted 3-2 on Tuesday to change over 100 different water standards. The new standards include 39 substances that were not previously regulated. Forty-three other toxics, mostly carcinogens, have had their standards changed.

While the agency is reducing the allowed limits on 13 chemicals -- 2 known to be carcinogenic -- it will raise the allowed limits on more than 20 chemicals from 20 to 1,100 percent higher than the state's current standards.

"But the proposal, based on a one-of-a-kind scientific method developed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and nicknamed 'Monte Carlo,' is being vigorously criticized by environmental groups. They warn the new standard will allow polluters to dump dangerous amounts of chemicals in high concentrations into Florida waters before they trigger the limits of the new rule, and allow Florida to adhere to standards that are weaker than federal guidelines," the Tampa Bay Times wrote.

The DEP defended the scientific method it used. "Probabilistic analysis," as described by the Times, "creates thousands of variables to calculate the health effects of being exposed to a lifetime of toxic chemicals by taking into consideration average body weight, drinking water consumption rate, fish and shellfish consumption rate, and the fat content of fish" as means for calculating these new standards.

Health professionals and other scientists have raised concerns about the exposure levels. "Marc Freeman, a retired professor of neuroscience at Florida State University, said benzene and many of the other compounds are endocrine disruptors, which interfere with hormones and are linked to a host of developmental and other health problems," the Tallahassee Democrat reported. "The DEP folks are acting without prior information about endocrine disruptors,” he said. “I have yet to meet a DEP scientist who knows what an endocrine disruptor is."

The fight over water standards comes at the same time that summer 2016 in Florida has turned noxious due to a toxic algae bloom that has been described as the mixing of the smells of rancid milk with dog sh*t. The algae, which is as "thick as guacamole" coats the surface of bodies of water, scaring away the tourists who help to keep the Sunshine State's economy afloat.

Democratic candidate for Senate Patrick Murphy, delivered a jar of the stuff  to Governor Rick Scott, whom Murphy blames for not doing enough to release funds to clean up the mess. The governor blames Congress and President Obama, for failing to approve $800 million for restoration of the Everglades, where the ecological nightmare first bloomed.

[caption id="attachment_852407" align="aligncenter" width="518"]Florida green algae (Wikimedia) Florida green algae (Wikimedia)[/caption]

Back in the 1930s, the Army Corps of Engineers enacted flood control measures on Lake Okeechobee. But, a series of decisions -- allowing sugar-producing plants to use the lake, drainage issues, water source issues, and an increasing population -- have all been making the impending disaster imminent. It now appears to be here.

In the spring, the Army Corps released "nutrient-heavy water" as part of its flood control measures. The algae outbreak reached the beaches. There was already an algae bloom covering the lake, so that water became food. "The algae outbreaks are triggered by fertilizer sewage and manure pollution that the state has failed to properly regulate. It's like adding miracle grow to the water and it triggers massive algae outbreaks," Earthjustice spokeswoman Alisa Coe told CNN.

Governor Rick Scott has had to declare a state of emergency to deal with the water-based environmental catastrophe. And still, on July 26, Florida regulators voted to approve new water standards that will raise limits for the levels of known carcinogens and other chemicals in the state's rivers and streams and lakes.