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Release Date: 05/26/1999
Contact Information: Carl Terry, EPA Press and Media Relations, 404-562-8325

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today approved tough new Water Quality Standards to protect the health of the Florida Everglades ecosystem. The new standards, adopted by the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida for waters on their federal reservation lands, are a significant step forward in protecting the health of the Everglades.

The standards include for the first time ever under the Clean Water Act a specific, protective standard for the Everglades for phosphorus. Phosphorus--which is being set at 10 parts per billion (ppb)--is one of the chief pollutants that threatens aquatic life and the restoration of the Everglades. The Miccosukee phosphorus standard -- which is supported by the best available science -- is critical because it sets a benchmark for how much phosphorus the ecosystem can handle before impacts to native aquatic life begin to occur.

Ensuring an environmentally healthy Everglades has been one of the highest priorities of the Clinton Administration. The Administration, through the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Initiative, has laid the groundwork for the largest environmental restoration effort ever attempted. This effort includes restoring the historical natural flows to the Everglades, acquiring lands critical to protecting Everglades National Park, protecting Florida Bay and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, restoring the Kissimmee River, restoring Lake Okeechobee, and rebuilding fresh water supplies to meet the needs of the fast-growing South Florida region.

“These tough standards are a bold step toward protecting the health of Tribal lands and the health of the Everglades,” Administrator Carol M. Browner said. “Protecting water quality is paramount to restoring the Everglades ecosystem, and will help protect and restore this national treasure for future generations.”

The Tribal lands that are part of the Everglades are vital to its protection and restoration. EPA is mandated by the Clean Water Act to review and approve or disapprove all water quality standards adopted by tribes and states. EPA’s review and approval of the standards are based on documents submitted by the Tribe in support of the adopted standards. EPA also identified and reviewed approximately 300 additional published scientific reports on the Everglades in making this determination. “A key to making the right decisions about the Everglades restoration is using sound scientific information, “ said EPA Regional Administrator John H. Hankinson, Jr. “This comprehensive review was critical not only for approving the Miccosukee standards, but it provides a strong foundation for developing future water quality standards and the technology necessary to meet those standards.”

The Tribe has not set water quality standards for the entire Everglades, but for waters within their federal reservation boundaries. The state of Florida is in the process of reviewing additional scientific information and will adopt a numeric phosphorus standard for other portions of the Everglades. EPA will work closely with the State in this effort. If new scientific information in the future indicates that 10 ppb is not protective of the Everglades ecosystem, then under the Clean Water Act, a more protective standard would be required.