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Legal Challenges Mount Over New Water Standards

After the Seminole Tribe of Florida launched a legal challenge earlier in the month, the city of Miami and a paper-mill industry group also are taking aim at controversial new state water-quality standards.

The city and the group Florida Pulp and Paper Association Environmental Affairs, Inc., filed separate challenges during the past week in the state Division of Administrative Hearings, records show. The challenges raise substantially different arguments in fighting the standards, which were developed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and approved in July by the state Environmental Regulation Commission.

The standards, which are technically considered a proposed rule, involve new and revised limits on chemicals in waterways. The Department of Environmental Protection said the plan would allow it to regulate more chemicals while updating standards for others.

The Miami challenge, filed Friday, alleged that the “proposed rule is arbitrary and capricious — particularly because the rule loosens restrictions on permissible levels of carcinogens in Florida surface waters with absolutely no justification for the need for the increased levels of the toxins nor the increased health risks to Florida citizens.”

Meanwhile, the industry group, which includes Georgia-Pacific, International Paper Co., WestRock and Packaging Corporation of America, takes issue with scientific calculations and assumptions used in developing the standards.