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Lawmakers grill DEP over water pollution limits

Members of the Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation grilled Department of Environmental Protection brass Tuesday on its handling of controversial new water pollution limits.

DEP in May proposed to update human health criteria for 43 chemical compounds that are allowed in Florida’s rivers, lakes and estuaries and create new limits for 39 others. Under the proposal, limits would become less stringent for roughly half the compounds on the books and more stringent for the rest.

The agency’s plan drew intense opposition from environmental groups and others not only over relaxed standards for some of the chemicals but also because of the way the agency rolled out its proposal.

DEP initially said it would take the proposal to the state Environmental Regulation Commission for approval in the fall but moved the meeting up to July. And the ERC, whose seven members are appointed by the governor, voted on the plan while two of its seats set aside for environmental and local government representation were vacant. The ERC in July approved the limits in a 3-2 vote.