Florida received a D-plus grade for its water quality protection, based on a Gulf Restoration Network report released Wednesday.
The report graded states bordering the Gulf of Mexico on how well they implemented the Clean Water Act and protected their state waters and public health.
Texas received a C-minus, Louisiana an F, and Alabama and Mississippi scored a D-plus. The comprehensive grade for the Gulf states was a D-plus.
The report graded the states on how they have established water quality standards policies to prevent pollution, public health protection and public participation.
Despite the poor grade in Florida, Sierra Club regional representative Cris Costello said Manatee County, like other counties in the Tampa Bay region, have a definite interest in preserving water resources. She gave St. Petersburg an A-plus, in part because it followed recommendations of the Tampa Bay Estuary Program that banned the use of nitrogen during the rainy season, when more of the chemicals are washed into storm drains and to the bays and Gulf.
“Manatee County has a choice,” Costello said. “They can adopt preventative measures like this fertilizer ordinance, or they can end up spending many, many tax dollars trying to clean up the polluted water. It’s much more cost effective trying to prevent in the first place.”
Residents should limit the use of nitrogen and phosphate-based fertilizers, as well as keep pet waste off backyard lawns and public parks.
The data for the grades were collected during the past couple years and came from input from state agency employees, nonprofit organizations throughout the Gulf area, as well as Gulf Restoration Network’s investigation of the five states.
Joe Murphy of the Gulf Restoration Network said Florida can raise its grade by applying and maintaining the standards to protect waters, restoring impaired waters, and updating criteria it uses to test for polluted waters.
Polluted waters can affect quality and quantity of fish.
“Florida (Department of Environmental Protection) has had years to get this right and spend more time deferring to the regulated industries and polluters, then boldly moving to make Florida’s waters fishable and swimmable for everyone,” said Jerry Phillips, director of Florida Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, in a Gulf Restoration Network news release. “The Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, and 37 years later Florida is still struggling to get it right.”
The full report is on the Gulf Restoration Network’s Web site at www.healthygulf.org.
Nick Walter, Herald staff writer, can be reached at 745-7013.