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World Reports

EPA lets Florida taint drinking water

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Before EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman resigned from her office, she had decided to sign off on a rule-making decision drawn up by EPA water administrators declaring Florida exempt from certain provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Published in the Federal Register on May 5, the exemption will permit Florida to pollute drinking water aquifers with inadequately treated waste through municipal underground injection control (UIC) wells.

The issue arose when the federal agency advised the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) in the 1970s to initiate a program of disposal of municipal sewage and industrial waste by injection underground via deep injection wells.

A Fortune 500 engineering consulting firm, CH2M Hill, had assured all parties the deeply injected waste effluent would be contained by a geological barrier and would not commingle with drinking water aquifers.

Since then, over 120 Class 1 UIC wells have been built in south Florida. FDEP officials estimate the flow of injected waste at over 400 million gallons daily (MGD); environmental groups contend it is closer to one billion MGD.

Despite those early assurances that containment of the wastes would be no problem, EPA and FDEP monitoring tests have shown the UIC waste is migrating into aquifers used for drinking water.

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