New pollution standards are being called a giant step forward for Florida water quality.
Late Friday the EPA agreed to immediately propose strict, enforceable limits to reduce the water pollution that causes toxic algae and slime. It did so after a Florida federal judge failed to grant an extension to reach a decision.
Environmental advocates had been pushing for higher standards for four years, and David Guest, attorney for Earthjustice in Florida.
"This sets the gold standard for the United States," Guest said. "These contaminants can and will be limited. Standards can be set and the problem can be stopped."
The pollution standards will impact 100,000 miles of Florida waterways and 4,000 square miles of estuaries.
Florida and most other states have vague standards when it comes to how sewage, manure and fertilizer runoff is handled.
The new EPA limits will take effect within a year and will prompt statewide changes in public and private sectors.
"Sewage treatment plants will have to be updated, cities will have to have better source controls on the pollutants that get into water, and farmers are going to have to clean up their act."
The pollutants released by sewage plants, industries and farmers cause issues such as red tide, which poses a public health hazard and has been known to prompt the closing of Florida beaches. Algae concentrations are becoming a problem in other states as well. Guest said the new EPA standards will ultimately curb the problem around the nation.