Human Health Criteria are health-based water quality standards that EPA and DEP set to ensure Floridians can continue to safely eat Florida’s seafood, and swim and drink potable water from state surface waters.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are strengthening Florida’s water quality standards to better protect public health and meet requirements of the federal Clean Water Act.
Meeting Federal Clean Water Act Requirements
Florida’s current standards were last updated in 1992. Under the federal Clean Water Act, states are required to periodically review standards publically and modify and adopt changes as appropriate. To meet this requirement and to incorporate new data released by EPA last summer, DEP is working to update these criteria to incorporate new scientific information.
Using New Science and Florida-Specific Data
Both DEP’s and EPA’s nationally-recognized scientists have worked diligently to develop the proposed Florida-specific criteria, which incorporate both the EPA guidance and data specific to Florida. These proposed standards set stringent and protective criteria for 39 chemicals that currently have no limits, and also updates 43 chemicals whose criteria are more than 20 years old. Moving forward with the proposed criteria is critical to better protect Floridians’ health because the criteria nearly doubles the number of chemicals that the department will be able to regulate.
EPA issued new scientific recommendations in 2015, based on national water quality trends as well as averages for factors such as human weight and water use. Just like the proposed Florida standards, EPA adjusted their criteria both upwards and downwards based on this new data. The department is required to follow EPA’s science while also accounting for Florida’s specific water chemistry and population.
Florida’s proposed criteria take into account how, and how much, Floridians eat seafood, drink, shower and swim, and set the limits necessary to protect Floridians from adverse health effects.
Peer Review and Public Input
DEP received direct input from a seven-member scientific review panel, that provided comments and recommendations on our technical and scientific approach. This panel included representatives from the EPA, the Florida Department of Health, four different Florida universities and the California Environmental Protection Agency. DEP is following the panel’s recommendations.
After working since 2012 to develop Florida-specific human health criteria that use the best science available, and taking into account guidance from EPA, support of a scientific peer review panel, and input from the public, DEP presented the criteria to the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission (ERC) for approval on July 26, 2016.
The criteria will now go to EPA for final review and approval.
State and federal laws require all water quality standards to be based on science, logic and facts. The department and EPA will ensure that the levels adopted in Florida rules implement the law, and most importantly, continue to protect public health.