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Tough Miccosukee Water Standards Approved By EPA

ATLANTA (AP) - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved tough new Water Quality Standards to protect the health of the Florida Everglades ecosystem May 26. The new standards, adopted by the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida for waters on their federal reservation lands, are a significant step forward in protecting the health of the Everglades.

The standards include, for the first time ever under the Clean Water Act ,a specific, protective standard for the Everglades for phosphorus. Phosphorus - which is being set at 10 parts per billion (ppb) - is one of the chief pollutants that threaten aquatic life and the restoration of the Everglades. The Miccosukee phosphorus standard - supported by the best available science - is critical because it sets a benchmark for how much phosphorus the ecosystem can handle before impacts to native aquatic life occur.

Ensuring an environmentally healthy Everglades has been one of the highest priorities of federal administrators. Through the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Initiative, the government has laid the groundwork for the largest environmental restoration effort ever attempted.

This effort includes restoring the historical natural flows to the Everglades, acquiring lands critical to protecting Everglades National Park, protecting Florida Bay and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, restoring the Kissimmee River, restoring Lake Okeechobee, and rebuilding fresh water supplies to meet the needs of the fast-growing South Florida region.

"These tough standards are a bold step toward protecting the health of Tribal lands and the health of the Everglades," Administrator Carol M. Browner said. "Protecting water quality is paramount to restoring the Everglades ecosystem, and will help protect and restore this national treasure for future generations."

EPA's review and approval of the standards are based on documents submitted by the Tribe in support of the adopted standards. EPA also identified and reviewed approximately 300 additional published scientific reports on the Everglades in making this determination.

"A key to making the right decisions about the Everglades restoration is using sound scientific information, " said EPA Regional Administrator John H. Hankinson, Jr. "This comprehensive review was critical not only for approving the Miccosukee standards, but it provides a strong foundation for developing future water quality standards and the technology necessary to meet those standards."

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