Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Linda Young Speaks to League of Women Voters

Guest speaker Linda Young spoke to The Pensacola Bay Area League of Women Voters at Tryon Library on Saturday, Feb. 20 to discuss the Clean Water Network and the purity of Florida’s waters.

“The EPA is proposing new set criteria, with loopholes,” Linda Young, director of the Clean Water Network, said.

Young presented information to an eager crowd of elderly citizens about the Clean Water Network, a coalition of over 300 groups working to implement and enforce safeguards for water resources.

Young has been working to protect Florida’s environment since 1994. She has challenged actions against the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Environmental Protection Agency and large polluters such as the Monsanto Chemical Company.

The group of league members listened carefully to what Young had to say about Florida’s waters, asking enticing questions and speaking of personal experiences they have had with the water.

Young said that the major contenders for the control of Florida’s waters were developers, industry, water suppliers, golf courses and residential areas. She said the water quality front has major problems; two of these being the EPA regulated Numeric Nutrient Criteria and Sight Specific Alternative Criteria.

In terms of the Numeric Nutrient Criteria, Young said that the EPA is attempting to reform the criteria, creating loopholes. For example, Young said that the concept of mixing zones—permits for pipes—do not meet water quality standards.

“For the most part, Florida has been avoiding the clean water act for the past 10 years,” she said.

Young gave evidence of Florida’s polluted waters as proof of taking action.

“People die from swimming in the St. John’s,” she said. “There’s been a case in Destin where a fisherman scratched his leg and died.”

What was most disappointing to Young and the other league members was the fact that state legislatures were considering lifting the ban on offshore drilling soon after Florida’s “Hands Across the Sand” event was held the previous week.

“It is up to us people who care about our water to speak out on whatever level you can,” said Young.

An anonymous question and answer session was held shortly after Young’s presentation. Audience members wrote their questions down on note cards for Young to answer.

The majority of the questions were directed towards the Sight Specific Alternative Criteria and how it can be opposed and challenged.

Young said that an administrative hearing could be used to challenge them, but did not recommend that as the most effective plan. She said these administrative hearings were similar to a “hamster wheel,” going nowhere.

“I give credit to our local governments supporting us,” said Young. “That matters.”

Deborah Nelson, president of the Pensacola LWV, said the quality of our water is an important issue to tackle.

“It’s huge since we use water every day in our lives,” she said. “Getting a hold of our elected officials is one of the best ways of addressing the issue.”

Muriel Wagner of the Environmental Regulation Commission said that over the years, she has been very involved in making an attempt to keeping Florida’s waters clean. In one incident, several proposals were made to stop pollution from a paper mill, but the proposals were ignored.

“We had one issue dealing with a paper mill in Perry, Fl.,” she said. “A lot of us ended up protesting and were broken up by police escorts.”

Young said she wanted to stress the importance of cleaning Escambia’s polluted waters and to not place blame on the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority.

“It’s not that the ECUA is bad, it’s that the water is polluted,” she said. “The ECUA has a tough job.”

Young is also familiar with the works of the Environmental Working Group.

“I have worked for the EWG and they are very credible and trustworthy,” she said.

Mary Gutierrez, co-chair for the natural resource committee of the LWV, said she thought the meeting was very informative to the general audience and said she also hopes Pensacola’s water problem will find a resolution soon. She also had recent connections with the EWG.

“I had a teleconference with the EWG about Escambia’s water quality and also got my information from California,” she said. “There will be a panel discussion about our water next month on the 20th for any who are interested.”

The Women’s League of Voters is a nonpartisan political organization that strives to participate in governmental issues. Monthly meetings are free and open to the public.


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