Stop the Destruction of Our Coral Reef

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    Florida Department of Environmental Protection
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    Palm Beach County Reef Rescue
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The South Central Regional Treatment and Disposal Board discharges treated sewage from the Delray Beach ocean outfall pipe. The pipe discharges 400 million gallons per month, one mile offshore, in the immediate vicinity of a coral reef tract. The sewage is discharged under a federal permit administered by the State of Florida. The permit expires December 2005 and the renewal application process begins June 2005. The current permit has no controls for the discharge of nutrients, nor does the permit require any type of monitoring to determine the impact of the discharge on the surrounding biological community.

Since March 2002 the coral reef system down current of the outfall pipe has been degraded by algae blooms, which have resulted in the death of corals and species key to the health and survival of the ecosystem. The reef is critical habitat for many threatened and endangered species, including sea turtles.

The reefs of Palm Beach County support a large recreational scuba diving and sport fishing community generating approximately 200 million dollars of annual revenue.

Section 403 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (the Clean Water Act) provides that discharges from wastewater treatment plants to the oceans are subject to regulatory requirements and must obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. Section 403 requirements are intended to ensure that no unreasonable degradation of the marine environment will occur as a result of the discharge and to ensure that sensitive ecological communities are protected

Pursuant to section 403, Ocean Discharge Guidelines (40 CFR Part 125, Subpart M [45 FR 65942, October 3, 1980), specify the factors to be used by NPDES permit writers when evaluating whether unreasonable degradation of the marine environment will occur as a result of the discharge. Factors to be considered include:

transport of pollutants by currents,

composition and vulnerability of potentially exposed biological communities, including unique species or communities, endangered or threatened species, and species critical to the structure or function of the ecosystem.

importance of the receiving water area to the surrounding biological community, e.g., spawning sites, nursery/forage areas, migratory pathways, and areas necessary for critical life stages / functions of an organism.

potential direct or indirect impacts on human health.

Existing recreational and commercial fishing.

the existence of special aquatic sites, including (but not limited to) coral reefs.

We the undersigned demand that the Florida Department of Environment Protection ensure the new Delray Beach ocean outfall NPDES permit is written to comply with the requirements and the spirit of the Federal Clean Water Act by:

1) Requiring the permit applicant to demonstrate that no unreasonable degradation to the marine environment will occur as a result of the treated sewage discharge.

2) Establish nutrient monitoring and nutrient discharge limits to prevent the continuing algae blooms and unreasonable degradation to the receiving environment.

3) Require onsite monitoring of the coral reef system to accurately assess the impact of the treated sewage discharge.