WASHINGTON, D.C.  – U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-21) moved to protect Floridians from toxic water and force the federal government to take responsibility for public health.  

Rep. Mast introduced three pieces of legislation, the Stop Poisoning Florida Act, the PROTECT Florida Act, and the Toxic Health Threat Warning Act.

“Our goal is always zero discharges, and we’re not going to stop fighting until we get there.  But in the meantime, we’re going to play the hand we’re dealt and that means protecting the health and safety of those in our community,” said Rep. Mast.  “At a bare minimum, we should not be dealing with discharges that the EPA itself acknowledges are a threat to people’s health and the federal government should not be able to avoid responsibility.”

The Stop Poisoning Florida Act would prohibit discharges from Lake Okeechobee at the Port Mayaca Lock and Dam and the St. Lucie Lock and Dam when the water exceeds the toxicity level that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined is too toxic for human contact.  At Rep. Mast’s urging, the EPA determined that 8 parts per billion of microcystin makes the water hazardous for people to come in contact with and puts them at risk of major health impacts.

Similarly, the Toxic Health Threat Warning Act will require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to notify the public and affected local governments if the water to be released from a flood risk management project is contaminated with cyanobacteria.  The goal is to end all hazardous discharges, but affected areas should, at the very least, be notified of the threat.

Finally, the Prioritizing Revised Operations To Eliminate Cyanobacteria Toxins in Florida (the PROTECT Florida) Act will amend the Army Corps’ operational priorities to include public health, in addition to existing charges of flood control, navigation, water supply, enhancement of fish and wildlife, and recreation.  The Army Corps’ current operational priorities do not consider impacts to human health, and this bill would amend the Corps’ charges to include public health and protect Florida’s citizens from serious health consequences.

The three bills will be referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.