Standards and Assessment

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Standards and Assessment (SAS) administers the quality assurance and water quality standards programs, is responsible for a number of special technical issues, including mercury and bioassessment, and provides technical support in the ecological aspects of water quality science to other departmental programs.

The Quality Assurance (QA) Program provides Department-wide oversight on QA issues for the water, waste and resource management programs. DEP’s quality assurance requirements for analytical laboratories and field activities (Standard Operating Procedures) are codified in the QA Rule, Chapter 62-160, of the Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.). The DEP QA Directive outlines procedures and staff responsibilities for the comprehensive implementation of the Department’s Quality Assurance Management Plan. Besides the general oversight responsibilities, SAS provides technical QA support for programs, conducts various field and laboratory audits to determine compliance with the QA Rule, and provides scientific training on a wide variety of topics.

Florida’s Water Quality Standards program is responsible for reviewing, establishing, and revising state water quality standards, as established in Chapters 62-302 (surface water quality standards), 62-4 (antidegradation policy), and 62-303 (impaired waters rule), F.A.C. The components of Florida’s water quality standards include: classifications and uses, criteria, an anti-degradation policy, moderating provisions, and special protection of certain waters (Outstanding Florida Waters). The section works closely with a variety of stakeholders and also assists with requests for waterbody use classification changes, development of Site Specific Alternative Criteria, and Use Attainability Analyses (UAA). The section provides guidance on the implementation of antidegradation policies in Rule 62-4.242, F.A.C. In response to recent initiatives put forth by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Florida has been extremely active in developing biological criteria and numeric nutrient criteria for fresh and marine waters.
Special Technical Issues

SAS is involved in a variety of special technical issues in which the section provides support for experimental study design, field sampling, and the review, interpretation, statistical analysis and reporting of environmental data.

SAS staff provide technical expertise on the effects of mercury on aquatic food webs and human health. This includes support for the development of a comprehensive statewide mercury Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and for Everglades restoration.

SAS leads DEP’s effort to develop, implement, and provide quality assurance support for Florida’s biological assessment tools. Biological assessment is an applied scientific discipline that uses the response of resident aquatic biological communities to various stressors as a method of evaluating ecosystem health. SAS also provides training and testing for individuals who wish to perform bioassessments.

What is a TMDL?

A scientific determination of the maximum amount of a given pollutant that a surface water can absorb and still meet the water quality standards that protect human health and aquatic life. Water bodies that do not meet water quality standards are identified as “impaired” for the particular pollutants of concern–nutrients, bacteria, mercury, etc.–and TMDLs must be developed, adopted and implemented for those pollutants to reduce pollutants and clean up the water body.

The threshold limits on pollutants in surface waters–Florida’s surface water quality standards on which TMDLs are based–are set forth primarily in rule 62-302, Florida Administrative Code, and the associated table of water quality criteria.

What are the basic steps in the TMDL program? How does it work?

1. Assess the quality of surface waters–are they meeting water quality standards?
2. Determine which waters are impaired–that is, which ones are not meeting water quality standards for a particular pollutant or pollutants.
3. Establish and adopt, by rule, a TMDL for each impaired water for the pollutants of concern–the ones causing the water quality problems.
4. Develop, with extensive local stakeholder input, a Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) that….
5. Implement the strategies and actions in the BMAP.
6. Measure the effectiveness of the BMAP, both continuously at the local level and through a formal re-evaluation every five years.
7. Adapt–change the plan and change the actions if things aren’t working.
8. Reassess the quality of surface waters continuously.

The Divisions are working on a more comprehensive approach to protecting Florida water quality involving basin-wide assessments and the application of a full range of regulatory and non-regulatory strategies to reduce pollution. The Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) is the heart of this comprehensive approach.

PALATKA — Those familiar with the idyllic Matanzas River might describe the waterway and its surrounding shoreline as “outstanding.” St. Johns River Water Management District officials and many partners are working to make that description official.

At the request of a citizens’ group in southern St. Johns County, the District’s Governing Board directed staff to develop a plan to protect the basin. Staff began implementing the plan in 2009. The District petitioned the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to designate the Matanzas River Basin as an Outstanding Florida Waters (OFW) water body, a distinction that would provide more stringent water quality standards for discharges than are allowed in other waters. The District is also working with DEP to develop improved stormwater treatment rules to address nutrient pollution problems.

“All of the major hurdles have been passed so far,” says Ken John, assistant director of the District’s Department of Water Resources. “DEP is forging ahead to enter the required rulemaking process necessary to establish the Matanzas River Basin as an OFW water body.”

Meanwhile, District staff and an outside consultant are investigating the resource values of the basin to determine whether allowable future uses will cause harm. The results of this study will guide the District and other stakeholders in developing strategies to protect the basin from future threats. One possible strategy is a special basin rule that would provide protection to the basin through additional permitting criteria.

“By examining existing protections, the completed study will help us determine whether the river basin’s natural resources could be negatively impacted in the future,” John says. “We can then look to develop new measures to ensure water quality in the Matanzas remains good.”

Throughout the process, a series of stakeholder meetings are being held to gather input from local governments, environmental groups, landowners and District Governing Board members.

“Everyone wants to do the right thing for the Matanzas basin,” John notes. Local governments are looking at ways to retrofit existing systems to improve conditions, and landowners are exploring LID (low impact development ) standards for new development “We plan to hold another public meeting at the end of the year so that we can get everyone in the same room, to determine what measures are necessary to protect the water quality within the basin.”

Within a 16,000-acre conservation corridor, the District co-owns Faver-Dykes State Park, Matanzas State Forest and Flagler County’s Princess Place Preserve, and the District manages the Pellicer Creek and Moses Creek conservation areas. The District continues to look at other opportunities to acquire and restore land within the basin for conservation purposes.

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