Last week, the DEP’s Pathogen Technical Advisory Committee held its first workshop to begin a new rulemaking effort with regard to bacteria and pathogen risks in recreational waters to reflect new criteria and analytical methods.  The Committee is comprised of representatives from the DEP, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the Florida Department of Health, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and Jacksonville University. 

The Technical Advisory Committee intends to more effectively and efficiently address bacteria impairments using modern scientific identification and investigation techniques.  More specifically, the Department intends to:

1)  Revise the fecal indicator bacteria surface water quality criteria (Chapter 62-302, F.A.C.) to reflect the current science,

2)  Revise the impaired water assessment methodologies (Chapter 62-303, F.A.C.) to implement the updated fecal indicator bacteria criteria,

3)  Establish a methodology that derives specific fecal indicator bacteria Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) pollutant reductions for any individual surface water segment based on the data used to verify the impairment of the waterbody, and

4)  Set forth restoration expectations by Rule that implement fecal indicator bacteria TMDLs. 

In pre-TMDL years, actions could be taken with little impact.  Now, any designation of “impaired waters” could result in significant TMDL development and implementation costs.   In addition to fecal coliform, the update is expected to consider Enterococci and E.Coli as indicators, with considerable “Magnitude-Duration-Frequency” aspects.

The Committee is expected to schedule two to three more workshops in the coming months, with the hope of bringing revisions to the Environmental Regulation Commission by 2014.   For more information, please contact Eric Shaw, Standards Development Section, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Eric.Shaw@dep.state.fl.us or (850) 245-8429.