Environmental groups threaten EPA with lawsuit for not protecting manatees

Reporter: Stephanie Byrne Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:
Credit: WINK News

Environmental groups in Florida are threatening to sue the Environmental Protection Agency. These groups claim the EPA failed to protect manatees from water pollution.

This possible lawsuit comes after more than 1,000 manatees have died across the state just this year.

Environmental experts say not only is water quality in crisis, but they want those responsible for the pollution to be held accountable. One of the environmental advocates that spoke to WINK News said this year is the tipping point for pollution.

Jaclyn Lopez is Florida’s director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “We all want manatees that are chubby and cute and rolling around and playful. Nobody wants to state see starving manatees,” said Lopez.

The way Lopez sees it, no one wants water pollution either, but especially not the manatees.

This is why a handful of environmental groups, including the Center for Biological Diversity, have threatened to sue the EPA.

“Well, under the Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency is charged with keeping our waters clean, and it’s delegated some of that responsibility to the state,” Lopez said.

As manatees starve to death due to a lack of seagrass in the Indian River Lagoon, many believe this is due to poor water quality.

Environmental groups demand that more be done. “What we would hope is that not just a recovery of Indian River Lagoon, but preventative measures to make sure that this type of ecosystem collapse doesn’t happen in other really important estuaries in Florida and throughout the nation,” said Lopez.

Leaders at the state and federal levels are rushing to save as many manatees as possible through supplemental feeding and rescuing. The hope is that this move will solve the larger water quality issue.

“We also, at the same time, need to be taking care of the habitats upon which these manatees depend because if we don’t do that, there’s going to be no place to return them to,” Lopez said.

WINK News reached out to the EPA, and a public affairs director said the agency is concerned about manatee deaths. The spokesperson also said they are committed to working with Florida and other partners to implement nutrient reduction strategies. The EPA has received the notice and is currently reviewing it.

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