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Judge Faults Everglades Cleanup

June 02, 2005|From Associated Press

MIAMI — A federal judge ruled Wednesday that Florida and the U.S. government violated the 1992 Everglades cleanup settlement by allowing excessive discharges of phosphorus into the vast wetlands and failing to meet a storm-water treatment deadline.

U.S. District Judge Federico A. Moreno ordered that a special master, who was appointed to oversee the cleanup, hold a hearing on how to resolve the violations, which were brought to the judge's attention by an Indian tribe and environmental groups.

Moreno said allowable phosphorus levels had been exceeded each year since 1999, and that they were not the result of "error or extraordinary phenomena" beyond federal or state control.

Moreno also found a violation in the failure by government agencies to construct a 16,000-acre treatment area by Oct. 1, 2003, as required. Although now built, the judge said it was not fully operating.

Dexter Lehtinen, attorney for the Miccosukee tribe, said the judge's ruling would pressure the state to stop the phosphorus discharges into the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, on the northeast edge of the Everglades.

Phosphorus runoff from sugar operations, other farms, dairies and suburbs is blamed for upsetting the environmental balance of the Everglades.

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