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Conservation groups to sue EPA over Florida manatee deaths

Monday’s notice gives the agencies 60 days to address violations alleged in the letter before the groups file a lawsuit.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Three conservation groups have filed formal notice of their intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency if it doesn't take steps to protect manatees from water pollution in Florida.

Pollution-fueled algae blooms are cited as the cause of half of 1,000 manatee deaths in Florida this year.

Monday's news release from the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and Save the Manatee Club claims algae blooms killed seagrass in the Indian River Lagoon and that it happened because of inadequate water quality standards.

“It’s disgraceful that hundreds of manatees have died as a direct result of regulators’ failure to protect our water quality,” Jaclyn Lopez, Florida director at the Center, said in a statement Monday. “The Indian River Lagoon is an ecological wonder that supports not just manatees, but green sea turtles, snook, tarpon and a stunning diversity of marine life.”

The groups argue that unregulated pollution in the Indian River Lagoon including "wastewater-treatment discharges, leaking septic systems and fertilizer runoff" all contributed to the algae outbreaks that kill seagrass and stop it from growing back.

 From Jan. 1, 2021, to Dec. 10, 2021, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission documented the deaths of 1,056 manatees. In 2020, FWC reported 558 manatee deaths and 527 in 2019. The increased amount of deaths in 2021 is alarming to conservation groups.

“It is painfully clear that Florida isn’t doing what’s necessary to control the sewage and fertilizer pollution that’s wrecking our public waters,” Earthjustice attorney Elizabeth Forsyth said in Monday's press release.

The FWC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a supplemental feeding plan for the starving manatees at Indian River Lagoon.

Monday’s notice gives the agencies 60 days to address violations alleged in the letter before the groups file a lawsuit.

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