The State of Numeric Nutrient Criteria in the State of Florida


  • Eric Stanley, PE, Rosalyn D. Matthews, PE, PhD - Hazen and Sawyer

This paper will discuss the history and impacts of the EPA’s numeric nutrient criteria (NNC) and the recently approved Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) regulations. Florida is the first state where NNC are being fully implemented, the results of which could set precedence for other states. This paper will provide a regulatory update on the NNC for all waterbodies and how they may affect Florida wastewater utilities in their discharge to surface water or reuse. Two Florida wastewater utility case studies will be described. The status of NNC development in other states will be briefly discussed.

NNC History and Regulatory Update:
In January 2009, the EPA declared Florida’s existing narrative criteria insufficient to protect water quality. The EPA proposed NNC for Florida lakes, streams, springs, and some estuaries in November 2010 (phase 1 EPA rule), including limits on TN, TP, nitrate-nitrite, and chlorophyll-A. In October, 2011 the FDEP introduced similar but more flexible rule language (phase 1 FDEP rule) in lieu of the phase I EPA rule, and submitted it to the EPA in June 2012 for approval. During the entire rulemaking process, there was controversy and multiple court challenges from various stakeholders. On November 30, 2012, the phase 1 FDEP rule was approved by the EPA. The second phase of the two-part NNC rule-making process was also recently proposed by the EPA on November 30, 2012 (phase 2 EPA rule) for estuaries, coastal waters, and canals.

Case Studies:
The potential effects of NNC on the reclaimed water programs and/or surface water discharges of two facilities will be discussed:
• Central Florida facility with surface water discharge, wetlands treatment and public access reuse
• South Florida facility where reclaimed water is stored in detention ponds that may periodically overflow to canals which flow to downstream waterbodies

For more information, contact the author at

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