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Appeals court says state must do more to clean Florida’s polluted springs

"This allows us to hold polluters accountable," Ryan Smart of the Florida Springs Council said after Wednesday's ruling.

TALLAHASSEE – Environmentalists working to reduce nitrate pollution in Florida’s freshwater springs declared victory Wednesday after the First District Court of Appeal ruled the Florida Department of Environmental Protection must take more action to clean the springs across the state.

"This is the biggest legal win for Florida’s environment in recent memory," Ryan Smart, executive director of the Florida Springs Council, said. "This decision will have major implications on the Outstanding Florida Springs."

Wednesday’s ruling says FDEP must be more specific in its BMAPs, or Basin Management Action Plans, on how it will reduce nitrate pollution in the springs. Pollution from nitrates is currently one of the biggest threats to the state’s freshwater springs.

Smart says current BMAPs do not meet minimum requirements to clean the springs and do not follow state law.

The legal battle against FDEP began in 2019, when environmental groups challenged the agency in court over its BMAP plans, claiming they were ineffective. However, a judge ruled in DEP’s favor.

Wednesday’s decision reverses the previous ruling.