The governmental organizations that directly impact the 15 counties of the Suwannee St Johns (SSJ) Group of the Sierra Club are the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), and the Alachua County Environmental Protection Department (Alachua County EPD). The EPA is directly involved with the Cabot-Koppers-Beazer Superfund site in Alachua County. The source of the pollution on this site dates back almost 100 years, when lumber (e.g. telephone poles) was treated with copper sulphate, arsenic, and other toxic compounds to keep wood boring insects from drilling into the wood.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection overseas and manages Florida’s state parks and trail systems. Through the Florida Forever Program the FDEP acquires and preserves natural lands for hundreds of rare and endangered plants and animals, significant archaeological and historical sites, watersheds and water recharge areas, multiple recreational opportunities, and urban open space. The Department’s regulatory priorities include administering Florida’s air pollution control programs to best prhotect human health; protecting and restoring water quality; managing hazardous waste and cleanups; overseeing beach restorations; and reviewing applications for power plants, transmission lines and natural gas pipelines. The Everglades Restoration Project is one of their large conservation projects. They are also involved with the monitoring of off shore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
Unlike most counties, Alachua County has its own Environmental Protection Department (EPD). The different responsibilities within EPD are Pollution Prevention, Natural Resources, Hazardous Waste, Water Resources, and Land Conservation. While a number of candidates have tried to assert in the August 14, 2012 (primary) and November 6, 2012 elections that the EPD duplicates the efforts of the FDEP and is wasteful and inefficient, the report of the Environmental Protection Advisory Committee (EPAC) indicates that little of substance was found in these allegations. With the elections of Mike Byerly, Robert “Hutch” Hutchinson, and Chuck Chestnut to the Alachua County Commission, EPD and its excellent director, Chris Bird, should remain as watchdogs of the environment–at least for the next two years.