Environmentalists sue to overturn EPA water rule

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WASHINGTON (AP) -- A Florida environmental group sued the Bush administration Friday over a recent decision to allow water to be transferred without a permit.

Water is routinely moved from reservoirs, rivers and lakes into other waterways for drinking, irrigation and other uses. While the discharge of pollutants into water from a pipe or other "point source" needs a permit under the Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency on June 9 said the requirement would no longer apply to water transfers, even though the water could contain contaminants.

The Florida Wildlife Federation, which filed the suit in U.S. Circuit Court in Atlanta, argues that the decision will allow contaminated water to enter pristine waters.

"We are seeking to invalidate the rule. This will have terrible consequences all over the United States," said David Guest, director of the Florida office for Earthjustice, which is representing the federation in the case.

In 2002, the group successfully sued the South Florida Water Management District and EPA to require a permit for pumping water from irrigation ditches into Lake Okeechobee. Before the EPA's ruling, the agency generally did not issue permits for water transfers.