EPA calls for denial of rock mining permits near Everglades

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has waded in against the rock mining industry's plans to expand into 6,800 acres of wetlands bordering Everglades National Park and Miami-Dade County's biggest source of drinking water.

The EPA, in a letter sent last week to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, recommends denying nine requests for new mining permits, saying the rock pits would destroy wildlife habitat, drain water from adjacent Everglades marshes and potentially degrade water quality in a swath of Northwest Miami-Dade that the industry has dubbed the Lake Belt.

The letter echoes concerns raised by Senior U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler, who in February reinstated an earlier overturned order that halted mining in hundreds of acres surrounding a well field that supplies more than 1 million people.

Davina Marraccini, an EPA spokeswoman in Atlanta, stressed the agency ''is not proposing to halt rock mining in the Lake Belt.'' The EPA, in fact, states that it wants to work with miners and the Corps to ``enable continued mining while protecting South Florida's environment.''

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