Published: Mar 15, 2013 5:49 PM EDT

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - State and federal environmental authorities agreed Friday on rules to reduce water pollution, but environmentalists slammed the deal, saying it wasn't tough enough on how much fertilizer and other pollutants should be allowed in Florida waters.
    
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the agreement, which attempts to head off contamination that leads to toxic algae blooms. They can kill fish and wildlife and make people sick.
    
DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. said the new limits are adequate to protect water quality.
    
"We can now move forward to implementing nutrient reduction criteria, rather than delaying environmental improvements due to endless litigation," he said in a statement.
    
When fertilizer and animal manure from farms and ranches run into waterways, they bring nitrogen and phosphorus. Those act as nutrients to algae.
    
The algae essentially have a feeding frenzy, resulting in the blooms that cause red tides and other slimy, smelly outbreaks.
    
Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Attorney General Pam Bondi, the Florida Farm Bureau Federation and the Florida League of Cities released statements lauding the deal. But a lawyer for Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law firm, called the compromise a "sell out."
    
"This bogus plan gives deep-pocketed polluters even more loopholes," said Earthjustice attorney David Guest, whose group wanted stricter federal standards. "And what do we, the public, get? More gross, slimy algae in the water."
    
In November, the EPA allowed the state's numeric nutrient criteria to cover "all lakes, rivers, streams and springs, as well as estuaries from Clearwater Harbor to Biscayne Bay," DEP's statement said.
    
The idea is to let Florida eventually enforce water pollution rules without the federal government. The DEP said it now will begin to write more detailed rules for protecting Florida's waterways.
    
Guest wants the plan reviewed in federal court to see if it squares with the Clean Water Act. He also said more than 18,000 people wrote the EPA this year, supporting the stricter federal standards.
    
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