TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Legislature is expected to address the nutrient pollution that feeds algae blooms during their 2020 session.
Florida Senate Bill 712, has been tagged Florida’s Clean Waterways Act. It was filed by Senator Debbie Mayfield on Oct. 30, 2019, and is on the Jan. 22 agenda of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government.
The bill, which mirrors many of the recommendations of the Blue Green Algae Task Force, would transfer oversight for septic tanks from the Department of Health to the Department of Environmental Protection. The bill also addresses the need to limit the nutrient load from stormwater systems and to make sure all agriculture producers are enrolled in Best Management Practices (BMP) programs.
Department of Health rules for septic tanks deal with pathogens but do not address the nutrient load of phosphorus of nitrogen leaving the septic tanks, the legislation notes.
“Conventional onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems contribute nutrients to groundwater and surface waters across this state which can cause harmful blue-green algal blooms,” the bill states.
The bill calls for stricter requirements for separation between septic drain fields and the wet season water table elevation and for more oversight and inspection.
It would also provide grant funding for:
• Projects to retrofit onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems to nutrient-reducing systems;
• Projects to construct, upgrade or expand facilities to provide advanced waste treatment; and,
• Projects to connect homes now on septic systems to central sewer facilities.
Priority will be given to projects with the most overall environmental benefit.
State grants will require a 50 percent match from local government. The department may waive the local contribution for projects in areas designated as a rural area of opportunity.
The act requires the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to collect fertilization and nutrient records from each agricultural producer enrolled in BMPs that address nutrients. The records must include rates of application in pound per acre, application method, fertilizer type or source, acres covered, formulation of the applied fertilizer, location, grade and dates applied. The act also requires FDACS to perform onsite inspections of agriculture producers at least every two years to ensure BMPs are property implemented.
In addition, the act would require the state to regulate biosolids management to “minimize the migration of nutrients that impair water bodies.”