Welcome to the Sludge Report
We are homeowners, homeowner associations, small business owners, civic leaders, and everyday people who call Florida home. When we formed in 2009, we focused on a single common cause – fighting the adoption of a rule initiated by the Florida Department of Health (FDOH), Bureau of On-Site Sewage. This rule targeted 55,000 homeowners in Central Florida’s Wekiva Study Area (WSA) who use septic systems to treat household waste. The rule mandated that, should repairs be needed, or the home was sold, that septic systems be replaced with very complex, electrically operated, and prohibitively expensive “performance-based treatment systems (PBTS).” Although DOH research was incomplete and inconclusive that this action would provide any substantial reduction in the Wekiva River’s nitrogen levels, the aggregate initial cost of the rule to homeowners in the WSA was estimated at just under $900 million dollars. Yearly maintenance costs added at least $100 a month to the financial burden borne by homeowners, and normal family life functioning compromised by PBTS restrictions.
Through a homeowner and legislator awareness effort, we were successful in stopping the rule-adoption process, and in side-tracking a bill moving through the legislature that would have set out similar mandates. However, the nature of the battle has evolved into a much broader battle, and it will impact the entire state. This web site has been launched so that Florida’s communities and residents will be aware of the issues, and be prepared to respond effectively to make sure property rights and home values are protected and residents are treated with respect and fairness.
We maintain that, while water quality and water quantity issues are important to Florida’s future, so are Florida’s residents, businesses, and communities. Therefore, policies, legislation, and bureaucratic rules must fairly and equally consider the economic and quality of life impact each and every rule and legislation will have on the communities and residents of Florida.
The Sludge Report is dedicated common sense and common cause….providing to you timely and accurate information that will prevent unproductive and lopsided solutions and promote win-win solutions to water quality and water quantity issues.
The issue is nitrogen. Septic system owners in Florida, all 2.5 million of us, stand accused of being a significant contributor of nitrogen found in ground and surface water, and therefore, we are one of the targets of a huge, multi-agency effort to reduce nitrogen levels in springs and waterways. Homeowners with septic systems in Central Florida have been engaged in this issue for more than six years, as we were the first group to be targeted by a new rule intended to reduce the nitrogen output of septic systems. We did our homework, educated ourselves and our neighbors about the research, the legislative issues, the proposed solutions, and involved ourselves deeply in the all the important issues. We found the rule to be unwarranted, unacceptable, and unproductive. And so, we mobilized to stop the rule.
From that point forward, we made it our mission to make sure that state and federal agency rules and legislation met three simple tests:
- Do we have sound science that demonstrates the need for action?
- Do we have proposed solutions that are realistic, tested, and cost-effective?
- Will we see a measurable improvement in water quality if the solution is imposed?
Repeatedly, the answer to all three questions on various legislation and rules has been an emphatic “no”. We all want and need clean water. However, we have a corresponding responsibility to make sure precious financial resources of our citizens and our state are not wasted by taking actions based on opinion, not science. Nor will we accept costly solutions that offer little or no predictable improvement in water quality.