All of the details of the Florida Legislation SB 550 and how it will affect home owners with septic systems is included in this report. Also included is what you need to know about the newly mandated inspection program.
Special Session Over the Budget a Possibility. Governor Crist is apparently entertaining the idea of calling a special session of the legislature. The time is NOW to make sure you contact the Governor’s office and make sure he knows how important BUDGET LINE ITEM 1775A is to more than 2.5 million residents of his state who have septic systems.
This Phase II Study funding represents an expenditure of less than $1.00 per affected citizen and has the potential to make sure billions of their hard-earned dollars are not wasted on un-tested, un-proven and possibly unnecessary electrically operated nitrogen reducing septic technologies (PBTS).
As an added benefit, the new passive alternatives included in this Phase II study may very well be an environmental game changer for septic systems installations throughout the country. We won’t know unless the funding is approved and the Phase II study completed. Preserve the funding for Phase II, Line Item 1775A, and it’s a win/win for the people of Florida and the environment. Even the EPA and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection win on this one – as Florida shows it’s serious about real science, real solutions and real cost/benefit.
SEND AN E-MAIL TO Charlie.Crist@eog.myflorida.com TODAY.
FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH WEBSITE: A quick summary of the current status and description of the Phase II Study parameters. The Interim Report mentioned below is available on this website and through the DOH website.
Department of Health rulemaking for the Wekiva Study Area was put on hold by the Legislature until May 1, 2010.
February 2010 – Interim Report issued.
The department has issued an Interim Report on the Passive Nitrogen Reduction Study (678 kb pdf). The report recommends that the Legislature provide at least $2 million to fund the next phase of the project, primarily for field monitoring over at least a one-year monitoring period of performance and cost of technologies at home sites, and of nitrogen fate and transport. This funding also will continue the development and monitoring work at the test facility, and of modeling. Additional funding will be needed from the 2011 legislative session to complete monitoring and other field activities, and final reporting with recommendations on onsite sewage nitrogen reduction strategies for Florida’s future.
A PERSONAL, AND NOW PUBLIC, NOTE OF THANKS from Doug Everson
It wasn’t perfect and there are areas we’ll need to watch out for but……The passage of SB 550 is a testament to our system of Government . A few people can affect a change or course. For me, it represents the culmination of years of fighting and working to see that neither the small business people who comprise our industry, nor the homeowners who utilize our systems and services fall victim to well intentioned, but poorly crafted rules. It was a small Septic tank contractor with a strong accent (Dominique from Greens Environmental) and a Realtor/Broker and Property Manager from Orlando (Pam Tucker) who were the first to take up the cause with me. It is because of them and their staying the course these many years that common sense finally prevailed. To the Realtors, the Home Builders, the Markham Woods Homeowners Association, the Florida Onsite Wastewater Association, and all the other individuals who took up the cause and became involved over the years THANK YOU. There are many Legislators who understood and worked to make it happen for their constituents.. You will NOT be forgotten! Our task now is to see it is implemented fairly. With the funds to finish the critical Phase II research and testing on passive systems ,reasonable benefit/ cost options will be available.
Plastic Tubing Inc… and its owner Mike Maroschak , even during these tough economic times, you continued to support our efforts and the industry, my personal thanks for doing what was right .
THE IMPACT OF THE RECENTLY PASSED SB 550 ON SEPTIC SYSTEMS IN THE STATE OF FLORIDA:
- Permits, Installations, and Repairs: Permit must be issued by the Dept. of Health for construction, repair, modification, abandonment, or operation of an on-site sewage system.
- Issuance of a permit not contingent upon prior approval by the Dept. of Environmental Protection (except certain coastal areas).
- Individuals may perform repairs and maintenance on his/her own residential system without a professional license, but is subject to all permitting requirements.
- DOH must approve and re-permit any septic where changes occur in occupancy or tenancy of a commercial building.
- Evaluation and Assessment: Beginning 1/1/11, DOH will administer a 5 year cycle of septic system evaluation assessing “the fundamental operational condition of systems and identifying any failures within the systems.” Assessment may include pump-out requirement, recommended repair, and possible enforcement procedures if owner does not obtain an evaluation. Owner is excused from evaluation if documentation is available showing that a pump-out or a permitted repair occurred within past five years.
- Separation of drain field from wettest season water table:
- Systems installed before 1/1/83 and still functional must meet the 6” separation.
- Systems installed before 1/1/83 requiring drainfield replacement, repair or modification must meet a 12” separation. This may require mounding to achieve the separation.
- Systems installed after 1/1/83 and still functional must meet a 12” separation
- Systems installed after 1/1/83 requiring drainfield replacement, repair, or modification must meet a 24” separation.
- Land application of septage will cease effective 1/1/2016. This may increase the homeowner’s cost to pump out a system as contractor fees for disposal will probably increase. A report will be generated evaluating the alternatives and costs prior to 2016.
- Fees for homeowner evaluation report paid to the DOH:
- Not less than $15, or more than $40. Plus whatever the contractor charges to do the report.
- Variance application – $150-$300
- Re-inspection site-visit fee after construction/modification – $25 – $100
The above bullet items are the only references contained in SB550 that are of immediate interest to our homeowners.
That said, the final version that passed the legislature was primarily about water supply and water resource planning. Stung as we were about the misinterpretation of the Wekiva Parkway Protection Act by the Department of Health, we read all of SB550 it to see if other areas of the bill were open to such interpretation or misinterpretation. Here is what we found:
- SB550 encourages the formation of Regional Water Supply Authorities which bring together counties, municipalities, water management districts, etc. with the goal of coordinating efforts to increase and sustain potable (drinkable)water for existing and future development. In the absence of Regional Authorities, water management districts increase the scope of their activity to function in the same manner.
Opinion Bullet #1. In the current total absence of economic growth in Florida, we fail to see the urgency of the problem. Basically, the bill increases the bureaucratic oversight and infrastructure. The costs of running such an authority are recoverable through increases in water and sewage fees. The fees and the provision for issuing bonds to fund water supply and water resource projects spells out a scenario for increased consumer costs. There is a provision that projected increases in supply or quality must be quantified.
- Water supply and water resource projects receive funding to increase the supply or the quality of available water. “Such efforts should use all practical means of obtaining water, including, but not limited to withdrawals of surface water and ground water, reuse, and desalinization.” Projects are given priority according to criteria including that the project “significantly implements reuse, storage, recharge, or conservation of water in a manner that contributes to the sustainability of regional water sources.” In another line item, we found projects receiving priority funding for flood control, water storage, and for “groundwater recharge augmentation.”
Opinion Bullet #2. Make no mistake; the output of septic systems recharges the aquifer. If septic system owners are increasingly being blamed for degradation of surface and groundwater, it would not be difficult for DOH or FDEP to justify a mandate that we take responsibility for making sure drinking quality water is the output from our systems into the groundwater/aquifer. The magic question is, how do they make sure it’s drinking water quality? The preliminary report from DOH suggests strongly that the only way they can assure water quality coming out of the aquifer at the springs is to control and easily test for nutrients going in – i.e. Performance Based Septic Systems (PBTS) are the only systems that can be easily tested for nutrients going into the ground water and aquifer at this time.
- Regarding the EPA’s proposed numeric nutrient standards, the bill strongly advises that the standards proposed by the EPA “fail to incorporate, and may undermine, the state’s science-based total maximum daily loads program.” Further, it states that imposed standards will have severe economic consequences on all segments of the state’s utilities, agriculture, industries and residents, specifically citing those on fixed incomes and living below poverty level.
Opinion Bullet #3. We are pleased the bill confronts the huge issue of harsh EPA standards being imposed on our state, and only in our state. And, we agree that these heavy handed mandates will cause economic hardship. However, both the EPA standards and the Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) standards promoted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), Basin Management Action Planning(BMAP) committees have been seriously questioned for their lack of science-based standards and conclusions about septic systems, and the billions it will cost to meet the targets set by both agencies, with little or no proof of appreciable improvements in water quality.
We are watching. We are waiting. We will see how this all plays out. If there are agendas, instead of fact, we will be involved. We know there are legislators who have been pro-active and driven to act on our behalf and on behalf of common sense. Thanks to all of those legislators who hold the concerns of our citizens dear and are the conscience of our state.