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This Report contains important background information on EPA news, Senator Constantine’s new SB 550, an introduction to the “Select Committee on Florida’s Inland Waters” and a Sludge Report Editorial

At our last update on EPA’s efforts to pass numeric nutrient criteria for the State of Florida, we asked you to send letters and e-mails protesting the rule making effort. The deadline for comment was March 29. Since that time, an excellent article, written by Orange County Commissioner, Fred Brummer appeared in the Apopka Chief on March 5. It contains a completely understandable explanation of why the EPA is proceeding with rule making, how rule making works, and what would happen to all Florida residents as a result. (click here to read the text of this article.) We urge you to open and read this.

Since this article appeared, other events have transpired. Due to your protests and the protests of many agencies, professional and agricultural associations, Florida’s Dept. of Environmental Protection, and legislators, the EPA extended the deadline for one month, to April 29, and engaged many organizations, groups, legislators, and state agencies in discussions regarding EPA’s rule making.

This week, Senator Charles (Charlie) Dean has just published a newsletter that contains new and welcome information about the EPA’s activities in our state. (click here to read the text contained in Sen. Dean’s newsletter). EPA has decided to delay until 2011 the numeric limits on nitrogen and phosphorous related to streams, and work with the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection to review scientific information and develop plans of action.

To receive updates from Commissioner Fred Brummer, contact Sara Fowler ( To receive Senator Dean’s newsletter, contact Senator Dean’s legislative assistant in Tallahassee (850-487-5017. Thanks to both Comm. Brummer and Senator Dean for their efforts to keep us informed.

SENATE BILL 550 – 3/18/10 – Orlando Sentinel reviews Senator Constantine’s newest Legislation.

“Bold,” “a paradigm shift,” “sweeping legislation” are all words used to describe the legislation introduced by Senator Constantine in Tallahassee to the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee. According to the Sentinel, much of the language is based on remarks made at six public hearings staged by Constantine across the state, from December to February and on bills filed during the current legislative session by other senators.” (Inland Waters Committee Report) In the article, Senator Constantine indicated it would “take time to understand all the bits and pieces.”

So far, the bill is more than 200 pages, with provisions regarding septic tanks still being written. Proposals include instituting a $10/month fee imposed on homeowners with septic systems to help fund replacement systems.

Other highlights of the bill include:
  • Repealing a law that denied public hearings when water management boards conducted utility “permitting” hearings, and require FDEP and the state’s water management boards to develop a “catalog and analysis of the utility permits that control consumption of Florida’s dwindling water supplies.”
  • Authorizing Fl. Dept. of Environmental Protection to adopt a regulation with standards for protecting state waters from pollution. According to the Sentinel, this move is aimed at circumventing the federal EPA’s numeric nutrient ruling efforts.
  • Defining “new water supplies” with a conservation emphasis so that federal funds are available for water related programs.
  • Banning spreading of sewage sludge, and strengthen regulations governing stormwater runoff.

The Select Committee on Florida’s Inland Waters was created last year. Their report was released on Thursday, March 11, 2010. Chair of the Committee is Senator Lee Constantine. Members include Senators Lawson, Baker, Bullard, Dean, Dockery, Garcia, Justice, and Oelrich. We recommend reading this as it will provide a framework for understanding SB 550. The yellow highlighting in the report is provided by Commissioner Brummer and is relevant to the EPA’s nutrient standards. Since this new development regarding EPA and FDEP working together, it is now also relevant to the BMAP (Basin Management Action Plan) process. We discussed in a previous article the connection between the nitrogen/phosphorous reduction targets being set by the BMAP committees and rules for septic systems.

Some side notes on the provisions contained in Senator Constantine’s SB550:

With Constantine’s example of $10 per month, septic system homeowners in the Wekiva Study Area will contribute more than $6 million a year to the proposed replacement fund. Using that same figure statewide, 2.3 million septic system owners will contribute $276 million into a replacement fund. Although we have never before been asked to pay for our neighbor’s septic system replacement, “cost sharing” seems to be the wave of the future.

However, the question remains – replace with what? Bold and Gold carbon media is not yet ready for the market, and Performance Based Treatment Systems (PBTS) are still a technology unsuitable for the average homeowner to live with or maintain at a reasonable cost. This sounds like an attempt to do an end-run around the cost objections homeowners have about PBTS, but does not address the real issues that have nothing to do with cost.

One of the recommendations contained in the Inland Waters Committee report chaired by Sen. Constantine is “Aquifer and water resource protection measures must be adopted that reduce nitrogen and phosphorous loading.” Make no mistake…this means YOU. While the Dept. of Health has seemingly taken the back seat, simply offering advice on the best technology to “guarantee” the nutrient reductions from septic systems, FDEP will be in the driver’s seat, with the BMAP nutrient loading pie chart in their hip pocket. This makes the many and valid questions about science behind the pie chart extremely important.