SB 550 creates state-wide regional “Super Agencies” to control every aspect of our lives; build fee structures and controls over septic systems; pass rules that do not need local or state legislative review; take control of local water authorities, land planning and permitting boards; issue bonds; receive ad-valorem taxes, and on and on. The sky is the limit on the authority and scope of this new “Responsible Management Entity (RME),” as it is called in SB550. We have highlighted some of the more obnoxious provisions contained in SB550. Whether you have a septic system or not, this bill impacts YOU. Call, e-mail, visit all of your senators and representatives in Tallahassee and ask for their help in defeating SB550. Contact your local town and county representatives as well. This affects THEM!
Highlights of bill SB550 include:
· Line 143. Modifies the definition of “pollution” to include excess nutrients. This definition will impact septic owners participating in an inspection program as it introduces a pass/fail criteria that conventional septic systems cannot meet. Conventional systems rely on denitrification properties of the soil to accomplish nitrogen removal before entering groundwater. The definition automatically defaults to a performance based solution in order to obtain operating permits which would be part of an inspection program.
Line 152. Requires compliance with EPA numeric nutrient criteria. Rules developed by EPA are more stringent than even the Dept. of Environmental Protection thinks are necessary. Again, no conventional septic system will survive these target reductions. The bill also removes the right of entities or individuals to challenge the EPA nutrient rules in administrative court. Takes away your right and the rights of our state to appeal arbitrary rules.
Line 174-181. Creates “Responsible Management Entities” These are new regional water authorities created to super-manage all water use and re-use activities on a regional basis throughout the state. Essentially, this entity takes over control of municipal water entities such as Orange County Utilities and sells water back to them for use by residents. Water bills will increase as the funding for cost of establishing an RME’s is derived from the sale of water back to water authorities. These “RME’s” have the authority to impose fees, override local land-use planning authorities, issue bonds, and receive ad-valorem tax revenues.
- Line 4013. RME actions regarding fees and the impact on residential costs are not subject to jurisdiction of the Public Service Commission.
- Lines 183, and 4147. Requires RME to pay homeowner sewer connection fees to private sewer treatment facilities. This is a direct transfer of taxpayer money to private use. There is no financial need requirement.
- Line 3190-3208. Legislative intent statement defines RME’s as the vehicle to insure that the installation and use of septic systems does not adversely affect public health or “significantly degrade groundwater or surface water.” The inclusion of this quoted statement is subject to interpretation. If the EPA numeric standards are mandatory(See Line 152), septic systems fail the required evaluation and must be replaced with a system deemed acceptable to meet those standards. The only system so far to meet those standards for nutrient reduction is PBTS. Companion action by Senator Constantine caused de-funding of Phase 2 studies for alternative passive nitrogen reduction technologies for septic systems. Homeowners then have only one option – performance based systems.
- Lines 4164, 4081. Transfers On-site Wastewater Treatment System administration to the RME. This new RME has powers to adopt rules, but is not subject to established rule-making requirements followed by DOH or FDEP.
- Line 4164. Requires a minimum fee of $10.00 per septic system owner to be paid to RME. The fee can be changed at any time by rule. Estimates of what the actual fee would be are averaging $50/year. Fees state wide at $10/yr. puts approximately $25 million dollars into the RME program. At $50/yr, $125 million is generated and used at RME discretion without oversight.
- Line 4110. “Participation by the homeowner in the RME program implies compliance with all federal and state water quality standards.” This simple statement can and will be interpreted to mean that septic systems that do not meet numeric nutrient criteria standards and FDEP nutrient reduction standards will fail the RME evaluation and be forced to install a performance based septic system.
SB550 is nearly 190 pages and contains much more than is outlined here. We hope Senators and Representatives in Tallahassee know what this is all about and VOTE NO IN COMMITTEE HEARINGS AND ON THE FLOOR. We hope they understand this is an unconscionable power and money grab that benefits no one but the people in charge of the “RESPONSIBLE MANAGEMENT ENTITY.”