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Make sure you read this to understand what the bill says. Contact your legislators and ask them to defeat this outrageous attempt to control your basic human rights, your property rights, and your constitutional rights.

We have read Senator Constantine’s Senate Bill 550. At first, certain things jumped out as individual problems, but the whole of it quickly gelled. It’s an incredibly bad piece of legislation for the following reasons:

First, the bill specifically states individuals and entities do not have the right to challenge EPA nutrient rules in the administrative law court. To us, that says loudly “unconstitutional.” We don’t think the state has the authority to abridge the citizen or municipal right to redress grievances with the Federal Government. In a memo from the judge who ruled the EPA could set numeric nutrient limits for Florida, he specifically said that the ruling did not prevent challenges to unreasonable or arbitrary rule-making. This is proposing to cancel that right.

Second, SB550 creates a quasi-agency/utility, the “Responsible Management Entity” (RME) that will have control over a “participation” slush fund.

  • The RME charges a fee (Line 4164) for “participation” with the fee set by the RME.
  • RME takes over inspection of septic systems from DOH, using private entities who may also be providers of performance systems. This is a conflict of interest.
    • RME creates rules, but does not have to follow rule making statutes, sets inspection fees, re-sells water back to utilities, but is not subject to Public Service Commission, issues bonds, ties into ad-valorem taxes, etc. (Lots of money collected – without having to justify fee increases as they are classified as “voluntary.”) Bill does not specify what the financial reporting requirements are.
  • Now the bill builds the case for joining the RME and paying the fee. With these in place, a homeowner with a septic system will fail the required inspection.
    • Line 143 changes the definition of pollution to include “excess nutrients.”
    • Line 152 requires compliance with EPA numeric nutrient criteria.
    • Lines 183 and 4147 require the RME to pay for homeowner sewer connection fees to “private sewer treatment facilities.” (Private sewer treatment facility is just another name for PBTS which is a mini-municipal treatment plant on the homeowner property.)
    • Line 4110. “Participation by the homeowner in the RME program implies compliance with all federal and state water quality standards.” This statement can and probably will be, interpreted to mean that septic systems that do not meet numeric nutrient criteria standards will fail the RME evaluation and be forced to install a performance based septic system (the mini-plant on your property). If you belong, you are paid for by your so-called RME “participation.” If you do not participate, you pay yourself.

Basically the homeowner is purchasing an insurance policy against a pre-determined outcome. It’s not IF you will fail inspection, you will fail. This is either blackmail or extortion, pick whichever term appeals or applies. Compare this to what the Mafia does where you pay a small protection fee, and it guarantees you will not pay the inevitable big price. It’s also a means of forcing shared cost among all for a system that has not been proven to meet EPA or state standards. With the study funding in jeopardy, PBTS will not be tested, nor will passive alternatives. This is social engineering at its best.

One other thought, the Public Service Commission serves the public, with the purpose of protecting citizens against actions (either financial or logistical) of utility companies that might keep essential services from them. The RME exempts itself from Public Service Commission oversight (Line 4013). If a homeowner fails an inspection, the RME can withhold an operating permit for that septic system – even if it is functioning- simply because it does not meet the nutrient standards. This denies the homeowner an essential sewage treatment, but the RME is operating outside the normal checks and balances that govern even Florida Power. What happens to the homeowner who does not belong to the RME and cannot afford a PBTS? I see the light of the eminent domain train at the end of this tunnel.

One more point, even if the RME is not the designated agency to accomplish this, and the inspection/enforcement entity is the Department of Health or FDEP, one thing is clear. If the legislative intent statements, the definition of pollution, the compliance standards, or the pass/fail criteria spelled out in this bill remain in any form, the consequences are the same. This bill must be defeated in its entirety.

Write/e-mail/fax your senators and representatives and insist that this bill be buried. Do it NOW. The legislature is only in session for another month, and the committee meetings considering proposed legislation are NOW. Billions are at stake, and so is your home, maybe your business, and your right to use it.