Thanks to all the Sludge Report readers for their e-mails and letters to Governor Scott. Phase III funding is approved! SB550 inspections are delayed until the DOH plan is reviewed by the Legislative Budget Committee! New Central Florida homeowner group, TRI-County Association H.E.L.P., Inc. launches their website, and membership drive is underway. No rest for the weary, L Legislative Committee Meetings start in August 2011, and the Legislature convenes in January, 2012. Water Forum 2011 report. Check out Calendar for other important meetings coming up.
Governor Scott approved SB2002 Budget Provision. The Dept. of Health, Bureau of On-Site Sewage must develop an implementation plan for inspections mandated by SB550, and the plan must be approved by the Legislative Budget Committee.
This provision addresses the cost to all Florida taxpayers of the Bureau’s expenses as they administer and monitor the plan – including the cost of the rules. This is the state’s cost for paper-shuffling. These implementation costs within the bureaucracy will be reviewed by the committee and either approved or denied.
We sincerely hope the Budget Committee review includes a serious consideration of the Return on Investment. In the grand scheme of nutrient loading, septic systems are, by anyone’s measuring stick the least significant contributor of nutrients to our water resources. It begs the question…how much is the state willing to spend on an insignificant and relatively un-measurable improvement in nitrogen levels.
Finally, we see the legislators demanding some accountability from this agency and its historically out of control rule-making. Rules cost money. Whether it’s the agency spending money to implement the law and the rules, or the homeowner having to spending money to comply, it all comes out of the taxpayers’ pocket. The taxpayer is tapped out. Our common sense criteria – if money is to be spent by either the state or the homeowner, guesstimates of need/benefit are not acceptable. The cost better be the wisest use of limited taxpayer dollars. Results should be scientifically predictable and measurable.
The Budget Committee is now responsible for the cost to the state. What about the cost to the homeowner? Previously in the Sludge Report, we reported that the 2010 Legislature established a new House committee. Headed by Rep. Chris Dorworth of Longwood, the House Rules and Regulations committee is charged with reviewing rules that impact the homeowner. The cost of any rule under consideration by a state agency cannot exceed $1,000,000 over five years or it must go in front of this committee. So, while the Budget Committee will review the cost to the state, this committee will review the cost to homeowners. We told you last year, this was really welcome news. Please thank your legislators for putting up this fire wall.
Governor Scott approves PHASE III funding for the Nitrogen Reduction Study. The Research Review and Advisory Committee (RRAC) is responsible for oversight of this three year study. Hazen and Sawyer have the contract for conducting the study. The legislature has directed the Dept. of Health to test alternative nitrogen reduction methods that can be used with conventional septic systems. The study is also expected to provide scientific data on the fate and transport of nitrogen from septic system as it travels through soil and ground water. Good news or bad, this portion of the study is long overdue. It could have been done and should have been done years ago. Instead of science, septic systems and homeowners have been the subject and object of strongly stated opinions, much of it inflammatory and prejudicial, without a basis in knowledge or fact. The tide of misinformation has spawned inappropriate DOH rules and legislation. It’s also spawned The Sludge Report to counteract some of the nonsense.
TRI-County Association H.E.L.P., Inc. Launches a New Web Site:
www.tricountyassociation.org (site no longer active: see http://www.jamesmadison.org/)
A few weeks ago, we reported on a new homeowner group formed in Orange, Seminole, and Lake Counties. The 501C-4 lobbying organization was formed by individuals and Homeowner Associations involved since 2008 in the grassroots movement active in fighting against DOH rulemaking for the Wekiva Study Area. Since then the group has widened its reach beyond the Wekiva Study Area to include all homeowners and businesses in the three county area. This past session, the organization has taken an active role to protect the interests of its members as legislation moved through committees and onto the floor for votes.
TRI-County Association has launched a new website, www.tricountyassociation.org. The group has begun a major membership drive in advance of the upcoming session. Issues that the group anticipates will have to be monitored and addressed include EPA’s Numeric Nutrient Criteria, the Legislative Budget Committee and review of the DOH inspection plan for SB550; FDEP/Basin Management activity, any new legislation impacting septic systems, etc.
Please visit the website, and join TRI-County Association. Your dues are the lifeblood of the group, and they need your support in order to represent you in Tallahassee.
SESSION BEGINS JANUARY 2012!
Redistricting is the reason no one will get time off this year! Normally, session begins March 1 and ends on April 30. Not this year. Committee meetings are starting up in late August and by January 2012, session will be in full swing.
SOUND FAMILIAR? Report on the Water Forum 2011.
Your editor attended the 2011 Water Forum on June 3, 2011 in Orlando. Featured speakers included Rep. Trudi Williams, Ft. Myers and Chair of the Select Committee on Water Policy; Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam; and several other notable speakers. I came away with the singular feeling that the state was about to negotiate with the EPA about the Numeric Nutrient Criteria looming over the State of Florida. Sure enough, on June 4, Sunshine State news published an article and interview with Commissioner Putnam that basically said exactly that. Florida will put its efforts into setting its own Numeric Nutrient Criteria together, and is hoping the EPA will go along. http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/story/adam-putnam-sees-hope-water-truce-epa?utm_
This article cites several points made by Commissioner Putnam and Rep. Willaims that ring a familiar bell. The State of Florida is now making the same points we have been trying to make all along! The State is now walking in our shoes and speaking the same language.
1. “We need good science to make good decisions.” A point made by Comm. Putnam that we have also been making all along about the rules set about by the Dept. of Health for homeowners with septic systems. That point has fallen on deaf ears with the media, the Bureau of On-Site Sewage and even the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection.
2. “Federal rules are not based on fact.” Rep. Trudi Williams points to methodology, unrealistic standards, astronomical cost to the State to achieve those standards. We have documentation that the methodology used to determine nitrogen loading from septic systems is faulty. The figures have not been changed to reflect that inaccuracy. The astronomical cost to homeowners to further reduce nitrogen was shrugged off by the Dept. of Health and the media. The fact that the Wekiva River met drinking water standards for nitrates meant nothing to our agencies, and still doesn’t.
3. “They took pristine water in the Everglades and still wanted it (the nutrient content) lower.” Very familiar objection. FDEP compared water quality in the Wekiva River to pristine springs in the Ocala National Forest in order to achieve an “impaired” status for the Wekiva River, which by all other measurements passed the clean water tests. Despite that fact, FDEP continues its “impaired” designation for the Wekiva River.
4. “agricultural and business groups have assailed the EPA’s standards as both ineffective and inappropriate.” Another familiar argument we have used when Performance Based Systems have been touted as THE SOLUTION to nitrogen reduction. They are both ineffective and inappropriate for the homeowners of Florida.
There is, of course, much more. Focus on this…now that the shoe is on the State of Florida’s foot, maybe our position and arguments will have more of a hearing. Florida is feeling our pain and is using our arguments to fight against unreasonable and unfounded mandates from the federal government. Welcome to our world.
IMPORTANT PUBLIC MEETINGS:
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
Agenda: Potential Revisions to State Statutes regarding Nutrient Standards.
DATE AND TIME: 9:00 AM, Tuesday, June 14, 2011
LOCATION: Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Bob Martinez Center, 2600 Blair Stone Road, Room 609, Tallahassee, Florida
DATE AND TIME: 9:00 A.M. Thursday, June 16, 2011
LOCATION: City of Leesburg Community Center, 109 E. Dixie Ave., Leesburg, FL