Backlash brewing against Florida septic tanks requirement

A proposed state septic tank rule and the legislation that sparked the rule are becoming the focus of anti-government critics.

SB 550 during the legislative session requires septic tank owners statewide to receive an inspection at least once every five years. A Florida Department of Health advisory board is reviewing a draft rule on Thursday and DOH has scheduled a series of workshops in October.

The bill was promoted as a measure to protect Florida’s springs, which have become choked with weeds and algae as nitrogen in groundwater from a variety of sources has increased. DOH and the septic tank industry say septic tanks should be inspected and pumped out every three to five years to keep them functioning properly. Florida has 2.6 million septic tanks, according to a DOH study completed May 1.

But SB 550 is facing a backlash from critics in the Legislature and some rural counties. Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, and Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach say they will introduce bills in the next legislative session to repeal the measure.

“I just simply think that to mandate every five years for every homeowner with a septic tank to have it inspected is unnecessary and big government,” Coley said. She introduced a bill to repeal the mandate during the July special session on oil drilling but the Legislature adjourned without voting on any legislation.

The septic tank inspections by private contractors could cost $100 to $300, according to the Department of Health. Septic tank owners could spend roughly $200 to get the tank pumped out at that time. The rules take effect Jan. 1 with the inspection requirement being phased in over five years.

The Jackson County Commission on July 26 wrote to Gov. Charlie Crist saying that the county wants the law repealed or that the DOH rules be “written in such a way that they will be the least burdensome to the citizens of rural Florida.”

The Santa Rosa County Commission on Monday heard complaints from residents about the state requirement. Pace resident Sharon Glass, a local tea party organizer, said she is willing to rent a bus to take residents to Tallahassee to protest, according to the Pensacola News Journal.

The Department of Health is working with its advisory board and contractors to make sure inspection is provided at the lowest cost possible, said Gerald Briggs, the department’s bureau chief for onsite sewage programs.

“We are very concerned this will cost property owners and we are making sure the cost is as low as we can make,” Briggs said.

The inspection requirement will help the state identify septic tanks that are in violation of regulations and are polluting groundwater, said Sam Averett, president of Averett Septic Tank in Lakeland. He said some homes may require new drain fields installed on mounds of soil at a cost $5,000 to $6,000.

“Every system needs to be maintained,” Averett said. “You are affecting some water body somewhere — everywhere in the state…If the homeowners were maintaining their systems to begin with this would not be an issue — but they are not.”

(Story provided by the Florida Tribune. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained by contacting

5 thoughts on “Backlash brewing against Florida septic tanks requirement”

  1. It's a shame these cheap-labor libertarians with their worship of neoliberal economics can't understand the concept of externalized costs. They strain at a gnat but swallow a camel.

  2. This will create a bigger problem of septic companies who will take advantage and fail perfectly working septics and a homeowner won't have any other choice than to face fines or pay for a new system. This is a step in the WRONG direction!

Comments are closed.