Florida Panhandle legislators seek to repeal septic tank inspection requirement

Two Panhandle legislators say they have filed a bill to repeal a new requirement in state law that all septic tanks be inspected every five years.

SB 550 was introduced by Sen. Lee Constantine, R-Altamonte Springs, in response to concerns about nitrogen pollution of waterways and groundwater. The law was amended by the Senate Ways and Means Committee to include the inspection requirement signed by Gov. Charlie Crist in June.

The bill had support from the Florida Home Builders Association, the Florida Onsite Wastewater Association and the Sierra Club. But complaints about the legislation emerged in July when some Panhandle residents became aware of the inspection requirement.

The Florida Department of Health has estimated that inspections for the state’s 2.5 million septic tanks will cost between $100 and $300, plus an additional $200 if the tank needs to be pumped out. DOH and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommend that septic tanks be inspected every five years.

DOH has scheduled a series of workshops around the state beginning on Oct. 12 in Fort Myers on a proposed rule to implement SB 550. But some lawmakers are trying to prevent DOH from phasing in the inspection program on Jan. 1 as required by the new law.

In a Sept. 23 letter, Sen. Durell Peaden, R-Crestview, and Rep. Greg Evers, R-Baker, asked Crist to delay implementation until the Legislature meets in 2011 but Crist refused. On Tuesday, Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, said they were filing bills to repeal the requirement.

Coley said in a statement there was a “clear conflict of interest” because companies that are paid to do the inspections helped craft the legislation. Gaetz said in the statement that the bill “is not supported by scientific necessity.”

The Florida Onsite Wastewater Association says the inspections are needed to identify septic systems that already are in violation of state law or to identify homes that have malfunctioning septic systems.

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