Water bill amended to address DEP concerns, senator says

A far-reaching Senate water bill will be amended to address concerns raised by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the bill’s sponsor said Thursday.

SB 550 by Sen. Lee Constantine, R-Altamonte Springs, resulted from hearings held around the state as a Senate panel heard about threats of pollution and over-pumping to Florida’s springs, rivers and coastal waters. The bill includes requirements for septic tank inspections, directs DEP to establish specific limits for nitrogen and phosphorus in waterways and would ban the land-spreading of sludge from sewage plants and septic tanks.

Constantine on Tuesday told the Senate Policy and Steering Committee on Ways and Means that the bill would serve as a “firewall” against the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency setting nitrogen and phosphorus limits in Florida that would harm the economy.

DEP Secretary Michael Sole said Thursday the bill language remains a “big concern” for the department. DEP officials have raised concerns about the EPA proposal but say the bill establishes a process for setting limits that would take too long to win EPA approval. “My recommendation is if we can’t get it right we shouldn’t do it,” Sole said.

Constantine later said he has proposed amendments to remove that bill language. He also said he will propose other changes, including eliminating language that directs DEP to establish a new statewide stormwater rule. Audubon of Florida said the bill language provided loopholes for developers.

“Everything is still in play and everyone is still together” in support of the bill, Constantine said. The bill passed a committee earlier this week with support from the Florida Home Builders Association and Associated Industries of Florida.

(Story content provided by the Current, produced by The Florida Tribune. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and FloridaEnvironments.com. Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)