Hays withdraws Wekiva septic-tanks amendments

Rep. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, has withdrawn two bill amendments that were intended to prevent the state from requiring more expensive septic tanks to reduce nitrogen in springs along the Wekiva River in Central Florida.

The Florida Department of Health has proposed a rule that requires home sellers in the Wekiva River area to upgrade their septic tanks before selling. The rule was proposed under the Wekiva Parkway and Protection Act of 2004, according to DOH. But the Orange and Seminole county commissions have asked the state to delay action after residents raised concerns about the cost of new septic systems.

DOH says the systems cost $3,000 to $10,000 more than standard septic tanks. Hays said better science is needed to justify the cost.

“I am not in favor of allowing the continued destruction of that river and springs,” Hays said. “It is a treasure of Florida and we need to protect it. But I want that protection to be done on a scientific basis.”

He said he doesn’t know if the amendments will be reintroduced during the legislative session, which ends May 1.

A preliminary state study found that 26 percent of nitrogen came from agriculture fertilizer, 22 percent from septic tanks and 20 percent from residential fertilizer use.

1000 Friends of Florida and Audubon of Florida this week issued e-mail alerts saying that the Hays amendments violated the compromise in 2004 that allowed an expressway to be built through the area while protecting land and water.

In response to Hays’ comments, Audubon’s Charles Lee said the nitrogen from septic tanks is reduced more easily than from other sources.

Map extracted from DOH and University of Florida IFAS poster “Nitrogen Input Assessment for the Wekiva Study area.”

The poster, proposed rule and scientific studies are available at: http://www.doh.state.fl.us/environment/ostds/wekiva/wekiva.htm

See Orlando Sentinel Commentary: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/columnists/orl-asecmiket26032609mar26,0,5315513.column

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