Will Robinson looks to restore septic inspections

septic tanks

New legislation filed by state Rep. Will Robinson looks to restore inspection requirements on septic tanks that were eased at the height of the Great Recession.

“I heard about nothing else more than red tide during the course of my campaign,” Robinson said. “Even at my victory party, a supporter said to me, ‘Will, do something. Big or small, do something about red tide.’ “

This may fall into the former category. Septic tank leakage this year was frequently cited among the sources of nutrients feeding both the blue-green algae in Lake Okeechobee and the red tide blooms on the east and west coast.

Now, Robinson has filed his first piece of legislation (HB 85) with the aim at curtailing nutrients seeping from the coast to the sea.

“A critical issues I heard about was faulty septic tanks, which have in my view contributed excess nutrients into the waterways,” he said.

Of course, there’s been disagreement on the worst culprits behind red tide and blue-green algae.

And Robinson for his part also promised in the campaign in Florida House District 71 to hold polluters to account and fund land acquisition program Florida Forever.

But plenty of investigations in recent years have shown poor septic tanks bear some blame.

Robinson’s legislation looks to restore inspection requirements lifted in 2012.

It would also introduce new requirements in real estate transactions for buyers to be informed they were buying homes on septic and to learn the septic requirements. That part of the bill won House passage in previous sessions but never made it through the Senate.

That’s been a sore subject in Florida. State Sen. Kathleen Passidomo at a campaign event in October acknowledged supporting the lifting of restrictions during hard economic times but said Florida will need to reconsider septic rules once again.

She said at the time there would need to be some type of uniform, statewide approach to septic use to address the issue.

“This cannot be a South Florida thing or a Southwest Florida thing,” she said.

Robinson said septic requirements would help not only bodied impacted by red tide but other waterways around Florida.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].



    December 14, 2018 at 5:19 pm

    Robinson apparently does not understand septic tanks and how they work or not work. Even a normally functioning septic tank can introduce excessive nutrients (especially N — which is normally the most important factor in eutrophication and harmful algal blooms like red tide) into coastal waters through groundwater. See: https://www.epa.gov/septic/septic-systems-and-surface-water). Thus, the problem is not the failed septic tanks that do the same thing as functioning septic tanks (except that they can introduce raw sewage contaminants before they are broken down). The problem is any and ALL septic tanks.

    Robinson’s inspections would do almost nothing to reduce excessive nutrients and their effect of promoting red tide. If Robinson wants to do something that is real and useful — not just a political stunt — he should work on legislation that gets rid of ALL septic tanks in coastal and watershed areas of SW FL.

    • Charles Harrison

      December 16, 2018 at 8:29 am

      Randy Edwards, you have a good common sense evaluation in that leaky septic tanks do not contribute more nutrients to the waterways than septic tanks that don’t leak. However, legislators have been brainwashed by Special Interest groups that they do—somehow. So, why do legislators want to use septic tanks as a scapegoat for all water pollution in Florida? (Ignorance? Pressure from lobbyists?) The fact is that municipal sewage treatment plants contribute FAR more nutrients to the waterways than septic tanks could ever dream of. The commercial plants that I know of redistribute the nutrients to spray fields which leach the nutrients back to the soil—just like septic tanks. Don’t municipal plants in SW FL do it the same way?


        December 16, 2018 at 7:42 pm

        Municipal plants ultimately do distribute sewage nutrients back to the soil. However, what is different from septic tanks and is very important is that the nutrients can be distributed to soils that are not in the watershed and do not get into coastal waters. Nutrients spread on inland soils well away from the watershed and coastal waters will be removed or isolated by biogeochemical processes and almost none will reach or impact coastal waters — if proper techniques and rules are in place.

        • Charles Harrison

          December 17, 2018 at 7:57 am

          The spray fields of Tallahassee have been implicated as causing nitrogen pollution in Wakulla Springs. Proving that is probably impossible. All molecules of nitrogen are apparently alike so it it hard to say where a molecule of it originated. But, why is the legislature trying to use septic tanks as a scapegoat/demonize them like they did in 2010 with SB 550? SB 550 had the same costly inspection plan. The year after SB 550 passed, the House overwhelmingly repealed the mandate, while the Senate committee that wrote the bill would not address a repeal! Now, they are trying to pass SB 550 again. SB 550 was passed with little public knowledge and even less knowledge of the septic tank owners. Legislators stated afterwards that some of them were “hoodwinked” by their colleagues to vote for it. This is why there was such a backlash by the public then. DOH used propaganda to promote the bill and Special Interest lobbyists pushed it hard. The bill can accomplish nothing in terms of nutrient reduction, in my judgment. It can only cost the consumers—-the small percentage of people who own septic tanks—a LOT of money and regulation. Maybe that is why they people that own septic tanks were picked on: they are a small minority and knew little or nothing about SB 55o when it was passed? It was easy for lobbyists to convince the legislators that it was a good thing.

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