Budget conference: Legislature agrees on $5.5 million for Fire College chemical cleanup

firefighter relaxing
The House met the Senate halfway.

The House and Senate have settled on funding for a cleanup program at the Florida State Fire College.

The project would scrub sites contaminated by perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl. Also known as PFAS, chemicals that were formerly commonplace in firefighting foam as well as many consumer products, such as textiles advertised as water or stain resistant.

On Sunday, lawmakers agreed to back the Florida State Fire College effort with $5.5 million.

The money would have taken the entire Department of Environmental Protection’s environmental cleanup budget. The House did not previously contemplate the allocation.

The request, a Senate priority, was originally set at $10 million.

The House did not previously contemplate the allocation, though it had included $1 million to address PFAS contamination in wells. That matched a line item included in Gov. Ron DeSantis’ budget request.

It would cover PFAS mitigation on state lands, including at the Fire College.

Earlier this Session, a consultant for the City of Pensacola said $10 million was a good starting point, but said more funding would likely be needed to fully address the issue.

DEP has also identified contamination in groundwater at Naval Air Station Pensacola’s Saufley Field, as military installations also conduct firefighting training exercises.

According to DEP’s report, PFAS contamination “may create potential concerns for human health and the environment because of their persistence, mobility, and possible toxicity.”

Due to its prevalence in consumer goods, most people have measurable amounts of PFAS in their blood.

Ingesting high quantities, such as through contaminated drinking water, can impair infant development, women’s fertility, cause thyroid disruption, and increase cholesterol levels in men and women, among other issues. The substances also increase the risk of developing cancer.

In addition to firefighter training facilities, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says PFAS-contaminated drinking water is common in areas around factories, landfills and wastewater treatment plants.

With the PFAS item closed out, most of the remaining Government Operations budget gaps between the House and Senate are member projects.

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.


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