Ron DeSantis signs off on Joe Gruters, Randy Fine sewage fine hike
Joe Gruters and Randy Fine want to boost penalties for polluters.

Florida House Committee Meetings
Joe Gruters, Randy Fine championed increases for two years.

Fines for sewage spills, including from public utility systems, will soon increase significantly.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation (HB 1091) Tuesday at a Juno Beach ceremony with sponsors Sen. Joe Gruters and Rep. Randy Fine.

The lawmakers said protecting Florida’s water remained a chief priority for state government.

“Florida is not Florida without its abundant natural waterways. Water is at the heart of the state’s terrific quality of life, and what makes tourism the backbone of our economy,” Gruters said.

“Given that, it is incumbent on us to aggressively tackle all pollution sources to clean up our environment and preserve our great state through accountability and responsibility.”

Fine said few missions are more important.

“There is no greater threat to Florida’s long-term prosperity than our water quality, and with the signing of HB 1091, we are taking steps to secure our future,” he said.

The new law, in effect Wednesday, raises all fines for sewage spills by at least 50%. Many civil penalties go up 100%.

DeSantis called on steeper penalties months ahead of the Legislative Session.

“Right now, it’s a slap on the wrist and move on,” he said at the time.

The bill now will require more proactive activity from utilities, DeSantis said at the Tuesday ceremony. He wants to see spills like one in Fort Lauderdale two weeks ago from occurring in the future.

“All these changes are really a strong step forward for Florida’s environment,” he said. “We needed a bill with penalties for violating environmental law.”

In addition to upping the fines, statute now makes clear every day the source of pollution knowingly goes unaddressed will constitute a new offense.

The proposed increases drew significant pushback from the Florida League of Cities, fearful severe fines could bankrupt small governments.

But Gruters said the state must hold all polluters accountable, and public utilities are the chief source of pollution from spills. That includes the City of Sarasota, within his home district.

“Every three hours of every day of every week all year long we have a spill somewhere in Florida,” Gruters said.

“Just a couple of weeks ago there was a million gallons of raw sewage that was spilled into Sarasota Bay. It was long passed time to say enough is enough. This bill will not stop the spills but it will increase the fines by 50%. It is time to hold polluters accountable, and we are going to make them pay with their wallets.”

Indeed, a sewage spill occurred in Longboat Key impacting the Bay the day of the signing.

Fine has similarly seen local governments fail to curb pollution from their own treatment plants.

“Because local politicians in Brevard County – and around the state — prioritized spending millions on astroturf and antiques for lighthouse employee museums, they failed to meet their responsibility to maintain our sewer system and protect the Indian River Lagoon,” he said.

“Thousands of spills and hundreds of millions of gallons illegally dumped each year. Enough. The message is clear today – if you illegally dump sewage into our waterways, you will be held accountable by the state.

Advances in technology make such spills inexcusable, Gruters said said.

“If we can live in a world with self driving cars and rockets that can land by themselves we should be able to make sure we don’t dump raw sewage, or what my kids like to call ‘poo’ into our water,” Gruters said.

“It took over two years to pass this but it is only the start of our effort to clean up Florida’s waterways.”

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].


  • Rob Frimmel

    June 30, 2020 at 4:25 pm

    If the city or county is responsible for the sewage spill and they get fined, it’s it jus the taxpayers who end up paying the fine? I agree that they should be held responsible but the taxpayer is the one who ends up paying the bill

  • MJ

    July 1, 2020 at 10:48 am

    Brevard Cty residents TRIED to explain to Randy Fine the taxpayer will have to pay those fines even though elected officials have other priorities and he refused to listen and still persisted It’s all about his political career and plays it as an emotional football. When will people awaken to Randy Fine and his emotional tactics to get re-elected. He is another RINO.

  • John

    July 2, 2020 at 11:30 am

    Look folks, this is a health issue, quality of life issue, and at a Macro Economic level, a financial issue. What drives tax revenue is water quality near new AND old subdivisions, be it rivers, lagoons, or ocean front. People spend their dollars throughout a community they want to visit, or move to. There is a lagoon or waterway near West Palm Beach or more more specifically around Singer Island that was cleaned up years ago, and the water is as clear as in Sebastian Inlet. I saw every manner of wild life thriving, including a small octopus hunting among the rocks…..there is no reason we should have an open sewer called Indian River and Banana River at this point in time.
    Every new development should set aside a self managed sewer treatment plant, that then goes into the public NEW pipes, for further cleaning and testing before it is returned to the environment. This has been done throughout the country for years. The Hudson River is the cleanest it has been in over hundred years due to strong regulations in regards to street run off, sewer control, and testing.

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