Jason Brodeur environmental protection package takes aim at septic tanks

'Doing this statewide would be terrific.'

Limiting harmful algal blooms means managing waste, and a legislative package for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) sets out to do just that.

SB 1632 takes aim at advanced wastewater treatment and septic tanks to help develop better infrastructure and limit nutrient pollution. It requires, within the particular local government’s jurisdiction, there to be a plan to provide sanitary sewer services, within a 10-year planning deadline, for any development of more than 50 residential lots and more than one septic tank per acre. A septic tank is presumed to exist if a sewer does not.

SB 1632 also includes a new section of proposed Florida law that directly addresses the Indian River Lagoon.

“Interestingly, in that section, beginning Jan. 1, 2024, and was previously permitted, it prohibits the installation of new septic systems when sewer is available, and requires enhanced nutrient-reducing treatment systems for any new development when central sewer is not available,” said bill sponsor and Lake Mary Republican Sen. Jason Brodeur to the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.

The committee unanimously approved the bill this week as amended.

For properties within the Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs) affecting the Indian River Lagoon, by Jan. 1, 2030, those with septic tanks would need to connect to a central sewer, if available, and an enhanced nutrient septic tank or wastewater treatment system if not. The septic tank and alternative systems would need to reduce nutrients at least 50% compared to the status quo. 

Committee Vice Chairwoman Gayle Harrell, a Stuart Republican, called the legislation “dynamite.”

“I’m especially pleased with the IRL section of it and the establishment of the IRL Protection Plan,” Harrell said.

On the septic-to-sewer conversions, Harrell said the requirement to connect to an existing sewer, if available, is an example for the rest of the state that should be examined and implemented in many areas.

“Doing this statewide would be terrific,” Harrell said.

Changes would come to BMAPs as well. If passed, the legislation would require BMAPs to include five-year milestones for implementation and water quality improvement, along with requiring entities with a specific pollutant load reduction requirement to submit a list of projects to DEP that can be initiated to meet the milestones.

DEP would have to coordinate with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, along with agriculture operation owners, to identify projects within a BMAP that reduce pollution from nonpoint agricultural sources.

“It (also) requires annual updates from local governments within BMAPs that are not attaining nutrient-related standards regarding construction of sanitary sewers,” Brodeur said.

For wastewater grant programs, the bill expands eligibility among waterbodies and types of projects, while removing the mandatory 50% local matching funds requirement, allowing DEP to consider a cost-share plan provided by the applicant.

“These improvements are all aimed at making this acquisition and monitoring of lands in this state more efficient, and reducing pollutant loads to outstanding Florida waters,” said Meta Calder of the League of Women Voters, who spoke in support of the bill. “And, these improvements are greatly needed.”

Wes Wolfe

Wes Wolfe is a reporter who's worked for newspapers across the South, winning press association awards for his work in Georgia and the Carolinas. He lives in Jacksonville and previously covered state politics, environmental issues and courts for the News-Leader in Fernandina Beach. You can reach Wes at [email protected] and @WesWolfeFP. Facebook: facebook.com/wes.wolfe


  • Scott Carmody

    March 21, 2023 at 12:08 pm

    Recklessly forcing the installation of the expensive to install and maintain enhanced nutrient septic tank or wastewater treatment systems on property owners living pay check to pay check, showing no benefit over a low cost to install and maintain conventional septic system or, mandating septic-to-sewer, with sewer showing that it contaminates our water the same as septic systems, is negligent to say the least, not to mention the enormous tax burden these program and bills will have on tax payers with little to nothing to show for it.

    Our politicians, regulators and the save the water do-gooders have ignore Florida studies showing that these systems will have no effect in reducing nitrogen from our waters, in fact they will soon be adding to the problem, shame on them for not doing their Due diligence on programs or bills, such as SB 1632.

    Only when we start addressing the real reason household sewage and nitrogen is contaminating our waters, will we be able to find a solution.

  • Daniel Dooley

    March 21, 2023 at 3:44 pm

    There is already a law that requires the use of sewer if it is available (FAC 381). This includes homes that are already built, if sewer is installed, the utility can force them to hook to it within 1 year. The problem is mostly that local governments don’t want to deal with the wrath of their citizens when costing them the money for hook up charges (capacity charges) and then monthly fees.

Comments are closed.


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