Senate panel OKs nutrient pollution oversight bill

algae florida ap
The bill came to the committee a little weaker than when first introduced.

Whether million-dollar nutrient reduction plans are working as intended is the focus of legislation on its way to its final Senate committee.

“This is a wrap-up to the Blue-Green Algae Task Force,” Orlando Democratic Sen. Linda Stewart said to the Senate Appropriations Committee on Agriculture, Environment and General Government.

“It’s one item left — we have a bill already that is dealing with some of the other issues. But this one here is, the (Basin Management Action Plan) language would require (the Department of Environmental Protection) to monitor whether projects with costs exceeding $1 million, that are intended to reduce nutrient pollution, are actually working as intended.”

Once DEP officials monitor these projects and develop assessments, those reports would be required to be included in each BMAP update.

“The DEP delineates priority focus areas, in coordination with the water management districts, for Outstanding Florida Springs in BMAPs,” according to a Senate staff analysis.

“A priority focus area is the area or areas of a basin where the Floridan Aquifer is generally most vulnerable to pollutant inputs and where there is a known connectivity between groundwater pathways and an Outstanding Florida Spring. In delineating priority focus areas, the DEP must consider groundwater travel time to the spring, hydrogeology, nutrient load, and any other factors that may lead to degradation of an Outstanding Florida Spring.”

The bill (SB 1538) came to the committee a little weaker than when Stewart introduced it. It originally mandated owners of septic tank systems have their system tested at least once every five years “to assess the fundamental operational condition of the system, prolong the life of the system, and identify any failure within the system.”

DEP would have had to administer a septic tank system inspection program, with a county-by-county implementation plan phased in over 10 years, with priority going to those areas within a priority focus area for springs.

Such a program also would have required enforcement procedures for owners failing to obtain timely inspections and failure of contractors to report results to DEP and the owner in a timely manner.

The Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources previously approved a strike-all amendment limiting the legislation to only project monitoring.

There was no debate or public testimony on the bill, while representatives of 1000 Friends of Florida and the Sierra Club waived in support.

SB 1538 now awaits action in the Senate Committee on Fiscal Policy.

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:

One comment

  • barry cohen

    April 19, 2023 at 7:10 pm

    Decades of harmful algae bloom research, testing and monitoring have not fixed any of the harmful algae problems.

    A health risk to humans and animals in Florida. Unless you address nutrient runoff and commercial remediation, they will continue to worsen every year. A source to bloom approach is needed!

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