New septic tank rules sent to Senate floor

septic tank
The amendment to the bill also includes $100M annually for Florida Forever.

A Senate regulatory package that tightens rules on septic tanks received a strike-all amendment in committee before getting the green light and heading to the floor.

“This is a result of a great deal of work between us, the Department (of Environmental Protection), the Department of Ag(riculture) and Consumer Services, the water management districts, stakeholders — I won’t warranty any of their opinions unless they’re willing to testify, but I will tell you we’ve done quite a bit of work on this,” Lake Mary Republican Sen. Jason Brodeur said to the Senate Committee on Fiscal Policy

The amendment is supposed to bring the Senate bill closer in language to the House version, but it doesn’t go all the way. Brodeur said discussion with the House and various stakeholder groups are continuing.

The House version of the bill advanced earlier after changing a 50% nutrient reduction for septic tank systems requirement to a 65% nitrogen reduction. The House bill sponsor said that fixed what was essentially a typo, and the Senate strike-all amendment makes the change as well.

The amendment mandates DEP consider previous funding received when allocating wastewater grants, and removes the requirement of local governments to provide sewer access to certain parcels.

The bill (SB 1632) would require that, within the particular local government’s jurisdiction, a plan must exist 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.

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, or an enhanced nutrient septic tank or wastewater treatment system if not. The septic tank and alternative systems would need to reduce nitrogen by at least 65% compared to the status quo.

The bill bans new septic tanks in areas governed by BMAPs for the Banana River Lagoon, Central Indian River Lagoon, North Indian River Lagoon, and the reasonable assurance plan for the Mosquito Lagoon. 

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 to submit a list of projects to DEP that can be initiated to meet the milestones.

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

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.

The bill also amends the Florida Forever program to up the contract price for land acquisition needing Internal Improvement Trust Fund Board approval from $1 million to $5 million. 

Priority for Florida Forever projects would go to “certain lands, including those in imminent danger of development or degradation.” The amendment to the bill also included a $100 million annual appropriation for the program.

“That was a big lift to get the $100 million back in there, but it was greatly needed for our environment and our land purchases,” Melbourne Republican Sen. Debbie Mayfield said.

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:


  • PeterH

    April 26, 2023 at 1:39 pm

    Where is “fund a survey to locate and evaluate the existing unregulated septic systems in Florida?”

    Florida is suffering from 20 years of failed Republican leadership! With every passing day ….. the DeSantis FREEDUMB STATE OF FLORIDA looks more like Mississippi and Alabama.

    • Scott

      April 28, 2023 at 4:45 pm

      Hello Peter, FDOH has tried to inventory our septic systems twice, once in 2007, the other around 2014, for a cost of about $850,000. The end result was an inventory that nobody can use, it’s for show only and nobody cares, there is zero accountability. Do you really want to pay them to do it again?

      Same goes for the enhanced nitrogen reduction septic systems, Tallahassee knows these systems will not reduce the nitrogen claimed, and for all their cost, their no better than the low-cost conventional septic system. But it doesn’t matter, they will continue to push this false narrative, because there is zero accountability for these systems if they don’t reduce the nitrogen claimed. This has already been demonstrated with the 2013 FDOH study of the “Advanced Septic Systems” as they failed to reduce the nitrogen claimed, only averaging 33% nitrogen reduction. So, Tallahassee and Local Governments changed the name of the program to Enhanced Nitrogen Reduction Septic Systems, and added a new label NSF 245, then mandate their use in Florida’s most environmentally sensitive areas, nobody cares!

  • tim obrien

    April 27, 2023 at 10:54 am

    This is a step in the right direction and long overdue. However, the 65% reduction will be problematic. NSF (the gold standard in all things plumbing) provides a certification (NSF 245) for advanced septic systems. However, the standard only requires 50% reduction. Using that standard provides substantial wastewater improvement and a respected third party certification. Anything else will bring out the hucksters that will market systems that do not even comply with the 50% standard.

    • Scott

      April 27, 2023 at 4:11 pm

      Tim, the NSF 245 Certification, to my knowledge, does not meet the same conditions these systems will operate under when installed on private property. Operating these types of systems on private property is much more challenging, much more than what is needed to receive NSF 254 Certificate, or even a state approval for that matter. The two times Florida had performed real-world testing of the nitrogen reduction performance of these systems it was extremely disappointing; the first result shown that for all their expense they performed no better that a conventional septic system, the second shown us that after they cherry picked the systems to be sampled, they only averaged 33% nitrogen reduction, and to this day nothing has been done to improve their performance. Real-world operations of nitrogen reduction are a far cry from the soon to be requirement of 65%+ nitrogen reduction, realistically maintaining 65%+ reduction in the real-world will be nearly impossible to achieve. Make no mistake about it, many of our state/local politicians and regulators know this, but they don’t seem to care. That’s why these systems are not required to be sampled for nitrogen reduction performance after they are installed. Our state/local politicians and regulators will collect their make-believe nitrogen reduction credits each time one of these systems are install, total them up to show all the nitrogen they are reducing from our waters and use that total in perpetuity, and Floridians don’t know any better. Plant them and forget them, doesn’t this sound a little familiar? Is this really a step in the right direction?

  • Scott

    April 27, 2023 at 12:43 pm

    It should be made very clear to all Floridians that it is nearly impossible that these expensive Bills will reduce the household sewage nitrogen they claim after they are installed on private property, here’s why.

    A 2006 Florida Study, A Review of Nitrogen Loading and Treatment Performance, Damann L. Anderson, P.E. Hazen and Sawyer, P.C., found that the enhanced nutrient-reducing onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems have no benefit over the conventional septic system. And, a FDOH 2013 Study, Assessment of Water Quality Protection by Advanced Onsite Sewage Treatment and Disposal Systems: Performance, Management, Monitoring, found that after cheery picking the systems to sample, they only averaged 33% nitrogen reduction, a far cry from the 65+ required by this Bill. Also, it is of no concern that these systems are complicated, expensive and even more expensive to maintain, especially if you live pay-check-to-pay-check.

    Our politicians, State, and Local Regulators, Clean Water Groups, or even Brevard County in the Indian River Lagoon don’t seem to care about the reality of these systems maintaining their required reduction level. As they know, nobody is going to verify that these systems are maintaining their claimed nitrogen reduction level, after they are installed, nor do they want anyone to. Otherwise, why would they have their Bills, Rules, Regulations and Ordinances written without requirements to have these systems sampled, to verify that they are reducing the nitrogen claimed and continue to protect our health and environment, after they are installed. Just like our septic systems, and we all know how that turned out. FYI-The maintenance and drive-by inspection program the state operates does nothing to verify that these systems are reducing the nitrogen they claim. Without sampling it is difficult, if not impossible, to know how much nitrogen the system is actually reducing, The State of Florida removed the sampling requirement in 2001, one year after they started the enhanced nutrient-reducing onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems program in 2000, I wonder why?

    The enhanced nutrient-reducing onsite sewage treatment and disposal systems have been operating in Florida for 23 years. These systems required that their permit and maintenance agreement be renewed every one to two years, two or more maintenance invents are required to be performed and reported each year, and the state was required to inspect these systems every year, yet we have NO performance, failure, operational cost or any other documentation informing Floridians how these systems are performing or if they are reducing the nitrogen claimed. In fact, when FDOH did their 2013 study, they didn’t even know how many of these systems they had operating in Florida, and they didn’t care, even knowing that they were required to inspect them every year. Again, these are the systems our politicians, regulators, and clean water groups want to mandate for use in Florida’s most environmentally sensitive areas, refusing to acknowledge that the management of these systems is inadequate and goes out of its way to NOT know if these systems are truly reducing the nitrogen claimed.

Comments are closed.


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