Bill movement: Biosolid improvement legislation passes

wastewater treatment facility
'A lot of times, we have the privilege, once we flush the toilet, we don’t think about it again.'

Giving a crap about the environment means something a little more specific now as the Legislature passed a bill (HB 1405) that aims to encourage wastewater treatment facilities to refine their biosolids to a higher quality, resulting in better fertilizer for use on Florida’s lands.

There are Class AA, A and B biosolids. Class B biosolids have a significant amount of toxic metals and can attract “rodents, flies, mosquitoes or other organisms capable of transporting infectious agents.”

The state tracks land application of Class B biosolids, but the state doesn’t do the same for Class AA, which raised concerns among environmental advocates. With more Class AA biosolids likely ending up on fields, they argue there’s a need to know what effect that fertilizer is having on the water.

“The grant program is subject to appropriation by the Legislature, and is intended to incentivize local community projects in order to accelerate Florida’s transition to higher levels of economically sustainable biosolid treatment,” Lake Mary Republican Sen. Jason Brodeur said before the bill passed the Senate. 

“It is permissive and … it allows for us to help stop some of the leaching of nutrients in land application.”

He thanked the Public Trust for Conservation for their work advancing the legislation.

“A lot of times, we have the privilege; once we flush the toilet, we don’t think about it again,” Brodeur said. “Some people do, and that has a lot to do with our water quality.”

Conservation groups applauded the bill’s passage.

“The establishment of this grant program provides a mechanism for the state to fund innovative local projects to convert this waste stream into beneficial products,” said John November, Executive Director and General Counsel for the Public Trust for Conservation. “This grant program will be an important step forward in strengthening the way Florida deals with our sewage sludge.”

Lisa Rinaman, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, thanked groups like the Public Trust, 1000 Friends of Florida, the Sierra Club and Audubon Florida for their work.

“This legislation is a step in the right direction as we advocate for real change in the way Florida protects our waters and manages the growing volume of human waste,” she said.

During the committee process, Lake Placid Republican Rep. Kaylee Tuck introduced and received approval from the House Infrastructure Strategies Committee on a strike-all amendment that removes Section 2 of the bill. 

The section would have prohibited the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) from authorizing application site permits for Class B biosolids within the upstream sub-watershed of certain impaired waterbodies unless the applicant can prove it wouldn’t increase the nutrient load in that sub-watershed.

“I think this is the perfect example of not letting perfect get in the way of good,” Tuck said, explaining the amendment. “Section 2 had several issues where we had several stakeholders that couldn’t agree on any compromising language, and we wanted to make sure the rules promulgated by (DEP) in the last year had a chance to work before we further restrict it.”

The bill creates a biosolids grant program in DEP with which the Department can provide grants to counties and municipalities to purchase or upgrade what they need to in order to have “facilities that convert wastewater residuals to Class AA biosolids,” along with encouraging applicants to enter into public-private partnerships.

“The Legislature banned the disposal of domestic wastewater biosolids within the Lake Okeechobee, Caloosahatchee River, and St. Lucie River watersheds unless the applicant can affirmatively demonstrate that the nutrients in the biosolids will not add to nutrient loadings in the watershed,” according to a House staff analysis.

“The prohibition against land application in these watersheds does not apply to Class AA biosolids that are distributed as fertilizer products.”

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:


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704