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Bill Summary Details

Water Quality Improvements (Watch)

SB 712 (Mayfield) makes a variety of changes to current law relating to water quality improvements: septic systems; requirements for areas located near Outstanding Florida Springs; basin management action plans (BMAPs); stormwater management systems; sanitary sewer overflows; local government fertilizer ordinances; wastewater projects grants; and monetary penalties for environmental permit violations.  

•Transfer of Septic Tank Program – The bill requires the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Health to report to the Legislature by July 2021 on transferring regulatory oversight of the septic tank program from DOH to DEP.  

•Statewide Stormwater Rules – The bill directs the DEP and water management districts to adopt statewide environmental resource permit rules for stormwater management systems, including performance management and design standards that increase nutrient removal from discharges and ensure new nutrient loadings are not discharged into impaired waters.  

•Outstanding Florida Springs – The bill provides additional requirements for areas within Outstanding Florida Springs. Local governments located within such areas that fail to adopt the state model fertilizer ordinance are subject to daily monetary penalties pursuant to Florida Statutes, Chapter 403 and are ineligible for DEP wastewater grants.  

•BMAPs/Septic Remediation Plans – The bill provides additional requirements relating to BMAPs. Agricultural operations must undertake specified actions if a BMAP is not adopted within 90 days after the adoption of a nutrient total maximum daily load. The bill directs DEP, DOH and relevant local governments to develop a septic tank remediation plan, to be adopted as part of the BMAP, if septic tanks are contributing to at least 20 percent of nonpoint source pollution or if DEP determines the remediation plan is necessary to achieve a total maximum daily load. DEP shall hold at least one public hearing before adopting a remediation plan. The bill authorizes DEP to impose restrictions on certain septic tanks within specified areas as part of a remediation plan. Local governments that fail to meet timelines or requirements of a remediation plan are ineligible for DEP wastewater grants and shall be assessed monetary penalties pursuant to Chapter 403. The bill establishes a wastewater grant program, subject to appropriation, for DEP to provide grants for projects that will reduce nutrient pollution within a BMAP.  

•Sewer Overflows – The bill requires wastewater utilities to provide 24 hours’ notice to customers of any sanitary sewer overflow into a waterway or aquifer and provides the utility is ineligible for DEP wastewater grants until DEP determines necessary repairs or improvements have been implemented. In addition, the overflow shall subject the utility to daily monetary penalties pursuant to Chapter 403 until the repair or improvement has been implemented. DEP is authorized to reduce a penalty based on a utility’s investment in assessment and maintenance activities to identify and address conditions that may cause sewer overflows. DEP is required to post consent orders relating to sewer overflows on its website, including any reports filed by the utility.  

•Monetary Penalties – The bill increases the minimum threshold for DEP’s administrative penalty from $10,000 to $20,000. In addition, it specifies that any statutory restrictions on the amount of administrative penalties DEP may assess do not apply to violations of a BMAP or to any unauthorized or unpermitted wastewater discharge or effluent limitation exceedance that results in a water quality violation.  

•Mandatory Fertilizer Ordinances – The bill requires all local governments to adopt the state Model Ordinance for Florida-Friendly Fertilizer Use by January 2021. Local governments that fail to comply are subject to monetary penalties pursuant to Chapter 403 and are ineligible for DEP wastewater grants. The bill requires local governments to conduct educational campaigns on the ordinance, provide enforcement programs, provide notice to affected property owners and submit a report on implementation efforts to DEP. (O’Hara)