‘Clean Waterways Act’ passes Florida Senate; what does it mean for the state?

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Canal with algae. (Credit: WINK News)

Lawmakers are trying to make sure another water crisis doesn’t happen to our state again.

A new bill aims to make our waterways cleaner and keep them that way.

Florida Gulf Coast University professor Dr. Mike Parsons sits on the state’s blue-green algae task force.

Parsons says he thinks “it’s a good first step in terms of addressing our water quality issues.”

He’s talking about Senate Bill 712, also known as the “Clean Waterways Act.”

It lays out a road map for issues like onsite sewage, inspections for growers, and water quality monitoring.

Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani supports parts of the bill, saying, “I think what it boils down to is… does the state of Florida have the political will to effectively implement the legislation so that it’s something more than words on paper?”

Meanwhile, the group Captains for Clean Water thinks more can be done when looking at agriculture.

Chris Wittman, the organization’s program director, talked about the act, saying, “We think there’s some great stuff in the bill as it pertains to sewage infrastructure, septic tanks, and stormwater runoff.”

“I think this is a first step,” Dr. Parsons said. “We really need to do a better job identifying major nutrient sources.”

The Florida Senate passed its version of the “Clean Waterways Act.” A house version is in progress.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein gave us the following statement:

Senate Bill 712 is a step forward on all fronts. For the first time ever, this bill requires:

  • Regulation of septic tanks as a source of nutrients and transfer of oversight from DOH to DEP.
  • Contingency plans for power outages to minimize discharges of untreated wastewater for all sewage disposal facilities.
  • Provision of financial records from all sanitary sewage disposal facilities so that DEP can ensure funds are being allocated to infrastructure upgrades, repairs, and maintenance that prevent systems from falling into states of disrepair.
  • Documentation of fertilizer use to ensure compliance with Best Management Practices and aid in evaluation of their effectiveness.
  • Updated stormwater rules and design criteria to improve the performance of stormwater systems statewide to specifically address nutrients.

The Clean Waterways Act is part of a multifaceted effort to improve and maintain the health of our waters for generations and I look forward to working with partners to guarantee this success.

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