Does Florida’s new law go far enough to protect our waterways?

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Does a new law designed to protect our waters go far enough?

While many agree that the Clean Waterways Act is a step in the right direction, some believe it falls well short of what we really need and doesn’t get to the root of the problem that contributed to water woes in 2018.

“It does contain a lot of the things that we, the task force itself, put into the consensus document that we wrote up,” said Dr. James Sullivan, a member of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force.

“Things like transferring septic permitting, septic system permitting, from the DOH to the DEP, which is probably where it truly belongs.”

Others who keep an eye on our water, like the Florida Springs Council, believe the new law doesn’t go far enough.

“Everglades environmental policy has become Florida environmental policy, so while the bill does do some good things for South Florida and Everglades, it completely ignores everything north of Orlando,” said Ryan Smart, executive director of the council.

Groups like Captains for Clean Water echo the council’s concern for keeping tabs on agriculture.

“All of these nutrients are flowing into Lake Okeechobee and then you have all these legacy nutrients in Lake Okeechobee from the last 100 years of pollution,” said Capt. Daniel Andrews, co-founder and executive director of Captains for Clean Water.

However, those in the agriculture industry say they’re doing the best they can.

“The ag industry, they’re the first stewards of the land, they’re multi-generational, they don’t want to hurt the water resources of the state, they don’t want to hurt the land resources of the state,” said Rich Budell, executive director of the Florida Agribusiness Council.

While people have different takes on how to protect one of Florida’ most precious resources, they said the new law is a step in the right direction.

“Things like this have kind of gone to the side because we have bigger things to worry about, but we can’t forget about the environment and we can’t forget about clean water,” Sullivan said.

He said the group plans to meet at the end of July to come up with more specific recommendations to better protect our water quality.

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