• Florida's water woes: It flows downhill

    By: Christopher Heath

    Updated:

    It's been a bad year for Florida's waterways. Since the first of the year, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection has recorded 932 "Notices of Pollution" including an event on Sunday in Satellite Beach, when 2,000 gallons was spilled.

    For Brevard Republican Randy Fine the spills are the source of consistent concern from voters.

    "There are entrenched special interests who don't want to solve the problem," says Fine.  "On my bill that would have stopped local government from dumping into the lagoon, that bill was opposed by local governments."

    Fine's bill (HB 141) passed the Agriculture and Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee 11-0, but died in the State Affairs Committee.  Senate companion bills also did not pass.

    The bill would have required public notification by wastewater treatment facilities that "unlawfully discharge raw or partially treated sewage into any waterway or aquifer within 24 hours of discovering the discharge" and pay a $1 per gallon fine for discharges or $2 per gallon to fix the problem.

    "The fundamental problem we have in this state is septic tanks that aren't removing nutrients or sewage systems that are spilling into the water," says Fine.

    While Fine hears about water problems along the coast, 70-miles away, and on the opposite side of the political spectrum, another lawmakers are hearing from constituents, also concerned about water.

    "Here in our area we've seen sewage spills in the Lake Formosa community," says Orlando Democrat Anna Eskamani.  "We need to make sure our cities are ready for growth and have the infrastructure, so we don't have these sewage spills that then go back and impact these bodies of water."

    In January, the City of Orlando issued a Lake Alert after a valve malfunction at a lift station caused 1,000 gallons of waste to flow into Lake Formosa.

    As Florida continues to grow lawmakers on both sides are becoming increasingly aware that Florida's water situation cannot continue the way it is. Fine says he is prepared to bring back his bill and counter the cities that opposed it in 2019, adding that failing to act now will only cost more in the future.

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