CS/CS/SB 712 (Mayfield) and HB 1343 (Payne) make changes to current law relating to water quality improvements: septic systems, requirements for areas located near Outstanding Florida Springs, basin management action plans, stormwater management systems, sanitary sewer overflows and wastewater projects grants.
•Transfer of Septic Tank Program – The bills transfer regulation of septic tanks from the Department of Health to the Department of Environmental Protection and directs DEP to develop rules for the location of septic tanks to prevent groundwater and surface water contamination and to protect public health. The bills establish a septic tank technical advisory committee to submit recommendations for advanced nutrient removal technologies and other regulatory matters. HB 1343 includes additional provisions authorizing hardship variances for certain property subject to the one-septic tank/acre constraint in springs protection areas.
•Stormwater – The bills direct the DEP and water management districts to initiate rulemaking for stormwater design criteria. CS/CS/SB 712 further directs the agencies to revise stormwater best management practices by January 2021 to increase nutrient load removal and requires application of a “net improvement” performance standard. The Senate bill also directs DEP, by January 2021, to evaluate performance data relating to stormwater “self-certification” and to recommend improvements for the program to the Legislature. DEP and the Department of Economic Opportunity, with local government cooperation, are charged with developing a model stormwater management program that will include model ordinances that target nutrient reduction and green infrastructure.
•BMAPs – The bills require a BMAP to include a wastewater plan if DEP determines wastewater treatment facilities are contributing more than 20% of nutrient pollution or if deemed necessary to achieve the nutrient total maximum daily load (TMDL) for the BMAP. The wastewater plan is to be developed by each responsible local government, and the plan must address the facility upgrades or changes necessary to meet TMDL requirements. The wastewater plan must include a timeline for projects and estimated costs, and the plan must be adopted by July 2025. The bills prohibit DEP from requiring a higher cost project option for a wastewater plan if a lower cost option would achieve the same load reductions. The bills require a BMAP to include a septic remediation plan if DEP determines that septic tanks are contributing more than 20% of nutrient pollution or if deemed necessary to achieve the nutrient TMDL for the BMAP. The septic remediation plan must be developed by each responsible local government and must identify projects necessary to reduce nutrient loads and include an inventory of existing septic tanks. The septic remediation plan must also identify septic tanks that will be connected to central sewer, replaced or upgraded, and it must include estimated costs to implement projects. The septic remediation plan must be adopted as part of the BMAP by July 2025. HB 1343 also requires DEP to submit a report to the Legislature by July 2021 evaluating the costs of all septic system and wastewater treatment projects identified in BMAPs and identifying funding plans for the projects on a five-year basis. In addition, HB 1343 requires DEP to submit a report to the Legislature by July 2021 assessing the water quality monitoring being conducted for each BMAP that is subject to nutrient load reductions.
•Agriculture – The bills require the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to collect fertilizer and nutrient records from producers enrolled in the agricultural best management practices program and provide such records to DEP. Both bills require DACS to conduct onsite inspections of enrollees every two years.
•Wastewater Grant Program – The bills establish a wastewater grant program in DEP to provide a 50% match for specified projects intended to reduce nutrient loads.
•Biosolids – Both bills direct DEP to adopt rules for biosolids. CS/CS/SB 712 expresses legislative intent to expedite implementation of the Biosolids Technical Advisory Committee. CS/CS/SB 712 requires biosolids application sites to comply with DEP rules in effect at the time of permit renewal and requires such sites to be enrolled in the DACS best management practices program. In addition, the Senate bill requires a permittee to conduct the application of biosolids in accordance with an adopted BMAP and requires the use of groundwater monitoring for specified application sites. The Senate bill also limits or prohibits the application of biosolids on certain sites based on water table levels. CS/CS/CS/SB 712 grandfathers certain existing local ordinances relating to biosolids adopted prior to November 2019.
•Sanitary Sewer Overflows – The bills require wastewater facilities to provide a power outage contingency plan and to develop an assessment, repair and replacement plan that complies with DEP rules. The bills direct DEP to conduct rulemaking on this subject. The plans shall be reported to DEP and must include expenditures taken for assessment, repair and replacement. A wastewater facility’s substantial compliance with these planning and reporting requirements may be evidence for mitigating applicable DEP environmental penalties. In addition, a facility may receive a 10-year operating permit if it is meeting the goals of its action plan. The bills require wastewater facilities to provide annual reports to DEP detailing revenues and expenditures as prescribed by DEP rule, and a facility’s substantial compliance with this requirement may be evidence for mitigating DEP penalties. CS/CS/SB 712 requires DEP to submit an annual report to the Legislature detailing all facilities that experienced sanitary sewer overflows over the reporting period.
•Additional DEP and Agency Reports – HB 1343 requires DEP to report by July 2020 the status of upgrades by specified wastewater utilities that are required to meet advanced treatment standards under current law, and the bill also requires DEP to submit cost estimates for wastewater facility and septic system remediation projects to the Office of Economic and Demographic Research beginning July 2022. EDR is required to include these cost estimates in its annual water resources assessment.
•Monetary Penalties – The bills modify current law requirements on administrative penalties assessed by DEP. HB 1343 provides a penalty of $2,000 for failure by a wastewater utility to survey its system and take appropriate steps to reduce sanitary sewer overflows and leaks.
•No-Discharge Zones – CS/CS/CS/SB 712 directs DEP and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission to apply to the Environmental Protection Agency for the establishment of no-discharge zones in state waters wherever adequate pump-out stations exist.
CS/CS/SB 712 provides for a 50% increase in penalties for unauthorized wastewater discharges or for a utility’s failure to comply with planning and reporting requirements set forth in the bill. It also increases other penalties by 50% in current law associated with wastewater discharges. (O’Hara)