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Bill Summary Details

Water Quality Improvements (Watch) 

CS/CS/SB 712 (Mayfield) and CS/HB 1343 (Payne) make changes to current law relating to water quality improvements: septic systems, basin management action plans, stormwater management systems, land application of biosolids, 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. CS/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 to update stormwater design criteria by January 2021. The bills direct the agencies, as part of the rulemaking, to address low-impact design best management practices and design criteria to increase nutrient removal and measures for consistent application of the net improvement performance standard to ensure significant reductions of pollutant loadings. The bills also direct DEP to evaluate performance data relating to stormwater “self-certification” and to recommend improvements to the program to the Legislature. (The Senate bill imposes a January 2021 deadline.) 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. The bills also require 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, the bills require 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. The bills also authorize the creation of a “cooperative agricultural regional water quality improvement element” for agricultural nonpoint sources as part of a basin management action plan under specified conditions and establish qualifications for participating in the element.

•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 and identify projects that shall receive priority funding. 

•Biosolids – The bills direct DEP to adopt rules for biosolids and require the rules to be ratified by the Legislature. The bills specify conditions for new biosolid land application permits or renewals of existing permits after July 2020, including limitations on the application on soils where certain water table conditions exist and a requirement to be enrolled in the DACS best management practices program. CS/CS/SB 712 requires that biosolids permits issued or renewed after July 2020 must include a condition that requires the permit to be reopened to insert a compliance date of no later than one year after the effective date of DEP’s new biosolids rules. The bills require all permits to meet the requirements of the biosolids rules to be adopted by DEP no later than two years after the effective date of such rules. Both bills grandfather 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 that are to be adopted 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. The bills require 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 and Rulemaking – The bills require 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. Total administrative penalties increased from $10,000 to $50,000. Wastewater violation penalties are included under the defined administrative penalties, these penalties increased by 50%: from $1,000 to $2,000 and $2,000 to $4,000, respectively.

•DEP Secretary – CS/HB 1343 changes the appointment process for the DEP secretary. It would require the concurrence of two or more members of the Cabinet. 

•Bottled Water – The bills require DEP to conduct a study on the bottled water industry in Florida and specify the subjects to be addressed in the study. The results of the study must be submitted to the governor and legislature by June 2021. CS/CS/SB 712 requires a consumptive use permit for bottled water to be approved by unanimous vote of a water management district governing board. CS/HB 1343 imposes a two-year moratorium on the renewal or issuance of a consumptive use permit that authorizes the use of the water for bottled water. 

•Water Management District Annual Reports – The bills require water management districts to submit a copy of their annual reports to the Office of Economic and Demographic Research and require the reports to include in the listing of projects to implement a BMAP, any projects converting septic systems to sewer or enhanced nutrient reducing systems. 

•Legal Standing – The bills prohibit local governments from recognizing or granting certain legal rights to the natural environment (e.g., granting legal standing to waterbodies) or granting enforcement of such rights to persons or political subdivision. (O’Hara)

•Reuse of Reclaimed Water – CS/CS/SB 712 directs DEP to develop rules by December 2020 based on the Potable Reuse Commission’s 2020 report for advancing a potable reuse framework in Florida. The rules must address contaminants of emerging concern and meet or exceed drinking water quality standards. (O’Hara)