Southeast
Greg Lovett, The Palm Beach Post

FL - Florida must warn the public of sewage-tainted waterfronts | Commentary

The Florida Legislature has had a hard time maneuvering through the politics of clean water to curb pollution and protect our waterways — and public health.

The Florida Legislature has had a hard time maneuvering through the politics of clean water to curb pollution and protect our waterways — and public health.

With great fanfare, the Legislature enacted the “Clean Waterways Act of 2020,” but though penalties were increased, it was light on enforceable regulations to curb pollution, continued to rely on largely voluntary and presumed compliance with state regulations and ignored many of the principal recommendations of the Governor’s Blue-Green Algae Task Force.

But as the Legislature convenes for its 2022 Session, it will have another opportunity, thanks to Sen. Lori Berman of Delray Beach and Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson of Gainesville. The legislators have introduced the “Safe Waterways Act,” Senate Bill 604 and House Bill 393.

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The proposal requires, rather than just authorizes, the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) to issue health advisories and, through the network of county health departments, specifically to post and maintain warning notices at “public bathing places” (whether fresh, salt or brackish water) that are used for swimming and other recreational activities and where the water has been verified impaired for fecal indicator bacteria.

The proposed “Safe Waterways Act” also requires FDOH to notify a municipality or county if a health advisory due to elevated bacteria levels is issued for swimming in a public bathing place within the municipality’s or county’s jurisdiction. The department would also be required to maintain such signage until state water quality standards are met.

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