The Floridian

FL - OP/ED A Major Step Forward in Protecting Florida’s Water Resources

The Florida Legislature just passed comprehensive legislation to protect and restore Florida’s water resources, SB 712, The Clean Waterways Act, and sent the bill over to the Governor for signature this week for his review and hopefully signature.

Senator Mayfield sponsored the Clean Waterways Act, and worked closely with Representatives Bobby Payne and Blaise Ingolgia on the House side to draft this legislation. It implements the recommendations of the Blue Green Algae Task Force.

One of the first actions taken by the Governor after he was elected was to bring together scientists and experts in water to determine how we can better protect Florida’s water resources and prevent future outbreaks of toxic blue-green algae.

Toxic blue-green algae blooms found in lakes, rivers, streams and coastlines during the summer of 2018 wreaked havoc on our state. The toxins produced by the harmful algal blooms are poisonous and killed many animals, plants and marine life. The toxins also posed risks to human health. The images of the blue-green algae were shown widely throughout the United States and around the world, keeping tourists at bay and destroying Florida’s local economies. It was clear something must be done.

The Blue-Green Algae Task Force outlined a comprehensive approach to protecting Florida’s water resources and preventing or mitigating future outbreaks of the toxic blue-green algae. Their series of recommendations, now a part of the Clean Waterways Act, address phosphorus and nitrogen coming from wastewater treatment systems, stormwater systems, septic tanks and agriculture.

More specifically, the Clean Waterways Act strengthens oversight and regulation for onsite sewage systems and requires wastewater treatment plants to be considered in regional Basin Management Action Plans. It also increases fines for spills and violations, like the 200 million gallons of sewage spilled into the streets and waterways around Ft. Lauderdale earlier this year. This pollution is completely unacceptable, and parties responsible must be held accountable.