Friday, March 25, 2011

Coley targets another section of last year's water quality bill

Rep. Marti Coley has filed another bill to repeal a section of the SB 550 the water quality bill that passed the Legislature in 2010.

SB 550 included a requirement that septic tanks statewide to be inspected every five years and it banned the spreading of septic tank waste on land in 2016.

The Legislature in November voted to delay the septic tank inspection requirement after hearing from rural residents and some Tea Party members around the state who are opposed.

Coley's HB 13 would repeal the inspection requirement. That bill has passed three committees and is now up for second reading on the House calendar.

This week, Coley has filed HB 1479, which would repeal the ban in 2016 on spreading septic tank waste on land.

The Republican from Marianna said the practice already is regulated by the Florida Department of Health and the Department of Environmental Protection. She said the waste is treated and used as a fertilizer and that banning the practice will raise costs for septic tank maintenance firms.

"If it has been permitted by DEP and DOH as a safe practice, then why are we telling them they can't (spread it)?" Coley said.

Environmentalists say septic tank waste is high in phosphorus and nitrogen, along with other possible chemicals and pharmaceutical drugs.

"Unbelieveable," Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida, said in response to Coley's HB 1479. "The one good thing that was left (in SB 550) -- unbelievable."

And former Sen. Lee Constantine pointed out that in addition to the ban in 2016, his SB 550 also required DOH to conduct a study to determine alternatives for dealing with the waste. He said the ban was needed to force the department to take action.

"Unfortunately political expediency is the byword for this year's Legislature," he said. " 'Let's put off the problem. Let's let somebody else pay for that problem. Let's get individuals who don't know what the problem is out of our faces.' "

Keith Burney, co-owner of Burney's Septic Tank Service Inc. in St. Johns County, says his trucks would have to drive 100 miles round-trip to take the waste to a sewage treatment plant, raising the cost of an average $200 septic tank pump-out.

He said he and other family members live on a farm where the septic tank waste is spread on crops. He said the soil and drinking water wells have been tested for heavy metals and other contaminants and were found to be safe.

"If we live here on the property and drink the well water and aren't growing three heads, I would think that would be proof enough," he said.

Coley said if environmentalists want to provide information that shows the septic tank waste is harmful, she will consider it.

"The information I have been given is (that) it has been treated and it is safe," she said. "I don't want to destroy our water quality. That's not what I am about."

(Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission which can be obtained at .)

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