On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the “Clean Waterways Act” from state Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Melbourne, and Rep. Bobby Payne, Palatka.
The new law carries a wide range of water quality protection provisions aimed at minimizing the impact of known sources of nutrient pollution, realigning the state’s resources to enhance the protection of Florida’s environment, and strengthening regulatory requirements.
“Our children and future generations serve as a stark reminder of what’s at stake when discussing the importance of creating a clean, healthy, and stable environmental foundation for their future,” said DeSantis. “We have seen overwhelming support in our efforts to protect and conserve our waterways and natural resources, and while there is still plenty of work to be done, I look forward to building upon our recent successes.”
“Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, this legislation is a historic step forward for the state of Florida, which provides a cohesive and multifaceted approach to protecting Florida’s waters. My Department’s priority is to continue creating tools to promote collaboration among federal, state, and local partners when working towards our shared goal of protection and the preservation of natural resources in Florida,” said Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Sec. Noah Valenstein. “SB 712 serves as an essential step in our mission, and I look forward to joining Governor DeSantis and our state’s top leaders in our continued efforts to protect Florida’s future.”
The bill was developed based on recommendations by DEP and a variety of environmental leaders including Blue-Green Algae Task Force. DeSantis developed the task force as part of Executive Order 19-12, reforming Florida’s environmental and water policy in his first 48 hours as governor.
Comprised of five nationally and internationally recognized scholars from institutions across the state, the task force has a broad range of expertise ranging from hydrology to chemical ecology of algae. Based on transparent discussions and deliberations, the task force developed recommendations, which ultimately provided the framework for the Clean Waterways Act. This legislation focuses on remedial action and improvements to regulations regarding septic and stormwater systems, wastewater infrastructure, as well as Agricultural Best Management Practices.
“We have an incredible opportunity, through our collective action, to demonstrate to other states in our country and other nations around the world that sound stewardship of natural resources and sustained economic prosperity go hand in hand,” said Florida Chief Science Officer Dr. Tom Frazer. “The passage of the Clean Waterways Act and its signing today by the governor is a demonstrable pledge by the leaders of our state that clean water is a top priority. That bodes well for Florida’s future.”
“I’m so thankful for the leadership of Governor Ron DeSantis and for signing Senate Bill 712,” said Mayfield. “This comprehensive legislation addresses the most serious sources of pollution contributing to blue-green algae blooms in our waterways including septic tanks, wastewater treatment facilities, stormwater runoff and agriculture.”
“I am extremely excited that Governor DeSantis has signed SB 712/HB 1343 – ‘The Clean Waterways Act.’ Senator Mayfield and I worked on this legislation extensively for years. Senator Mayfield attended the water forum I hosted in Palatka, along with fifteen other members of the Florida Legislature, four state agencies, and the Secretary of DEP, Noah Valenstein,” said Payne. “This legislation is the most comprehensive water policy in years and will put us on the right track to improve water quality throughout the state.”
Some of the new law’s primary components include:
- Regulation of septic tanks as a source of nutrients and transfer of oversight from DOH to DEP.
- Contingency plans for power outages to minimize discharges of untreated wastewater for all sewage disposal facilities.
- Provision of financial records from all sanitary sewage disposal facilities so that DEP can ensure funds are being allocated to infrastructure upgrades, repairs, and maintenance that prevent systems from falling into states of disrepair.
- Detailed documentation of fertilizer use by agricultural operations to ensure compliance with Best Management Practices and aid in evaluation of their effectiveness.
- Updated stormwater rules and design criteria to improve the performance of stormwater systems statewide to specifically address nutrients.