[UPDATE] Septic Tank Inspection Repeal Advances

By: The News Service of Florida; Whitney Ray; AP Email
By: The News Service of Florida; Whitney Ray; AP Email

[UPDATE] 4-15 3:29pm -- TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) --

The Florida House has voted to repeal a requirement for septic tank inspections that was passed last year.

The repealer bill (HB 13) was approved overwhelmingly by a vote
of 110-3 on Friday. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

State Rep. Marti Coley is the bill's sponsor. The Marianna
Republican said the requirement was intrusive and became a burden
on lower-income homeowners.

Democratic Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda of Tallahassee was
one of only three lawmakers to vote against the bill. She told the
chamber that the requirement protected underground springs from
leaking tanks.
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[UPDATE] 2-23 1:28pm --

The Senate Health Regulation Committee today approved a bill that would repeal new septic-tank inspection requirements, despite questions about whether the repeal goes too far. Committee members voted 8-4 to approve SB 168, which stems from a law passed last year requiring inspections of septic tanks every five years. Backers of the law said it was necessary to protect springs and other waterways from pollution, but opponents argued it would drive up costs for homeowners. Lawmakers delayed the start of the inspection program during a November special session. That gave time to address the issue again during this year's regular session. Questions from panel members on Tuesday centered on whether the the law should be totally repealed, with Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, calling the bill "extreme.'' But Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said last year's law overreached. The bill next goes to the Senate Environmental Preservation Committee.

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[UPDATE] 1-21 --

Gov. Rick Scott let a bill that would delay for six months new requirements that septic tanks be inspected every five years become law this week without his signature, undoing a controversial mandate that went into effect Jan. 1. The bill, which was passed during a veto override special session last November, targets a provision in a wide-ranging springs protection bill that the requirement was included in last year. Scott had 15 days from receiving the bill (SB 2A) to sign it or let it become law anyway. Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, called Scott’s inaction on the bill “a decisive step” which “postpones the implementation of septic tank inspection regulations, enabling lawmakers to analyze whether or not such a mandate is necessary and saving taxpayer dollars in the mean time.”

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[UPDATE] 1-7 --

The House sponsor of a bill that would delay for six months new requirements that septic tanks be inspected every five years, which went into effect Jan. 1, said Thursday she likes the bill’s chances now that there is a new governor. Rep. Marti Coley said the bill, which overturns a requirement that has riled several Panhandle lawmakers, would likely be signed by Gov. Rick Scott, whose office confirmed Thursday evening has received the measure. Coley, R-Marianna, said she was not sure why the bill was not sent to the governor’s office until after Scott took over for Crist, who signed the wide-ranging springs protection bill the requirement was included in last year. But Scott “fully supports” the six month delay, which was the only piece of new legislation approved by lawmakers in a special session last month to override several Crist vetoes, she said. Scott will also likely support a push by her and Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, to fully repeal the requirement this spring, she added. That measure has not been filed yet in the House, where Coley said “support is growing,” but three bills (SB 82, 130 and 168) have emerged in the Senate. A spokeswoman for Scott could not confirm whether or not he intends to sign the bill containing the six month delay.

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Tallahassee, FL - Septic tank cleaners say it’s common sense to pump and test a tank at least once every five years, but an inspection mandate written into law is causing backlash.

The law was slated to take hold January 1st, but in a one day special session last month, lawmakers pushed the start date to July. Now a repeal is in the works.

To pump a septic tank and test it costs between 200 and 500 dollars. Replacing a tank can run as high as 5-thousand dollars. The price tag isn’t being received well.

Environmentalists worry that if Florida doesn’t have a state law requiring inspections, sewage will leak into reservoirs and contaminate our drinking water.

Terry Ryan, Co-Founder of Clean Tap Water Now, has already seen evidence of sewage leaking into well water in rural communities. Terry is advocating a pilot program to asses the statewide risk, to determine if the mandatory inspections are warranted.

“There are a lot of questions out there of how septic tanks are affecting not only individual water wells, but also the aquifer,” said Ryan.

Anthony Guido is a retired septic tank worker turned waste water consultant. He says the mandate is needed.

“When they are spilling out into the environment then they cause a public health problem and a nutrient problem to lakes, rivers, streams and the aquifer,” said Guido.

There are no statewide studies of the effects of worn-out septic tanks on Florida’s waterways, and opponents of the mandate want to see proof before they’re willing to pay more.

What lawmakers do have is time. The committee process starts next week and they’ll have until the end of the legislative session in May to come up with a fix.


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