Home-builders are concerned draft septic tank legislation could go too far

Feb 21, 2011

The following article was published in the Florida Tribune on February 21, 2011:

Home builders are concerned draft septic tank legislation could go too far

By Bruce Ritchie

A Senate committee is considering a draft bill that would replace the state’s septic tank inspection requirement with a state model ordinance that would allow local governments to implement their own programs.

The requirement in last year’s SB 550 that septic tanks statewide be inspected every five years has been met with an outcry from rural homeowners. The Legislature in November voted to move the start of the inspection program from Jan. 1 to July 1.

The Florida Department of Health says 10 percent of the state’s 2.7 million septic tanks are failing. The septic tank inspection requirement last year was promoted by supporters as an effort to protect Florida’s groundwater and springs from contamination.

Sen. Charlie Dean, R-Inverness and chairman of the Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation, has introduced SB 130 to repeal the requirement. On Monday, he discussed draft legislation that would go further, directing the Florida Department of Health to develop a model ordinance for local inspection tank programs.

The draft bill also would allow the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to develop rules that would allow cities and counties to exempt some areas from inspection requirements. Cities and counties also could adopt stricter inspection rules if they meet certain requirements.

Keith Hetrick, representing the Florida Home Builders Association, said his group has concerns that a state model ordinance or local program could be too intrusive. FHBA and environmental groups supported SB 550, but Hetrick said the bill got “sidetracked” by inspection requirements.

FHBA wants a statewide uniform standard for local governments to follow so that businesses won’t have to deal with requirements that vary from city to city or county to county, Hetrick said. FHBA also is working with the Florida Realtors, the Florida Onsite Wastewater Association and Associated Industries of Florida to make recommendations.

“We agree with Senator Dean there should be an option for local governments to have a septic tank inspection program,” Hetrick said. “As long as it’s a very basic, simple, minimal approach to an evaluation program, it should be at the option of local government.”

Sharon Glass, a Tea Party Patriots activist from Santa Rosa County, said septic tank owners were being singled out for regulation but businesses and utilities were not. But Janet Bowman, representing The Nature Conservancy, suggested that inspections may be cheaper than other steps to reduce pollution of waterways, such as hooking up to sewage treatment plants.

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg, suggested that local governments should be allowed to opt out of the state inspection requirement rather than choosing to participate. He said he’s reluctant to do away with the existing system of regulation.

“We’ve got a governor who is not for regulation,” he said. “We’ve got a governor who demonstrated [by opposing high-speed rail] last week that he isn’t necessarily going to do what the legislature says we ought to do … And those departments work for him. I’m just not comfortable with that part of the bill and tying all the future regulation to some model ordinance they may or may not do in the future.”

Dean responded, “There are those who do not feel that one shoe fits all in the state of Florida too. They would like to have a different perspective not only on the regulations but on who does the regulating.”

Scott Dudley, representing the Florida League of Cities, said after the meeting that his group had not participated in drafting the legislation, and should have been informed.

On Tuesday, two bills that would repeal the inspection requirement come up before committees. SB 168 by Sen. Greg Evers, R-Crestview, will be considered by the Senate Health Regulation Committee and HB 13 by Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, will be heard by the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee.

Find this article here:  http://fltrib.com/home-builders-are-concerned-draft-septic-tank-legislation-could-go-too-far