Legislator: 5-year septic exams unenforceable

Jul 11, 2011

The following article was published in the Tampa Tribune on July 11, 2011:

Legislator:  5-year septic exams unenforceable

By Gary Pinnell

Remember House Bill 550, passed by the 2010 Legislature, which required inspections for all 2.6 million Florida septic tanks every five years?

Homeowners and tea partiers were furious, so earlier this year, the House voted 110-3 for HB 13, which would have repealed the law. The Senate didn’t agree, so HB 13 died in the rules committee.

Both Rep. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, and Rep. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, wrote in emails that they’ll try again in January.

“I intend on co-sponsoring the legislation again,” Albritton said.

Inspections were set to begin in January, but HB 550 can’t be enforced, Grimsley said.

“Section 13 of the implementing bill requires Department of Health to seek approval from the Legislative Budget Commission prior to implementation of the program,” Grimsley said. “Essentially, inspections may not move forward unless approved by the LBC.”

“The initial bill was to deal with Wekiva Springs,” she said, a community north of Orlando. “Language was inserted expanding it statewide. The policy of expanding this statewide was unnecessary and intrusive to home owners, hence the repeal in HB 13.”

Not everyone agreed. “Florida Realtors opposes complete repeal of last year’s SB 550 inspection program,” said a letter at www.FloridaRealtors.org. The agents favor a replacement program to allow local governments an option to evaluate septic tanks.

“Florida Realtors supports the least intrusive inspection program possible for onsite wastewater systems, taking into consideration proximity to first magnitude springs and standards for which the systems were originally permitted.

An inspection, which can include soil samples, could cost $500. Most tanks don’t need that though, said A.A. Young, who runs a septic service in Sebring. Pumping costs from $230 to $250. Leaking systems could cost thousands.

Pay now or later

Even so, said Tom Higginbotham, environmental specialist at Highlands County Health Department, the state recommends septic systems should be inspected or pumped every five years. “Solids build up in the tank that can’t be broken down.”

“It’s just like changing the oil in your car. If you don’t do it, it’s going to cost you more,” he said. “Repairs are a lot more expensive than routine maintenance.”

Homeowners also have to comply with other rules, he said. For instance, if square footage is added to the home, including a bedroom, the septic system must be inspected.

Typically, though, homeowners know if their septic system is failing, Higginbotham said, because there’s a wet spot in the yard.

Find this article here:  http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2011/jul/11/LANEWSO1-legislator-5-year-septic-exams-unenforcea/news/