Protecting the Santa Fe River in North Florida

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Joe Gruters files water quality bills ahead of session

sewage spill In: Joe Gruters files water quality bills ahead of session | Our Santa Fe River, Inc. (OSFR) | Protecting the Santa Fe River

This is a step in the right direction, although to believe that red tide and green algae are the only water problems we have in Florida is a huge mistake.

Issuing withdrawal permits as our rivers and springs continue to decline is destroying them, but this problem is much less visible than the red tide and green algae, even though just as serious.

Cigarette butts on the beach are the least of our water worries, but the bill to fine sewage spillers is great.  Again, that is not addressing the nitrate polluters nor excessive water users, but it may hit municipalities enough to make them improve their inadequate systems, and incompetent operators of their systems.

Mr. Gruters is understating the problem when he says there is a major spill every couple of months.  It is much more frequent than that.

Read the original article here in Florida Politics.

Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-

Joe Gruters files water quality bills ahead of session

  • State Sen. Joe Gruters filed three bills Friday related to water quality and predicts the issue will dominate this year’s legislative session.

“If I had to guess, I’d say the environmental bills will triple from last year,” he said.

That’s because red tide dominated politics in a different way in 2018, particularly in coastal communities.

Gruters, a Sarasota Republican, represents the largely coastal Senate District 23.

He just filed a new bill that would put $1-per-gallon fines on sewage spills (or polluters could arrange $2-per gallon in preventive action and upgrades to systems).

“We can no longer sit back and allow spills to happen,” Gruters said.

The legislation comes days after a major spill in Sarasota Bay, which sits within Gruters district. The Department of Health just lifted an advisory on water there.

Gruters said the hefty fines are not about punishing parties but about preventing further spills.

“Every couple of months it seems there’s a major spill somewhere in the state,” he said. “It’s always an accident. We have to prevent them from happening.”

That bill serves as companion legislation to a bill filed by Palm Bay Republican Randy Fine in the House.

Fine said that bill will “hold those accountable who would prioritize AstroTurf over their sworn duty” to protect the environment.

Gruters also filed a mirror bill to state Rep. Will Robinson’s legislation looking to restore septic inspection rules lifted during the recession.

Robinson, a Bradenton Republican, previously told Florida Politics that he too felt motivated by the red tide blooms.

“Even at my victory party, a supporter said to me, ‘Will, do something. Big or small, do something about red tide,’ ” Robinson said.

Gruters’ third piece of environmental legislation allows smoking bans on the beach. A number of jurisdictions in Florida previously had smoking bans in public park settings, but last year, the bans were determined to be unconstitutional, as reported by WPTV.

Gruters believes his new bill will allow bans without running into constitutional problems.

“There’s nothing more disgusting than going to the beach and there’s a cigarette butt in the sand,” he said.

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  1. The “dollar” thing with pollution fines is that the public (you and I) pay them…
    perhaps jail time for the truly responsible party (governmental agency head
    or private developer) would be more appropriate and effective!

  2. It looks to me like it would still cost polluters less to spill than to fix the problem ($1/gal fine vs $2/gal upgrades).

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