SARASOTA (WWSB) - Amid concerns that leaky septic systems are polluting waterways, legislation has been filed at the state capitol that would require the Florida Department of Health to identify all septic systems in the state by January 1st, 2021 and provide a map of the systems.
The bill also would require the agency to inspect septic systems at least once every five years, while developing minimum standards and requirements for pumping out or repairing failing systems.
Septic tanks are designed for use in low-population rural communities where a central sewer system is not feasible. However, for decades in many parts of Florida, developers have often used septic tanks as a cost-cutting measure when building new homes, even in more urban environments.
Republican State Senator Joe Gruters is sponsoring the measure. He hopes to include required state and local funding in the legislation, to help homeowners pay for the testing.
"It's not meant to be cost prohibitive. I know that I feel for people who are on a fixed budget. We have to do something to make sure that we can make this process affordable," he argued.
It is estimated that there are between two and three million septic tanks in Florida, and roughly ten percent of them are likely leaking waste and nutrients into the environment. The bill is filed for the 2019 legislative session, which starts March 5th.
"We need to come up with a streamlined system, to where we can continually replace bad, old septic tanks that are leaking. It's not one individual septic tank that's causing the issue. It's the combination of all the septic tanks around the state, along with all the other nutrient runoff and everything else," said Gruters.
“We just have an aging infrastructure. It’s not meant for people who live in the city. I mean, there’s no reason why people who live in these urban areas are still on septic tanks. There’s no sense for anyone who lives in any type of even suburban type environment to be on septic tanks anymore.”