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Nancy Smith

Fine's Anti-Sewage-Spill Bill a Powerful Blow to Local Government Lethargy

March 13, 2019 - 9:00am
Randy Fine
Randy Fine

If Randy Fine and Eric Eikenberg were trading cards, I'd give you 10 Eikenbergs for one Fine.

That's how much hope Fine offers to Florida's ailing waterways, particularly to the Indian River Lagoon.

While the Everglades Foundation CEO pitches deception and misinformation that blind Floridians to real water-quality improvement, the Republican state representative from Palm Bay is using his position and bully pulpit to hold local government accountable to stop the dumping of raw sewage and restore the Indian River Lagoon -- and, frankly, a host of other state waterways. On Tuesday he did it by introducing House Bill 141 -- smart, tough legislation to bring the whole state to heel after years of municipal carelessness.

I Beg to Differ"I want to share some statistics," Fine told the Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee. "The first number is 2,701,769,627. That's 2.7 billion. What is that? It's the number of gallons of raw sewage that municipal plants have dumped in Florida waterways in the last 10 years." And during those 10 years, "that's happened over 23,000 times ... enough sewage to fill 10,000 swimming pools. ...

"We can't fix our waterways until we stop putting sewage into them," he said. Fine is the first person besides Harbor Branch marine biologist Brian Lapointe I've heard say that loudly and publicly.

Watch Fine here. Tuesday's presentation begins at minute 34:00.

“There is no issue more important to the future of Brevard County than restoring the Indian River Lagoon," he said.

“The state has an important role in both financially supporting (lagoon) recovery and guiding local governments to get the job done. My legislation will do both -- providing the incentive of $50 million a year in matching funds to support Indian River Lagoon restoration and dramatically increased penalties for illegal spills caused by lack of system maintenance."

HB 141 would require a written notice to be sent to residents by mail every time there's a spill, and the note would provide the names and phone numbers of the authorities responsible for the plant's oversight. He said, "Our constituents would be astounded ... they don't know how common this problem is."

It would also require a $2 fee for every gallon of raw sewage released, Fine said.

"Municipal governments have put this off and put off and put this off. This is the incentive to finally fix the problem. 

"I read about blue-green algae and red tide, but we have a whole Crayola box of colors in the waters ... ours are brown, Fine explained.

"Ask any meteorologist how long Hurricane Irma lasted in 2017 and they'll tell you three days. But in Brevard County, it lasted for 35 days," he said. "For 30 days and nights, 24/7, raw sewage was running into the Indian River Lagoon. That's 22 million gallons."

What "got me really mad to begin with," he said, was that the Brevard County Commission chose to use the 35 days of sewage bombardment to spend 14.5 million tax dollars, not to repair system infrastructure but on these "necessities":

  • $7 million for an “indoor multiuse sports arena and hotel project” in Titusville.

  • $5 million for upgrades to the Viera Regional Park’s soccer and lacrosse fields.

  • $1.7 million to expand a campground at Palm Bay Regional Park

  • $500,000 for a “Keepers Cottage Museum” at the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse, and

  • $200,000 to upgrade a pier area in Indian Harbour Beach near where the 20 million gallons of sewage were deposited.

“The last was the worst of it: Instead of repairing and modernizing the sewage system, they decided to spend taxpayer money to make it easier for kayakers to paddle through the sewage. It defies logic," he said. "It defies explanation.

Fine told reporters in October 2017, “When I got into politics, I knew the politicians thought differently than those of us who live in the real world.

“But you have to question the sanity of people who thought spending money on a pier next to a raw sewage dump was a better idea than actually fixing the raw sewage dump.” 

Fine's bill sailed through the committee unanimously.

Joe Gruters
Joe Gruters
Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, introduced companion bill SB 216 in the the upper chamber later in the day, with Sen. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart cosponsoring. 

Environmental groups of every description and scientists in attendance waived or spoke in support of these bills. Conspicuous by its absence was the Everglades Foundation. A snub as usual. Eikenberg and the Foundation's disciples have for the last five years ignored Lapointe's studies, testing and peer-reviewed papers on the profound presence of fecal matter in state waters, calling it "just a diversion" from blaming the real pollution culprit: agriculture south of Lake Okeechobee.

Fine has taken a bold and positive step in the state's crusade to save Florida waterways. The Everglades Foundation, meanwhile? Don't hold your breath.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith

Comments

And still no one wants to talk about the nasty water coming into Lake Okeechobee from the north. Big Sugar talks about it and rightly so. I'm not a big fan but that's because of the subsidies. They rarely backpump water into Lake O and have gone a long way to clean up their own water. E.F. keeps grinding on the myth that AG is ruining our coastal waters. They would do better to combat uncontrolled growth in Kissimmee and continued dumping of biosolids in the Kissimmee Valley.

It is rather funny when it comes to politics that the truth is forgotten or not even stated. A few things that Fine failed to mention: 1. The $14.5 million was tourist tax money and could not, by law be used for the lagoon; only tourism related capital projects 2. Brevard County voters voted in 2016 to tax themselves .5 cents in sales tax directly for Indian River Lagoon restoration; $40 million a year directly to Indian River Lagoon restoration

The law has changed....part of tourist tax money can now be used for lagoon restoration....The soccer field astroturf really hurt....the $7 mil plus for Titusville never was spent....At least Randy is getting the word out...I for one are disgusted....and when I hear that county officials are saying they see a little improvement....I want to know where....go to the Canaveral Locks and look down...that is the state of our lagoon, its disgusting.....

Wheres that 40 million then. If the money is there then why is nothing being done to fix the problem.

First of all the fun set up for tourist could have been used to clean up the lagoon what other tourist do we have if the river looks like shit literally when people come here. And the money we have set aside to fix the lagoon isn't going to do anything if they keep dumping shit into it. What's so hard To understand about that.

I doubt seriously that a bill passed unaminously....that was not accurate....just give facts..and in my humble opinion...sewers are absolutely tourist related...maybe not in your mind....but in mine yes..and that is the point of the bill.....40 million a year is also needed in the future...you have simply missed the whole point...that is why I hope your name would be on a letter...

I live in a small city next to St Petersburg Florida...called Gulfport Florida...we have our own MS4 system flowing into St Petersburg Florida for treatment...our sewers are so bad that we are discharging also. into our bay and bayou..we are currently in a lawsuit with Suncoast Waterkeepers our Mayor and 2 City Councilmembers were relected yesterday...they meet in the shade and admit nothing to the city residents...complete denial ...and continue all the same spending issues on skatepark to anything you could imagine other than fixing our sewers first...I wish there could be criminal charges attached to these bills or at least an organization or a newspaper that would call these politicians in small cities out...even in this area at least there is an attempt by most to take some responsibility...not this city

This data suggests that public utilities release more untreated waste than septic tank pumpers pump state-wide! At the present time, due to crumbling infrastructure, septic to sewer conversions are likely making water pollution worse.

Uncontrolled sewage flow, septic tanks, fertilizer, farming, sugar farming, development upstream....It is NOT just one item.....It is everything that contributes to the problem. Green Lawns are just as bad as septic tanks....Maybe worse because there are so many landscaped areas upstream in the watersheds.

In Florida, the "De-Regulation Republicans" running the state LOVE to REGULATE county and municipal governments. Often, the state politicos get pretty petty when it comes down to restricting home rule (e.g., rescinding local rules banning plastic straws or regulating short-term rentals). In this case, however, the regulation is of a significant nature and is definitely appropriate.

Mandate sewer "conversion"....it has been successfully implimented all over this country wherever population increases overwhelm services and safety... (No *hi* !!!)

"Porta-Potties" for EVERYONE !...OR... Rubber diving suits & masks for all 10,000 "poopoo conflicted" swimmig pool owning families.... ($ Take it out of the Legislative budget..$)

Interesting. Anytime I posted a comment anywhere (Brian) about failing septic systems....crickets. This issue, sadly, became about votes, Upsetting those who need to convert to costly sewer treatment would cost the proponents of that solution votes.

Rep. Fine is a Florida treasure!

Rep Fine is on the correct path. In addition to raw sewage being dumped, the little discussed fact....over 80 million gallons a day of partially treated wastewater is discharged each day into these surface waters. Wastewater treatment plants need to be upgraded to AWT standards.

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nancy smith
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