New state laws address sea level, algae, pythons, iguanas

DeSantis signs environmental bills against invasive species and polluting runoffs

SKY News
July 01, 2020 - 8:46 am
Tallahassee-Florida Capitol

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TALLAHASSEE — Republican Florida Ron DeSantis signed a slew of environmental bills in less than 24 hours that address issues ranging from sea level rise to blue-green algae blooms — and even given the state authority to use drones to fight invasive Burmese pythons.

DeSantis signed a 77-page bill Tuesday that will addresses leaky septic tanks, municipal wastewater treatment, storm water runoff, farm fertilizers and more, as well as a companion measure that will better track sources of pollutants that are blamed for mucking up the state’s waterways.

That comes after he signed a bill late Monday night requiring public coastal construction projects to first be reviewed for impacts on the state’s fragile seashore because of rising sea levels. Among other bills signed Monday is a measure that will ban the sale, trading, bartering, possession or breeding of iguanas, which have become a common sight and scourge in the southern part of Florida.

“A huge component of this is dealing with these wastewater discharges,” DeSantis said of the bill signed Tuesday that was based on recommendations of a task force he formed to address algae blooms.

Algae blooms in Florida rivers and other waterways have killed fish, irritated eyes and have shut down fishing, swimming, boating and other activities in a state where water resources are a huge tourist draw.

The new law seeks to better regulate onsite sewage treatment, upgrade leaky utility water lines and better manage farm fertilizers that wash into state waterways. It also gives the Department of Environmental Protection more authority in managing the issues.

Fines against municipalities for sewage discharges will also be increased.

“Many wastewater treatment systems in Florida are poorly maintained and the network of pipes supporting them have fallen into disrepair,” DeSantis said. “Even relatively moderate rain events can cause a system to be flooded, forcing a discharge of raw sewage into waterways and estuaries.”

Still, some environmentalists think the legislation didn’t go far enough.

Sierra Club lobbyist said in a statement emailed to media that the law “is all promise and no delivery. It preserves the Florida status quo: pretend that the requirements in law are working when they’re not.”

 

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