Florida League of Cities

Pollutant Load Reduction/Environmental Protection (Monitor) – Passed 

CS/CS/HB 1379 (Steele) imposes new requirements and restrictions on local governments relating to pollutant load reduction, local government comprehensive plans, basin management action plans, on-site sewage treatment and disposal systems, mandatory connection to central sewer systems, septic system and wastewater treatment facility remediation plans and advanced waste treatment systems. 

Comprehensive Plans and Capital Improvements Schedule

The bill requires counties and municipalities within a BMAP area to include in their comprehensive plans' capital improvements schedules a list of projects necessary to achieve the pollutant load reductions attributable to the local government pursuant to a basin management action plan. It also requires counties and municipalities to include within their comprehensive plans' potable water, drainage, sewer, solid waste, and aquifer recharge element a consideration of the feasibility of providing sanitary sewer services within a 10-year planning horizon to any group of more than 50 built or unbuilt residential lots with a density of more than one septic tank per acre. It further specifies that counties and municipalities should also address within that comprehensive plan element the coordination of the treatment or upgrade of facilities providing such services and to prioritize advanced waste treatment. These comprehensive plan updates must be made by July 1, 2024. Local governments within a Rural Area of Opportunity are exempted from these new requirements. 

Indian River Lagoon Protection Program

The bill establishes this program within the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which consists of the various basin management action plans around the Indian River Lagoon. The Department water management districts, local governments and other stakeholders are directed to identify and prioritize strategies necessary to meet water quality standards. Beginning January 2024, the bill prohibits the installation of new septic systems for areas within the Program where central sewer is available. If central sewer is not available, only advanced nutrient-reducing on-site systems or distributed wastewater systems will be permitted. By July 2030, the bill requires any existing septic system within the areas subject to the Program to connect to central sewer if available or upgrade to an advanced on-site system. 

Outstanding Florida Springs

The bill requires DEP and relevant local governments and relevant public and private wastewater utilities, as part of a BMAP that contains an Outstanding Florida Spring, to develop a septic tank remediation plan for a spring if DEP determines that septic tanks within a BMAP contribute at least 20% of nitrogen pollution if DEP determines remediation is necessary to achieve the TMDL. It prohibits the installation of septic systems where connection to central sewer is available. For lots of less than 1 acre where central sewer is not available, the bill requires the use of advanced treatment on-site systems. 

Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs)

The bill requires BMAPs to include five-year implementation milestones. It specifies additional required contents for BMAPs, including a requirement that any entity with a specific pollutant load reduction requirement established in a plan identify the projects or strategies the entity will undertake to meet the BMAP's current five-year milestone. Each project identified must include an estimated amount of nutrient reduction that is expected. The applicable five-year milestone for new or revised BMAPs must include a list of projects that will achieve the pollutant load reductions needed to meet the TMDL or established load allocations, and each BMAP project must include a planning-level cost estimate and an estimated date of completion. Each new or revised BMAP must include a list of projects developed in connection with a cooperative agricultural regional water quality improvement element, which is part of a BMAP. The bill prohibits the installation of new septic systems within areas subject to a basin management action plan or reasonable assurance plan where connection to central sewer is available. In addition, the bill requires the installation of advanced on-site septic systems on lots of 1 acre or less located within such areas if central sewer is not available. 

Grants and Loans for Septic-to-Sewer Conversions

The bill encourages local governments that receive grants or loans from DEP to offset the cost of connecting to sewer to identify the owners of septic tanks within their jurisdictions who are eligible to apply for grants or loans and notify them of such funding availability. It encourages such local governments to maintain a publicly available website with information relating to grant or loan availability.

Wastewater Grant Program

The bill renames the Wastewater Grant Program in Section 403.0673, Florida Statutes, to the "Water Quality Improvement Grant Program" and expands funding eligibility to the following project types: connecting septic tanks to sewer; upgrading wastewater treatment facilities to advanced waste treatment or greater; repairing, upgrading, expanding or constructing stormwater treatment facilities; repairing, upgrading, expanding or constructing wastewater treatment facilities that result in improvements to water quality, including reuse and collection systems; projects identified pursuant to the development of a BMAP or a cooperative agricultural regional water quality improvement element; projects identified in a wastewater treatment plan or a septic tank remediation plan; projects listed in a city or county capital improvement element; and projects retrofitting septic tanks to enhanced nutrient-reducing systems where central sewer is unavailable. The bill specifies that funding priority must be given to projects most likely to achieve the maximum pollutant reduction. 

Advanced Waste Treatment

For facilities that discharge to specified waters and are required by current law to upgrade to advanced waste treatment by a specified date, the bill authorizes the Department of Environmental Protection to require even more stringent treatment standards of these facilities if necessary to achieve the total maximum daily load or applicable water quality criteria. In addition, beginning January 2033, waters that are not attaining nutrient standards or that are subject to a nutrient basin management action plan or reasonable assurance plan are subject to the requirement to upgrade to advanced wastewater treatment facilities or to a more stringent treatment standard. Finally, the bill provides that sewage disposal facilities may not dispose of any wastes in the following waters without providing advanced waste treatment or a more stringent treatment standard within a 10-year period: a waterbody that does not attain nutrient standards after July 2023, a water body that is subject to a nutrient related basin management action plan after July 2023, or a waterbody that is subject to an adopted reasonable assurance plan after July 2023. 

Florida Forever

The bill dedicates $100 million annually to DEP from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund for the acquisition of lands through the Florida Forever Program. 

Effective date: July 1, 2023. (O'Hara)