Based on current population growth, it’s estimated Florida will need 20 percent more freshwater by 2030 to meet the needs of residents and visitors.
“Florida is adding a 1,000 people a day. We’re going to add 6 million more residents in Florida in the next 12 years…and 50 million more visitors. So water matters,” said Mark Wilson, the president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber, in partnership with Brian Lapointe, a research professor at Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, has released a new video focusing on water quality. The video, the fifth in a series funded by a $90,000 grant from the Chamber, takes a look at the impact that septic tank runoff has on water sources in South Florida.
“The science points directly to human pollution as the number one cause of what’s imperiling our state’s water sources. A leading cause of this pollution are aging septic tanks that are leaking into the Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie Estuary and other parts of our state,” Lapointe said at a news conference held in Tallahassee Wednesday morning to unveil the new video.
Lapointe says that human pollution is in large part due to about 600,000 leaking septic tanks that flow into South Florida waterways, making their way into the Indian River Lagoon and eventually Lake Okeechobee.
“The evidence is undeniable. We have detected a large amount of fecal cauliform, bacteria and traces of chemicals found exclusively in humans,” Lapointe said.
Two state lawmakers, Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, and Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, have filed legislation aimed at dealing with the problem. They say septic tank pollution is a problem for many of Florida’s waterways, but it’s especially an issue throughout the 156-mile long Indian River Lagoon.
The legislators are looking to continue the work of the Legacy Florida bill passed last year that provided funding for the Everglades and spring restoration. Their Legacy Florida 2.0 legislation would set aside $50 million a year as grants to be used for water-quality monitoring and storm water runoff projects, as well as septic tank conversions.
“Water is liquid gold, especially in the state of Florida,” said Harrell. “Legacy Florida 2.0 will provide a dedicated and reliable funding source to address the problem.”
Mayfield agrees have a dedicated funding source is key to tackling the problem head-on.
“It’s a long-term issue. It took a long time to get here and it’s going to take some time to get out of it,” Mayfield said. “But without the dedicated funding sources so that people know here’s the plan, this is what we’re going to do, the money is going to be there to do it, instead of every year having to worry about a water project.”
Wilson says dealing with leaking septic tanks that are polluting Florida’s waters is just one piece of the problem, but he says it’s a big piece of the problem.
“This is not a silver bullet. It does not solve all of Florida’s water problems. But it’s a very important piece of the pie,” Wilson said.