State Senator Bill Galvano just filed legislation (Senate Bill 532) to tighten Florida’s notification requirements for potential environmental spills. The bill will require companies to notify the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) about the release of any dangerous substance within 24 hours of discovery, and DEP must then publish a public notice within 24 hours.
“The people of Florida deserve to know if our state’s drinking water has been threatened by potentially dangerous pollutants,” said Galvano. “Requiring the public to be notified quickly about potential contaminants will give them peace of mind that they won’t unwittingly be drinking water that isn’t safe. SB 532, is designed to protect Floridians from this not-so-clear but very present danger.”
This legislation comes in the aftermath of multiple high-profile incidents over the past year – including one involving a spill of reprocessed water into a sinkhole that feeds into a major aquifer into which chemical contaminants possibly leaked into local drinking water supplies. The public wasn’t notified until several weeks after the leak was discovered.
Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection says state law currently doesn’t require the state or the company involved to notify anyone until there’s some sign the pollution has migrated outside the property where it went into the aquifer.
The legislation also requires DEP to develop and publish a list of substances that “pose a substantial risk to public health, safety or welfare.” If any company fails to notify DEP about an incident regarding one of the published substances, it could face civil penalties of up to $10,000 per day.
Galvano has successfully led the fight for similar legislation in the past (HB 937), a bill that was ultimately signed into law by the governor and requires notice when contamination is discovered as a result of site rehabilitation activities. The new proposal builds off this legislation to further strengthen and expand the state’s notification requirements.