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Septic Tank Inspections Delayed Six Months

January 19, 2011 - 6:00pm

Gov. Rick Scott allowed SB 2A to pass into law Wednesday, pushing back the start of a program to inspect septic tanks by six months. Some lawmakers, however, want to go further than that -- perhaps as Scott was hoping -- and get rid of the program altogether.

Florida legislators passed a bill last year, subsequently signed into law by then-Gov. Charlie Crist, requiring the Department of Health to inspect septic tanks throughout the state every five years. But after the November election, new legislative leaders --Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, and House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park --called a special legislative session where they passed a law postponing the start of the program.

The program was supposed to begin Jan. 1, but was delayed while the new bill went before the new governor. Scott did not sign the bill, but SB 2A became law after 15 days by Florida statute. The new start date for the program is July 1.

Lawmakers who voted for the delay praised Scotts decision.

I applaud Governor Scott for allowing Senate Bill 2A to become law. This decisive step postpones the implementation of septic tank inspection regulations, enabling lawmakers to analyze whether or not such a mandate is necessary and saving taxpayer dollars in the meantime, said Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando.

But the inspection program may never get off the ground, as legislators have filed a slate of bills aimed at eliminating the program, saying it will cost homeowners too much and add another financial burden during a harsh economic time.

DOH estimates inspections to run between $150 and $200, but environmental groups like the Sierra Club of Florida that backed the program have noted that replacing a failed septic tank can cost as much as $7,000.

Three bills in the Senate and one in the House have been filed to prevent the inspections.

Governor Scott called me (Wednesday) to inform me that he would be allowing the legislation regarding the delay of implementation of septic tank regulations, passed during Special Session 2010A, to become law. I told him thank you, and that the Legislature would be working on a permanent resolution to correct this overburdensome regulation that I voted against when it passed the first time, said Rep. Brad Drake, R-Eucheeanna, a co-sponsor of the bill in the House.

The Sierra Club has held that the inspections would prevent pollution caused when septic tank overflows seep into Florida waters.

However, tea party groups and homeowners in North Florida, where much of the states 2.6 million septic tanks are located, have fought against the inspections as costly and unnecessary. The inspections would have included evaluations and pump-outs, with the costs borne by the owner. Septic tank owners who purchased their tank or had it serviced in the last five years would have been exempt from the inspections.

During a meeting next week, the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee is scheduled to discuss the bills filed that would eliminate the inspection program.

Reach Gray Rohrer at or at (850) 727-0859.

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