Wednesday, March 11, 2020


March 11, 2020
Ryan Smart, Florida Springs Council,, 561-358-7191
David Cullen, Sierra Club,, 941-323-2404
Lisa Rinaman, St. Johns Riverkeeper,, 904-509-3260


Same old story – same expected outcome

TALLAHASSEE—As of today, the misnamed “Clean Waterways Act” has passed in both chambers of the state legislature and is on its way to the Governor’s desk. 

For more than a month the Florida Springs Council, Florida Waterkeepers, and Sierra Club have been asking Senator Mayfield to “fix” SB 712, but rather than improve the bill and make it more protective of water quality, it was further weakened with the full approval and enthusiastic support of FDEP Secretary Noah Valenstein.

Ryan Smart, Florida Springs Council Executive Director, responded with: Today the Florida Legislature once again sided with Florida's major polluters and landowners, against the interests of the public and our environment. Last year, we saw Democratic and Republican lawmakers overwhelmingly support legislation forcing environmentally and economically damaging toll roads on rural areas throughout Florida for the benefit of billionaire landowners. This year, those same Legislators unanimously voted for SB 712, a "water quality bill" written and approved by lobbyists for Florida's major polluters. SB 712 does nothing to protect Florida's springs, delays reaching water quality goals for decades, gives a free pass to many of Florida's largest polluters, and prohibits local governments from trying to do better.  Make no mistake, a yes vote on SB 712 is a vote for more pollution, not clean water."

Lisa Rinaman, St. Johns Riverkeeper, stated:  The land disposal of sewage sludge is fouling Florida waterways and fueling toxic blue green algae. SB 712 weakens efforts to protect our waters by providing polluter loopholes that allow the dangerous dumping of concentrated human waste to further degrade our springs, our rivers, and our waters.  This bill does nothing to address the fact that biosolids generated in South Florida are transported north where they are polluting the headwaters of the St. Johns River. 

Dave Cullen, Sierra Club lobbyist said:  This is more bait and switch from the Legislature.  They can’t bring themselves to regulate agriculture’s manure and fertilizer, the major source of pollution to many basins, so they shift the entire conversation to septic tanks and wastewater treatment plants.  After all, that way they get to wag their fingers at their current favorite scapegoat – local governments.  It also allows them to put the cost of infrastructure onto taxpayers and ratepayers and at the same time completely avoid stopping the worst source of nonpoint pollution at the source.”

Jen Lomberk, Matanzas Riverkeeper, added:  This bill just doubles down on the broken system that got us into this water quality crisis in the first place. Unless our elected officials are willing to stand up to polluters, we can expect to watch our waterways continue to decline.”
Cris Costello, Sierra Club Organizing Manager said:  The last so-called ‘comprehensive’ water bill was passed in 2016, and the environmental community – 52 organizations and coalitions from across the state – asked then Governor Rick Scott to veto it, because then, like today, the bill was only as strong as the state's biggest polluters would allow.  Did the 2016 bill, also praised by legislators in both chambers, get the job done?  No.  We are in worse shape now than we were before that bill passed.  This bill will be the same because it ignores the worst sources of pollution feeding harmful algae blooms, preempts local regulation, and deliberately remains dependent on a broken Basin Management Action Plan system.”

On February 3, the Florida Springs Council, Florida Waterkeepers, and Sierra Club sent a letter to Senator Mayfield and other legislators asking for 18 amendments to SB 712 that would address the most serious flaws of the bill.  On February 12, in response to public comments made by Chief Science Officer Thomas K. Frazer regarding the bill, the same groups sent a twelve-page letter to Frazer that included a full and documented explanation of the bill’s many failures.  Responses, both formal and informal, from Senator Mayfield, DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein, and the Chief Science Officer failed to refute any of our arguments and continued to ignore the glaring inadequacies of this legislation.